In response to my What I Love About Kanban As A Tester #1 post, Anonymous stated:
“The whole purpose of documenting test cases…[is]…to be able to run [them] by testers who don’t have required knowledge of the functionality.”
Yeah, that’s what most of my prior test managers told me, too…
“if a new tester has to take over your testing responsibilities, they’ll need test cases”
I wouldn’t be surprised if a secret QA manager handbook went out to all QA managers, stating the above as the paramount purpose of test cases. It was only recently that I came to understand how wrong all those managers were.
Before I go on, let me clarify what I mean by “test cases”. When I say “test cases”, I’m talking about something with steps, like this:
- Drag ItemA from the catalog screen to the new order screen.
- Change the item quantity to “3” on the new order screen.
- Click the “Submit Order” button.
Here’s where I go on:
- When test cases sit around, they get stale. Everything changes…except your test cases. Giving these to n00bs is likely to result in false fails (and maybe even rejected bug reports).
- When test cases are blindly followed, we miss the house burning down right next to the house that just passed our inspection.
- When test cases are followed, we are only doing confirmatory testing. Even negative (AKA “unhappy”) paths are confirmatory testing. If that’s all we can do, we are one step closer to shutting down our careers as testers.
- Testing is waaaay more than following steps. To channel Bolton, a test is something that goes on in your brain. Testing is more than answering the question, “pass or fail?”. Testing is sometimes answering the question, “Is there a problem here?”.
- If our project mandates that testers follow test cases, for Pete’s sake, let the n00b’s write their own test cases. It may force them to learn the domain.
- Along with test cases comes administrative work. Perhaps time is better spent testing.
- If the goal is valuable testing from the n00b, wouldn’t that best be achieved by the lead tester coaching the n00b? And if that lead tester didn’t have to write test cases for a hypothetical n00b, wouldn’t that lead tester have more time to coach the hypothetical n00b, should she appear. Here’s a secret: she never will appear. You will have a stack of test cases that nobody cares about; not even your manager.
In my next post I’ll tell you when test cases might be a good idea.