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So, what’s independent testing? (contd.)

We argued in a previous article that independent testing is about the way testers act and the quality of information that they provide, rather than about the way they are organized or governed. Organization and governence still tend to have a crucial impact on independence. That’s perhaps the reason, why some of defined standards approach testing independence from the point of view of the organization ([1], [2]). I prefer to talk about organizationally or governence-wise separate testing rather than independent testing in this context. Here is why.

For a practical implementation of an organizationally separate testing team, imagine an in-house system testing team that’s part of a cross-functional organization, where the test team has its dedicated management chain (separate from the management chains of other teams) and that eventually reports to the product/business owner. Priorities of the testing team are likely to be driven by product/business priorities and their reports have a better chance to articulate the actual status of quality with regards to business needs. For a case, where testing is organizationally embedded in another function (not separate) imagine an external vendor delivering a complete software solution (including software integration and testing) to a customer, where the vendor’s drive to meet timelines and budgets is likely to disallow or delay fixing bugs that the customer may prefer to have known and fixed early. Hence, for product quality attributes for which you prefer to have an independent view, you may prefer to have an organizationally separate testing team.

Having said that, organizational dynamics can work in a way that organizationally embedded teams become functionally independent and vice versa. There are examples of testing organizations that are able to work fairly independently even from within a larger development organization. Therefore, I don’t find it fortunate, when independent testing is described purely by means of organization and governance.


And one more thing. Sources available on the web often use terms independent software testing and outsourcing within one context, so they sound like inseparable or even interchangeable concepts. No matter if it is for well funded marketing reasons, lack of sense or just no need for distinguishing the two, it is somewhat confusing at times. Outsourcing is a way to resource a business function (on various levels of independence), rather than its 1-1 representatation. Just like an internal testing organization can be influenced by internal interests, a team provided externally can be influenced by external business interests. See [3] for a critical view on outsourcing testing services.


[1] IEEE Standard Glossary to Software Engineering Terms (see independent verification and validation)

[2] ISTQB Advanced Level Syllabus (see chapter 10.4. Fitting Testing Within and Organization)

[3] Cem Kaner: Testing Computer Software (see the chapter about Independent Testing Agencies)

independent engineering independent testing qa system testing testing

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