I recently attended a Project Managers meeting where PM specific, day to day problems were discussed.
Some were quite generic in nature and similar to a tester meeting, for example how do we make sure that people are properly trained, dealing with communication problems, etc. Others were more specific, for example talking about managing customer relationships, how a customer may perceive problems in a project from a completely different angle (for the better or the worse for the PM in question).
What occurred to me there is that we put a lot of emphasis in testing on adding “value for the customer”, however most testers that I know have no idea about customer management, and how our customers priorities might be different from the ones that the development team (programmers and testers) are thinking of. Managing that relationship sits squarely in the corner of the PM or Account Manager (where available). In a way it’s good that the Project Manager is shielding the development team from sometimes difficult customers, but to what degree can a tester really say that what they’re doing is actually adding value for the client?
That reminded me that what we think of as “adding value” is actually based on a model. To quote George Box “All models are wrong, some are useful”. Is our model built on validation and verification – in a broad way ensuring that the system works as intended and works without glitches? But what do we base that on since we all know that requirement documents are notoriously lacking? The argument I often hear is that testers bring their experience in adding what they perceive to be of value to other customers so it might be of value to the current project as well. With no knowledge of the customer or our relationship with them how can this be true?
At the next team meeting it might be an idea to invite the Account Manager as well or, if the PM is fulfilling that role as well, ask him about our relationship to the client. Is it perceived to be a difficult one? Have we worked with that client before? Is the project seen as a start of many others to follow? Do we know of particular things that “bug” the client that would help us direct our test effort?
I don’t know how other people address that but these are not questions that I have asked in the past but maybe I should. I attended a Project Management course and think that all testers should do that sooner or later, ideally followed with actually managing a project or two as well.
Many testers have an idea of how programmers think, many having a background in programming themselves. Maybe it’s time that we start to look through the eyes of a Project Manager as well and walk a mile in their shoes.