testing sucks

Bet that got your attention. It's true, but let me qualify it: Running test cases over and over in the hope that bugs will manifest sucks. It’s boring, uncreative work and since half the world thinks that is all testing is about, it is no great wonder few people covet testing positions. Testing is either too tedious and repetitive or it’s downright too hard. Either way, who would want to stay in such a position?

What is interesting about testing is strategy, deciding what to test and how to combine multiple features and environmental consideration in a single test. The tactical part of testing, actually running test cases and logging bugs is the least interesting part.

Smart test managers and test directors need to recognize this and ensure that every tester splits their time between strategy and tactics. Take the tedious and repetitive parts of the testing process and automate them. Tool development is a major creative task at Microsoft and is well rewarded by the corporate culture.

For the hard parts of the testing process like deciding what to test and determining test completeness, user scenarios and so forth we have another creative and interesting task. Testers who spend time categorizing tests and developing strategy (the interesting part) are more focused on testing and thus spend less time running tests (the boring part).

Testing is an immature science. There are a lot of insights that a thinking person can make without inordinate effort. By ensuring that testers have the time to take a step back from their testing effort and find insights that will improve their testing, teams will benefit. Not only are such insights liable to improve the overall quality of the test, but the creative time will improve the morale of the testers involved.

So all the managers out there need to ask themselves what they've done lately to make their testers more creative. If you don't have an answer, then testing isn't the only thing that sucks.