Oh, I'm sure most of you are familiar with the cliche testing menu:
"XYZ Services Corp is a world-class provider of outsourced testing services. We specialize in functional, performance, usability, security, and automated test services for enterprise customers ..."
I've always been a little bit skeptical of those kind of statements. I mean, after all, the vendor is saying they specialize in pretty much every kind of testing, right? Why not just say "we specialize in software testing?"
I'm pretty sure that if you called up that company and asked them to do, say, recovery testing, they'd take the job. So what exactly does a statement like that say? Perhaps it says "we specialize in (catch all phrases to grab results in google or your interest."
When I say a testing menu, that is not what I am talking about.
A Professional Services Menu
My colleague, Robin Drake, is a copy-editor. An independent, Robin is also a principal for a small editing business, TextWright Publishing Services
, and, yes, has a menu of services
. I found the menu of services fascinating:
Beta testing/technical editing: $50/hour
Developmental editing: $60/hour
Where do these numbers come from?
To the causal reading, editing is editing. You take the text in, fix the typos and grammar, perhaps ask a few questions, and produce clean copy to go to printer. It is not that hard.
Yet Robin has divided up her work into different categories, and can charge more or less for her work in those categories. Some reasons she might do this:
* To charge less for work that is more competitive
* To charge more for work where the company has expertise or differentiation
* To charge more for work Robin, or her associates find distasteful
* To charge less for work they find more pleasant
* To charge less for work that allows the company to break into a new market, field, or type of work
We typically don't offer these kinds of menus in testing. We get a flat rate, take it or leave it. Sometimes, in the final stages of a negotiation, we might trade off a little of salary in order to gain a promise of training or some sort of career opportunity, perhaps to work with a new technology, but for the most part, we collect a salary, and you get what you get.
Not only do we not get a menu on price, we often don't build a menu based on services. Consider Robin's explanation for each of those services:
Focus of the technical editor (TE): Make it accurate.
The technical editor ensures that documentation is complete and appropriate for the audience, uses correct terminology for products and features, etc.
Focus of the development editor (DE): Make it work.
The development editor reorganizes (and sometimes rewrites) unacceptable material to make it suitable for its target audience, publishing venue, and so on.
Focus of the copyeditor (CE): Make it smooth.
The copyeditor makes well-developed material more readable.
Focus of the proofreader (PR): Make it clean.
The proofreader ensures that edited and laid-out copy is consistent in language and format, correctly following the publisher's design and text specifications.
Back in Tester-Land
Imagine a professional services menu for testers. What might it look like?
When I start thinking about such a menu, my mind races. It seems there are so many different directions we could take things, it's hard to think of something simple. Here's a few though:
The Happy Path
: Confirm (or reject) basic functionality
The Integration Path:
Expose and raise issues in systems that we have some confidence work independently
The Quick Attack
: Work to find common defects, typically using common patterns of attack
Do specific attacks against a known risk
Old Reliable: Specialized, expensive techniques
designed to build high confidence that the system with do something. (Meet basic needs, handle exceptions well, etc).
Notice that any 'type' of testing, be it functional, performance, scalability, and so on, can be performed using an item from the menu. Instead of defining a type of testing, the menu item sets expectations for what you will do, and what your results mean.
If you are a student of Session Based Test Management, you might think of these as 'themes' and direction for any given session. Likewise, they feel a bit like the 'touring'
concept for exploratory testing.
Still, it gets me to wonder:
* Most companies can do bug hunts without us, while many companies are starting to invest in usability testing as a new field.
Can the test industry use a concept of a menu to differentiate it's services?
* For that matter, even within companies, can we use a professional menu to better communicate about what we do, and set expectations for the kind of bugs we can find?
* If we could, what would that look like?
I've listed a hand-full of menu services above, but more importantly, what are your ideas? Does your company have a short-hand to discuss what you will do when someone asks you to 'test this'?
Next week I may bring the Contracts discussion back, but for now, or I may explore this some more next week.
It all depends on your feedback. What do you think; if you had to build a menu of services, what would it say?