Last week I ran into an old colleague of mine who quit his job. He was a developer and is going to study in the States now that the recession is here.

We got talking about QA and he said that during times of crisis companies would rather layoff QA than developers. His claim was that developers who have an intimate knowledge of the code are harder to replace than testers with knowledge of the system. I responded to him that the learning curve for a new expert tester in a company may be just as long and difficult as an expert developer.

However, I couldn't help but wonder, is it true? Is intimate knowledge of the software code more difficult to achieve than intimate knowledge of the compiled software? In these times of crisis, are companies letting go of QA personnel before they fire developers? Is that the right move?

What do you think?

Views: 541

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

There should be something to test for the testers. Most of the time it's developers who create it. When there is a tight budget QA personal may not have chance. It does not mean the role played them can be replaced. This had to be done by peer developer to ensure the quality.

Also manual testers will be the first out than a tester with technical knowledge, test automation skills and domain knowledge. Sometime a tester with technical knowledge may get more value than a developer.

Seniority may matters over the equal skills in some companies.
I don't understand this - surely it's easier to replace "any old Perl/QTP coder" with "any other old Perl/QTP coder". Whilst valuable, these skills are easily transferable to any environment (um, partly why they're so valuable to individuals to have). What you can't buy on the open market is in-depth knowledge of your business processes and systems.

I mean - sure, it might well be true - lots of apparently counter-intuitive things are, but I don't understand why a *sane* company would necessarily cut manual testers first over technical testers. What are you thinking of when you say "manual" testers? Domain knowledge *is* what you have as a manual tester.

At the moment, I'm pretty clear on the fact that I just don't have that in-depth knowledge of my current employer's business processes - I'm getting there as fast as I can (and I can certainly be useful and productive), but if it were a choice between me with my techie knowledge and some of my colleagues with their very deep business knowledge - well, I know what I'd choose, if I were having to make cuts and decide what knowledge I didn't want to see walking out the door and lost forever, and what knowledge I didn't want to lose but I could replace if I had to.
Often testers are introduced to a development team because they are asking important questions that are generally overlooked by others. This skill is hard to sever or replace quickly, especially if the testers continuously add value. However, it is logical that if you don't have programmers, you will not have a product.

Testers are mostly service providers, i.e. they provide quality related information about the product to help the stakeholders and programmers make critical decisions. That is usually regarded as a very important function, since most others are not doing it. It is a different mindset and a different set of skills that probably most programmers, project managers or customer support personnel cannot acquire very quickly. That would make management think quite a few times before showing the tester the door. So it would be more obvious that they would be thinking of the process folks, or week programmers, or customer support personnel even more than the effective testers. But like I said before, a project definitely needs good programmers, and making layoff decisions about who goes first is totally dependent on management's vision of the project.


It does not mean the role played them can be replaced. This had to be done by peer developer to ensure the quality.

Well that is where a good tester would defer; reminding everyone that there is no way that you can "ensure" quality. Quality is perceived differently by different people, and testers should be able to understand the kind of testing that is appropriate for his particular context.


Also manual testers will be the first out than a tester with technical knowledge, test automation skills and domain knowledge. Sometime a tester with technical knowledge may get more value than a developer.

I would have to agree with Anna here about undermining the value and skills of the so-called manual testers. That is why I prefer to call them sapient testers (coined by James Bach). It is rather questionable how much automation testers add value to the project (depends on the kind of product of course), since they are not really questioning the product like the testers are doing. The automation tasks may be easily taken over by the programmers, since it is programming, and learning new tools may not be that difficult. But if automation testers have important sapient testing skills, then that may not be the case.

If your company is not as huge as Microsoft, then chances are that you have far less testers than programmers. So the ratio of layoffs may not favor the programmers, assuming that you have a reputable test team.

In my opinion, during any financial crisis, the employees who are more dynamic will be the survivors. Testers may actually have an edge in this case, since they would probably know about the business domain, about customer issues, about the overall product infrastructure, about product usability, about recommending important new features etc. Testers who are not quality police and are able to take on deadline challenges will probably have more preference when management decides to reconsider project timelines. Testers who are able to derive important feature related information about the product by questioning and exploring, rather than always demanding spelled-out specifications, may seem more favorable. My point being, that if management perceives the tester not being a liability, but facilitating the project in essential ways, that will probably make it much harder for the management to consider them for downsizing.

Regards,
Sajjadul Hakim
http://rapidtester.blogspot.com/
Even in times of crisis (perhaps even more so) you still need testers if you have developers if you still care about quality. Just because times are tough I don't believe developers will suddenly and happily take over the testing role and stop writing bugs. There might be a better return in laying off a developer who writes really buggy code. It's always going to depend on the level of expertise of your staff. The recession hasn't yet had any impact on our software development, but it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few months.
It all boils down to money, period. It doesn't matter if you are a Programmer or a Tester (technical or not) if the bean counters and Exec's decide that your 'cost' is too high or they can 'live' with being short staffed then the layoff will happen. Typically what they look for is what is considered 'niceties' to cut first, and for a lot of companies a Test group and staff are exactly that. Also, other groups outside of development are in the cross-hairs too besides testing. If the company isn't a purely software product based company, like most IT groups in Financial and like sectored companies the software people are fair game. But the development staff are the ones who know the code (and how to fix/test it) best and are somewhat protected (even the crappy programmers).

So with economic uncertainty comes instability and the shake-ups that come with it. This industry (Software, IT) has its cycles like any other industry. We are in a downturn for now, just make sure you're able to ride it out. I've been at this 20+ years and seen this happen multiple times. So just hang tough.
But the development staff are the ones who know the code (and how to fix/test it) best and are somewhat protected (even the crappy programmers).

I think creating and questioning your creation are two different skills that are very difficult to practice together. They require very different mindsets and experiences. So I am not sure in what context you meant programmers are able to test their code best. I can understand programmers can write very good unit tests. Is that what you meant?

Regards,
Sajjadul Hakim
http://rapidtester.blogspot.com/
The question I intended to ask wasn't if developers can replace testers.

The question was, no matter how important we think testing is, when the budget becomes tight and the CEO becomes edgy, would companies rather lay off testers than developers?
These are quite related, aren't they? You need to do testing, whether it is by testers or someone else. You would layoff people you have no use for, or whose work can be taken over by others. My recent reply was aimed at Jim's assumption. I did give a more detailed reply at the beginning of this thread.

Regards,
Sajjadul Hakim
http://rapidtester.blogspot.com/
They aren't necessarily related. First of all, many companies don't even have QA departments to begin with and barely do any testing. Even if you need testing, there's always a question of how many people you need to do the testing, how deep the testing needs to be, how much a company cares about quality, and how much the testing costs.

I agree with Jim's response, that most companies consider QA as a nicety. Without QA the product may be buggy, without the developers there wouldn't even be a product to ship out. I'm not saying I agree with this attitude, but it seems all too common.
Good points.

Without QA the product may be buggy, without the developers there wouldn't even be a product to ship out. I'm not saying I agree with this attitude, but it seems all too common.

The product will always have bugs, even with testers, since testing cannot ensure the absence of bugs. The value a tester brings to the team is more than about finding bugs. It is how they question the perceived value of the product. It is true that a lot of companies do not see this value from their testers, maybe because the testers do not have the required skills. That is why I mentioned in my first post, what kind of skills may be considered to be useful even during downsizing. It is very important that testers start giving attention to these skills.

I actually agree that without programmers there will not be a product. But that does not indicate that all programmer's skills are equal and important to management. They have a equal challenge to prove their worth, especially since they will probably be much higher in number than the testers, and therefore be more preferable for downsizing. Same goes for all the other professions in the company, like customer support, database admins etc.

Yet at the end of the day, downsizing may not always be dependent on performance, but more of a budget issue. So it may very well be the case that good employees is shown the door, simply because the company cannot meet the budget.
Your last statement about "at the end of the day, downsizing may not always be dependent on performance, but more of a budget issue" is exactly what I was talking about. When it comes down to it it is all about money. Even if you are a great tester, your perceived value against even a crappy programmer is going to be less. Thus you will most likely be cut loose.

I've been in Software for 20+ years, 20 of it in Testing. I have been through 3 merger/aqcuisitions and a few companies downsizing. I have survived some of those events, others I was not as lucky. Now I have seen situations where the whole development team was cut loose (because they did F'up badly) and the Test group kept intact (management figured that other developers in the company could be re-tasked and could take over the code, but that they were understaffed on testing as is and because the product was close to shipping they needed to keep the test staff). This was a unique situation.

You're talking about a rational logical decision on the part of the management and executives. That rarely happens in this industry and has been happening for a very long time. When push comes to shove and the higher level people are seeing the money in their pocket starting to vaporize they will cut whatever is most expensive first and/or considered not necessary for business. They will limp along instead of become totally dead. This is reality, in any part of the world.

Now the question should be how do you explain/show your worth (monetary value) to the powers that be. How do you show the value (money impacts) of Testing. And this point can be made at any time.
@Jim,

Now I have seen situations where the whole development team was cut loose (because they did F'up badly) and the Test group kept intact (management figured that other developers in the company could be re-tasked and could take over the code, but that they were understaffed on testing as is and because the product was close to shipping they needed to keep the test staff). This was a unique situation.

I had never heard of such a unique situation. I thank you for sharing this information that would benefit my learning in this field.

RSS

Adverts

© 2017   Created by Rosie Sherry.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service