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Best Practice Stifling Innovation in Software Testing

Everybody knows best practices are there to make our job easier while making sure we are not reinventing the wheel. They are used mostly in life’s  critical situations, I bet guys who moved frail patients (May their soul rest in peace) from at life  Esidimeni wouldn’t be in the quagmire they are in should they have followed standards, procedures and best practice to handle the situation. It’s a norm for large enterprises to employ best practice in their organizations although how those are communicated is lacking. Best practices are forced down people’s throat without context of their origin been taken into account. Instead of best practice being used as a pattern it is used as an iron clad rule. Question the validity of those best practices, people like saying according to experts but they can’t even name one.

  1. Why are we doing it this way?
  2. Who said this is the best practice?
  3. What is best about it?
  4. Does it work for us?
  5. Is it outdated?

If these questions don’t have doggy answers, give the approach being used a chance while observing if no enhancement can be made on the existing process or approach. In most cases contracting resources tend to keep their heads down and go with the flow to avoid their contracts not being renewed.

Social conformity (a type of social influence that results in a change of behaviour or belief in order to fit in with a group) is another factor discouraging innovation and creativity. There is a video online showing people in a room waiting for a free eye exam. One lady enters the room and finds several people already sitting down in the room. Few minutes later a beep sound goes off and 80% of the people in the room stoop up and sat down again. She did not stand up but curiously looked at everyone standing. After the third beep she realized a pattern, and then she joined the group.  She continues to do this even after she is the only one left in the room. The full video can be viewed on this link. The danger of this type of factor is that no one is forcing you to do anything.  I am not saying innovation and creativity should run rampant in the company.

When joining a new company one studies the culture, learns their processes and technologies used. We all know that people hate those guys who always refer to “in my previous company we did X and Y this way; in my previous company we did not do that“. I am not proposing that one brings habit of company X and impose them on company Y. I am talking about creating something new out of a need of a current situation. If the situation is similar to your previous experience by all means go all out and don’t reinvent the wheel.

In the Software development life cycle testing is still perceived as the longest activity delaying the deployment of a product. One of the reasons adding to this is that testing teams especially in large enterprises don’t innovate or are riding on  processes  created by the almighty consultants  ages ago  and the people who understood how it works resigned as well, but top management will not let anyone tamper with  those. Senior management will indulge your innovative idea but as soon a learning curve rears its head everyone is ordered back to the old ways. Initial investment into a nifty process will deter the whole team even though the benefit after this phase is remarkable. The image below shows the relation between primary  factors that make innovation work. People are the ones that need to be disruptive for innovation to take root.

peopleprocesstechnology

Innovation can at times threatens job security to some people. Mundane  and tedious tasks keep the company depended on you we get it. What  is the point of securing your job at the risk of becoming irrelevant. The development team innovate more often than the testing team as a result we become a bottleneck in some cases. The general idea is to do some introspection and assess that  when the disruption does occur ,do  we adapt as well as grow from  it,  rather than putting all the energy in our fiber to oppose the change.The picture shown above speaks to this , if the technology is advanced and people’s skills are not improved to use the technology optimally  the benefit wont be realized sooner. The same goes for processes and standards  that are not revisited when people and technology changes. Some companies still uses naming conventions as if the testing tool being used is still Microsoft Excel. How many people are still  using HP ALM 12.53 exactly how they used HP QC v9.2 ?

1 Comment

Phumudzo Mukhathi

I think we need information like this to understand our roles as testers, I really think we can be way innovative if we undress the idea of it is done this way and they are happy with it who am i to change that. Good thought Mamphofore i like the idea.

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