Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Business Value of (Software Test) Metrics

I was *totally* in the middle of another blog post when I came across the latest from Cem Kaner on context-driven-testing.com and after reading it, I (cognitively speaking) had no choice, but to save that other post as a draft and write this one -- and by that I mean, there's no way I was going to be able to focus on anything else until I got this down and out.

So, click the link below and read the post... no seriously, it's required reading for what I have to say. (Ok, if you want you can start at the line prior to the 2 bullet points about half-way down the screen -- the backstory is optional reading)

Metrics, Ethics, & Context-Driven Testing (Part 2)

Did you read it? No? I mean it. Go. Read. I'll wait.



Ok, back now? Good.

Selected quotes (yes, out of context, which is why I made a big deal about you reading the post for yourself first):
  • Testers don’t manage the broader network. We provide information for use by other stakeholders in that network. Those stakeholders have the responsibility and the right to determine what information they will find most useful. 
  • Executives are Entitled and Empowered to Choose their Metrics  
  • The fact that there is no collection of metrics that will do this perfectly (or even terribly well) doesn’t eliminate the need. Without a better alternative, managers will do the best they can with what they’ve got. 
  • ...when it comes to testers or consultants offering a “better alternative”, every executive has both the right and the responsibility to decide which alternative is the better one for her or his situation.
This is nothing short of solid gold. Couldn't have said it better myself (and in fact wish I had said it myself!)

Ah, but there is something I'd like to "say myself," and that is:

Executives:
  • represent "the Business" 
  • and thus Executives decide what does and does not provide "Business Value" 
    • more or less -- Boards of Directors, Shareholders, Investors may be involved, but the entire reason that there *are* Executives in those cases is so that those folks don't *have* to be involved in the day-to-day affairs... you get the idea
  • have the RIGHT to choose their Metrics
  • have the (professional and ethical) RESPONSIBILITY to use those Metrics with integrity
Data and Metrics Providers:
  • serve the Executives
    • at least during their term of employment
  • accept that Executives decide what does and does not provide "Business Value"
    • whether or not they know what that value is or agree that "it" is valuable
  • and thus are reasonably expected to provide the data and/or metrics requested by Executives
    • presuming the data/metric comes from actual "stuff"... I am *not* suggesting fabricating data/metrics is ok
  • have the RIGHT to propose alternative data/metrics
  • have the (professional and ethical) RESPONSIBILITY to provide the relevant context related to requested data/metrics
  • TRUST that Executives will use the data/metrics with integrity
    • else, I personally recommend that you commence looking for a new job immediately, if not sooner
Yes, I said "trust". I know the tester joke. "In God We Trust, Everything Else We Test" Here's the thing. Your time to TEST "the business" was BEFORE signing your employment contract, not every single time they assign you a task, or ask for information. If you come to believe that trust is being violated, make use of the proper channels (internal, external, and/or legal) or get a new job. Period.

Failing to trust "the Business" (without a *good* reason -- like catching an Executive "cooking the books") does NOT add Business Value...

... but that is a topic for another time.

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This is one of a series of posts related to various aspects of delivering Business Value throughout the entire product lifecycle for products that are, contain, and/or utilize software. Many posts specifically relate to software testing. To date, other posts in this series include:
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Scott Barber
Chief Technologist, PerfTestPlus, Inc.
Director, Computer Measurement Group
About.me

Co-Author, Performance Testing Guidance for Web Applications
Author, Web Load Testing for Dummies
Contributing Author, Beautiful Testing, and How To Reduce the Cost of Testing

"If you can see it in your mind...
     you will find it in your life."
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