Test Policy… Really?

A recent post by Joep Schuurkes sparked a thinking point for me.  Test Policies… from what I’ve seen there is always a LOT of time and money spent on creating these documents, only to have them sit on the self and collect dust so to speak.

So, through the creation of the document you have some good (mostly valuable) conversations with parts of the company that wouldn’t normally be too bothered with testing.  This is great to give testing some long overdue visibility.  Why is that?  The Test Policy is such a high level document that you generally need the sign off to come from the executive.

What happens after the document is signed off/approved?  Nine times out of ten, nothing.  Maybe those high level conversations you had while developing it were enough to warrant it’s cost… maybe not.  Maybe it’s a document that is only ever referenced by the testers… in which case why bother?  You might as well have simply created a Test Policy for your team, if at all.  I’ve seen this plenty of times too.

I think before you decide to create a Test Policy, you need to establish why?  Often though the decision to create one doesn’t come from the testers, but from much higher up in the company.  Then you need to think about asking them why?  Who is going to read it?  Who is going to use it?  Will they revisit it in the future?  Afterall, they are the ones that want it, yes?

Now I’m definitely not saying don’t have them, or that I don’t like them… I just think that more effort needs to go into asking why, rather than into developing them for the sake of developing them (or beacuse the boss said so).

In reply to one of my comments on his post Joep wrote – “have you read ‘Perfect software and other illusions about testing’ by Jerry Weinberg? It has a story about someone at a job interview for a test manager position. She is shown the ‘Test Policy Manual’, runs her finger over the top and decides based on the amount of the dust on her finger, this is not a place she wants to work.”

I haven’t got that far into the book, but that story doesn’t surprise me.  It made me wonder though, if she was up for a definite challange she would have considered taking the job!  May not have been such a bad place to work if she had asked “Why?”  Just another way to view things maybe.

Joep goes on to say – “Instead of writing a test policy I think most companies should rather write down some principles and check lists to guide the test process. I mean, it’s not the amount of policy you write down that matters, but the degree to which people actually use it.” 

Hallelujah brother!

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