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Software Testing: Not Just for Bugs

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you probably know that I am a huge fan of James Bach (even though he doesn’t particularly care for ISEB & ISTQB certifications).  He is a software testing consultant that has been around for 25 years, and he often comes up with some fascinating insights in his blog.  I follow his blog regularly, and whenever he writes about something that particularly piques my interest, I highlight it here.  And that is exactly what I will be doing for today’s post.

James wrote a blog post in March called “what testers find.”  The point of the post was to highlight the fact that software testers are not simply bug trackers.  Yes that is a huge part of what we do, but it is not the only thing.  Testers also look for testability issues, product risks, and hidden product features, to name a few.

Obviously the identification of defects is what the software testing industry is generally known for.  Bug identification is the most tangible aspect of software testing, and arguably the most important because there is a direct negative correlation between the number of product defects and the perceived quality of the product.

Testability issue identification refers to finding aspects of the product that cannot be tested.  These issues could relate to the product itself, the testing process, or the testing environment.  Basically, software testers should communicate these issues when found in order to plug any testing holes, thereby improving the effectiveness of the overall testing process. 

Product risks are things that are not necessarily bugs, but could enable them at some point down the road. It involves the process of predicting what might happen in the future, even though it cannot be directly observed today.  For example, an iphone app that works with the current version of the product may not work in future iterations of the iphone.  Conversely, the identification of hidden product features is sort of the polar opposite of this; that is, it involves finding future uses of the product that are not evident today.

The bottom line is that defect tracking is not the end game.  By broadening your mindset beyond just bug tracking, you will be able to find ways to add incremental value to your organization, which could potentially help not only your company but also your career.

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