Desigan Moonsamy walks through the complexities of quality assurance with Joe Newbert, impressing the power when business analysis meets test analysis.
Desigan Moonsamy is a principal consultant with 11 years’ experience in Information Systems, holds an Honours BSc degree in Information Systems and has
As a member of the Solution Delivery leadership team, Desigan manages, mentors and coaches both graduate and junior consultants.
Conjoining solution delivery for better business results.
What are the unique project pressures and challenges of being responsible for quality testing during the latter stages of solution delivery?
The System and Integration Testing phase, all too often, bears the brunt of any delays to the project schedule. Analysis, Design and Development teams are usually afforded some leeway, as there is nothing if there is no software.
However, with tight project deadlines there is immense pressure on the tester, who is faced with the challenge of achieving the same high test coverage, but in the significantly reduced time.
The pressure to work faster, meet quality objectives and further take ownership of software failures weighs heavily on the psyche of a tester.
Do you believe the testing profession is properly understood and gets the focus it deserves?
To be truly effective, a tester has to be multi-skilled and work across disciplines: analysis skills to interpret and evaluate requirements; technical skills to understand the nuts and bolts of software environments; the ability to identify failure points and high risk areas; tools and techniques that rely on scientific methods; determining cases and scripts to provide the greatest coverage with the least effort; building test environments.
Testing is a profession in itself, with Bodies of Knowledge (BOK), accreditations, certifications, specialist roles and career paths that define the industry. Is it given the recognition it deserves? No, it’s not. Like business analysis is doing, the test profession needs to embark on a journey of education to make visible the complexity involved.
Do you think business analysts possess the requisite knowledge and skills to perform testing tasks sufficiently?
Test analysis needs to operate at a much lower level of detail, systematically breaking down functionality, pushing the system to its limits with technical tests and identifying failure points. This is tough to achieve when not properly educated and trained. Furthermore, a business analyst can develop a bias to their solution, while the tester offers an unbiased view from the perspective of: How do I break this?
When a solution is not tested to the appropriate level of detail, the risk of a defect preventing business operation is high, and can result in financial and reputational loss to the business.
Should we opt for a business analyst over a test analyst? Not unless the business analyst is also a trained test analyst.
Given an ideal business analyst and test analyst situation, where should the boundaries of responsibility be positioned
Business analysts are fantastic in supporting business to complete User Acceptance Testing (UAT) as – having been closest to the client and spending many hours understanding their needs – the role is in prime position to validate that the right solution has been built.
The lower-level verification testing, such as component, system and integration is best completed by skilled testers. The person needs to verify that the solution remains robust through the test phases: checking for correctness, completeness, ambiguity and so on. If I skip to Integration testing, this requires intimate knowledge of how the various components are meant to work together. Testers expend a lot of effort in verifying that the solution is working from a technical perspective.
What’s the impact on testing of poorly specified business and technical requirements?
Poorly-specified requirements leave the door open for interpretation. Projects involve many people, with different perspectives, and incorrect and incomplete requirements increase the likelihood of misunderstanding and, ultimately, not achieving the desired outcome.
When the ability to understand the expected result is compromised, additional test planning is needed, adding additional tasks to the project schedule. This results in less testing time, which is squeezed by both test wastage and the need for retesting (which should not have been required), increasing the project pressure and affecting the quality of the solution. It’s a spiral, and this risk-based testing strategy opens the door wide to poor quality.
What can business analysis and development teams do to better support the testing phase?
Test specialists should be included from the inception of the solution project, as they provide a valuable perspective from early on, potentially catching any defects when they are easiest and cheapest to fix. The tester should be involved in forming, reviewing, estimating, discussions and communication sessions.
Business analysts should follow industry standards and guidelines in terms of how to write a requirement, take good care in producing deliverables, and be sure to document assumptions.These go a long way towards delivering great requirements documents, and allow the tester to have a clear understanding in order to facilitate correct and complete test preparation.
Do you think business analysts and test analysts align their deliverables with one another optimally?
Ideally test deliverables should seamlessly transition directly from the business analysis artefacts produced.
Artefacts in themselves must be produced with sufficient detail to handover requirements completely and clearly. Collaborate with developers and testers equally to benefit the project as a whole – don’t let testing become a bolted-on afterthought.
As specific examples: user stories with well-defined acceptance criteria allow the tester to determine the minimum criteria that need to be met to consider the story complete. State transition testing flows directly from state chart diagramming. Clear conditional business rules support the development of decision tables, Boundary Value Analysis and/or Equivalence Partitioning.
To compensate for gaps formed during analysis and design, is there a need for testers to perform business analysis as a part of their role?
Testers perform analysis during test planning, as they need to have intimate knowledge of the system. This requires a good handle on requirements and a thorough understanding of how the system is built technically. So I believe that analysis is definitely part of the process.
In cases where requirements are poor, you find that a tester has to do a fair amount of analysis for test planning. The idea is to have a clearly-defined set of expected results. This is imperative to understand fully, prior to critically analysing the solution. The tester is always thinking about failure points and ‘negative’ scenarios. This thinking is especially invaluable upfront during specification reviews.
How do you feel about the stereotypical ‘Tester to Business Analyst to Project Manager’ industry career path?
Testing is a wonderful place to start a career, as it exposes all disciplines and gives a true hands-on feel for opportunities in the wider software industry, whilst building foundational skills that are applicable across disciplines and various levels. This provides you with a great background and platform from which to launch into related specialisations as your career progresses.
The future is “T-shaped” individuals: a jack of trades and master of one.
Having true depth in one specialty of either testing, business analysis or project management, combined with competent skills in the remaining two allows one to critically evaluate a problem and provide a practical and robust business solution.
What is it about the quality assurance & testing career that has kept your dedication and passion for it alive?
Over the years, I have been fortunate to have had great exposure within the discipline from high-level black-box testing, to in-depth technical testing such as automation and non-functional tests. I thoroughly enjoy applying my mind to challenging situations and working through a solution that has long-term benefits.
There is a real sense of quality focus in the industry at the moment, and I am helping organisations form solid Quality Assurance practices that provide a foundation for their success. Knowing that I add value energises me. All of the above gives me a true appreciation for the discipline, and it remains a truly challenging and rewarding one for me.
‘Business Analysis Meets Test Analysis with Desigan Moonsamy‘ was first published in the 2016 Inter-View Report. Continue the conversation with @DesiganM1 and @Newbert on Twitter, and share how and where you think business analysis meets test analysis.