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So, what’s independent testing?

Testing independence is being referred to in various ways: organizational independence of a test team on other teams within a company, independence of a testing service  vendor on other vendors, or testing as an independent engineering or scientific discipline. This blog site intends to refer to software testing as a business function and its in/dependence on other business functions (e.g. software development or other, even non-technical functions). Let me hence, share my perspective on independent testing from this angle and contrast it with outsourcing testing services, given that I see their usage often confused.

In general, independence is a relative term. While a test team that is part of a development organization may look independent for the development manager of the organization (given they are able to find and report most of deviations from specs), the support organization may consider them as being pretty much dependent on development (perhaps because finding and reporting performance, usability or documentation bugs is low on the priority list of the test team). Besides being relative, testing can be thought of in levels or measures rather then black and white; it tends to be more or less independent rather than plainly dependent or independent.

Practically speaking, look at independence from the point of view of business needs (or the business owner) rather than from the point of view of an individual function. Is the testing driven according to business priorities, does the business owner have an independent, unbiased view on the status of quality of the product to make appropriate business decisions? The more complete valuable information is available for the business owner, the higher is the value of testing and the higher is its independence on other business functions. The more the information is biased by other business functions and the least value it provides for effective business decisions, the more the testing is dependent on those functions.

TIP (just in case that you are interested in digging a bit deeper)Check out Lee Copeland’s presentation from GoogleTalks to get a sense for what valuable information means in our context. Although the presentation talks about it in general (not specific to the business owner), it holds true for the specific case of the business owner too. See especially slides “The Value Of Information” around 29:00.

BTW, I recommend to watch the whole presentation. It provides a useful view on the value of testing.

Check out the second part of the article for additional explanation and practical examples.

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