3 months Opinion Pieces

Finding Surprise “Defects”

As a software testing consultancy, we often uncover some surprising ‘defects’ hidden in the projects we work on - defects that you wouldn’t expect a software testing function to find. We have gained a lot of experience over the years and are very familiar with some of the things that can go wrong, making it easy for us to spot shortcomings with business processes that can cause projects to fall over. Finding such issues are arguably just as valuable to clients as finding software bugs and is one of the many benefits of using an experienced software testing consultancy.

Organisations can get carried away with great ideas that are going to make lots of revenue or stave off competition, coming up with brilliant ways to entice customers into doing business with them - and time is of the essence. Being the first to market with a new idea (or making sure you are not the last) can put you in a better position against competition. However, when speed is the main driver, often things can get missed. There is a whole chain of events that need to be considered before proceeding with a new idea. And unfortunately, people just assume some of the most obvious things have been planned for, especially on complex projects.

One major issue that we have uncovered whilst carrying out testing (where it can sometimes be too late) was around the scalability of a new delivery method. A TV Shopping Channel had decided to start doing nominated day deliveries for its customers and it was only during the testing phase that we discovered that they had not considered how they were going to manage this. Particularly at peak times, customers are likely to select specific days for their deliveries and they had not factored in the need for additional warehouse staff to deal with an increased level of demand. Should this have gone live without taking this into consideration, it could have been a very costly disaster, leaving them potentially unable to fulfil the order and/or deliver it on time.

Another surprise ‘defect’ was with a retailer, for whom we were automating the regression tests for their ePOS system. As promotions was part of the ePOS ecosystem, we uncovered outdated promotions (generating test cases dynamically, highlighted legacy data that had no purpose, yet was replicated nightly!) and identified errors in promotions (such as £50 instead of 50% off). Had we not been involved in this project, these mistakes could have been left undetected and gone into the live environment. Unfortunately, in the current day, people are too quick to revert to social media to voice their complaints. If a promotion is rung through the till and the customer service assistant is not able to honour it, not only is there an audience around the till to see the embarrassing situation, the world of twitter or Facebook is exposed to it too – severely damaging the reputation of businesses.

These value-adds are what makes a good software testing function such an important part of a project team. Similarly, it is probably why they are sometimes underestimated because they are difficult to measure.

Testing has been seen as a commodity in the past. But as demonstrated here, a good software testing consultancy is much more than just finding software defects. It is about being the custodians of quality and doing the right thing for the business to help them achieve their objectives. Having our eye on your business objectives can help to spot peripheral issues and help to correct them, where possible.  This can be done if ‘quality’ is given a seat at the table when it comes to making big decisions – ‘shifting left’. Having quality assurance involved early on in the process provides due diligence and mitigates risks that if left unnoticed until later, can prove to be very costly.

Not only will a consultancy have gained experience from companies within their clients market but also from other industries. Having knowledge of the mistakes that others’ have made, and learned from, can further increase quality and therefore the chance of success.

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