My article “Testing standards? Can we do better?” attracted a lot of attention. A couple of weeks after I wrote it I wondered if I’d overstated the case against standards, and the danger that they pose to good testing. I went back to read the article again and decided that it was all entirely reasonable. The case against standards is actually far stronger. I merely touched on a few angles. If you want more meat go to this article I wrote in 2012, and check out the links to Michael Bolton’s work.
I’m returning to the subject today because of an exchange on Twitter (PDF, opens in new tab). I expressed my concern at a possible future in which testing is governed by certification and standards, both of which are mandated by contracts that refer to them. This would be “best practice”. It would be what responsible professionals do, and those who dissent would be wilfully insisting on working in an unprofessional, irresponsible manner. They would be consciously taking money from clients with the intention of doing a sub-standard job.
That’s the conclusion I have to draw from a “white paper” by Testing Solutions Group promoting the ISO 29119 testing standard.
Imagine an industry where qualifications are based on accepted standards, required services are specified in contracts that reference these same standards, and best industry practices are based on the foundation of an agreed body of knowledge – this could easily be the testing industry of the near future.
That is a prospect that alarms and depresses me. I don’t think it will happen so long as good, responsible testers continue to speak out. However, it might happen in the way that Pete Walen suggested in the Twitter exchange; if the standards lobby get the ear of legislators who could mandate that public sector projects must be compliant with standards, or if they decide that non-compliance could be prima facie evidence of negligence.
Well, that won’t happen while I’m in testing. If that future ever comes to pass my career in testing will be over. I have worked in the painful, inflexible and dysfunctional way that invariably follows mandatory, standards-driven contracts. I’ve no interest in trying to do the wrong things more efficiently, or in a slightly more up-to-date fashion. I will walk away without looking back.
The future of testing? Please don’t let that happen. At the very least, don’t let it happen “easily”!