Why Is Testing Important?

This question is one that you may be asked by people hearing about your job for the first time, by people who work in a company where they don't do testing or simply by people who are naive to the benefits of testing currently. So, why is testing important? This question is likely to put you on the defensive very quickly if you care about your job and the work you do so it's important to think about this question before it gets asked. In this post I will discuss why I feel testing is important and the different points I like to make when asked this question.

In May of 2017 I was at a talk given by Mike Lyles. He hit on this point in an interesting way that really stuck with me. Mike explained that when people ask you what the value that testing brings is you don't automatically discuss what you cost the company, don't discuss the resources you need, the key is to discuss how much has been saved by testing. What I took away from that talk, and that point in particular, was that people have a hard time grasping what you could be preventing in the future, but they have an easier idea to remember the issues that almost caused catastrophic issues in the past. After this talk I became very aware of the things that our testing team found in the product prior to a release. This allowed me to have this ammunition in my back pocket whenever someone tried to downplay the importance of testing in the future. I was now able to bring that back up and remind important stakeholders that testing has prevented these sorts of issues in the past and allowing us adequate time to test right now could allow us to save us from almost having that happen again. Testing is important in the eyes of stakeholders and the business for what it prevents from happening, not for what it is doing currently.

Now, after discussing how important it is to try and find those important issues it's important to look at the other side of this. There is almost no way that we will be able to find every issue. But testing allows us to find the most obvious ones (hopefully). It is very important to remember this fact and not to take it too hard when you "miss something". This will be discussed in greater detail in "Don't Take It Personally". But, this is the second point I would like to make about why testing is important. We may not ever catch everything, but we do minimize our customers using a product and feeling like they're the ones who have to be testing it. Customers will tend to be very vocal both to you, and to the world if they feel like they have been given a product that is "untested". They want their user experience to be easy and pain free, and we should always want the same for them. So testing is there to help and alleviate that feeling that they're the first ones trying to work a new feature, or a new workflow in the product. Testing allows us to better understand how different features can work together and how new features or fixes impact the product as a whole.

Lastly, no code is perfect. I know that most people never want to hear this about their code but that is truly the bottom line. This doesn't mean the code has bugs in it, it could just mean that we have additional knowledge now that means we can do something in a better, more efficient way. But the we are not perfect, be you a coder, a tester, a technical writer whatever it is that you do we are all capable of making mistakes. Testers exist to help developers. We aren't there to try and tell you that you're wrong, we're there to help you to ensure that our customers get the best product we can possibly produce, as a team. And yes, automation can handle a decent amount of this work etc but there will always be things that we don't think of automating right away. Testers are able to work through the "unhappy path" in a product and make sure it still doesn't blow up in our faces.

These are the reasons why testing is important to me. It all boils down to wanting our customers to get the best possible product that we, as a team, can give them.

So, why is testing important to you?

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