Sunday, March 11, 2012

What should be the easiest archaeological dig in the world

When I entered the field of software testing, the last last thing on my mind was archaeology. Software testing is about the future whereas archaeology is about the past. Technology is clean and non-physical but archaeology is dirty and labor-intensive. However, the two fields aren't all that different. A good software tester is going to thrive on artifacts, but not the kind buried in the ruins of ancient civilizations.

In software projects, an artifact is any piece of documentation that relates to the project:

  • RFP
  • RFP Response
  • SOW
  • Project Plan
  • Requirements
  • Design comps
  • Story boards
  • User personas
  • Test scripts
  • Defect reports
  • Meeting summaries
  • etc.
The artifacts mentioned above help software testers the same way bones help paleontologists. Both are vital in the acquisition of knowledge. Testers need to have a thirst for project knowledge. How can one assert if the product works as intended without having an authoritative source? Regardless of approach, the more the tester knows about how the software is supposed to work, the more thoroughly they can test through broader coverage and more intricate scenarios.

When projects don't have a decent amount of documentation, you're asking for scope creep and unsatisfied client expectations. Testers, get dirty and dig into the documentation. Insist on having access to it and demand it early. Study it thoroughly. Use it to help design your tests. If the documentation doesn't exist, consult the project experts (well, consult them anyway) and then write it down. Once it's written down, it can't be disputed - it might be changed later but that can happen to any document. Moral of the story: use everything at your disposal to learn about the project.

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