Sovereignty is not given, it is taken

– Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

How important is funding in software testing? Let me say, it is really very important.

I have always been curious about the question of why software testing is the most underinvested phase of any software project. I can list several logical answers. One answer is that most people (especially upper managers) think that software testing is a supportive IT discipline. In other words, you cannot survive if you don’t have software developers, but you can survive if you don’t have testers.

In addition to this, in some sectors such as finance, insurance, and e-commerce, IT seems to be a supportive function as well. From this point of view, in sectors such as these, testing becomes a supportive phase of a supportive function, or supportive squared. Under these circumstances, it is really difficult to convince people to invest in software testing.

Let me pause here and tell you what I mean by investment or funding.

In the software testing business, there are many investment items. Hiring testing experts, buying testing tools, purchasing devices, and receiving testing consultation from testing service providers are examples. The problem here is that if you want to invest in any of these items, you need to convince your managers first. And I assure you, this is one of the biggest challenges in software testing.

I remember trying very hard to get approval from a cost committee for a formal TMMi (test maturity model integration) accreditation for our testing project, but I failed twice. Each time, the committee justified its refusal by telling me that test improvement was not a mandatory activity (“we will survive without improving our test processes”), it didn’t affect “so much directly” our new software projects, and the return would not be soon.

In another project, the upper management asked my team to borrow other people’s smartphones and use them in system testing activities. And during another project, I borrowed my sister’s phone because we were not allowed to purchase one for our test lab.

What about hiring testers? This is a real pain, not because there are no real experts in the market, but because managers are not willing to offer satisfactory salaries. Managers have illusions about hiring testers also. They believe anyone can do testing, and as a result they are not generous in offering appropriate salaries.

The problem with these people is that they believe labor costs are equal to labor fees. In other words, if they pay more than some amount of money to any tester, they think that their labor costs are increasing. But they are wrong!

Once you underpay a tester and somehow convince him or her to work with you, you lose the tester in the first day. Once the tester recognizes that she or he is underpaid, the tester will leave the company. And in order to find a new tester, you will go through the hiring process from the beginning. You have to publish new job ads, your HR department will organize interviews (by the way, they are generally very slow at this), you will offer the fitting candidates offers (again HR will do this), and you will hire the one who accepts your offer. If you are lucky, the tester will not have a contractual period of notice. And the story continues.

If you think that the painful hiring process doesn’t cost you any extra money, then you can continue paying the lowest salaries. But if you think that a tester’s salary is nothing when with hiring costs, then you should be convinced to offer better salaries to your testers. Ultimately, we need to know that labor costs are not equal to labor fees. And if testers get paid better after I release this blog post, donations are welcome. 🙂

Apart from the above, I want to mention another challenge you may face with while searching for testing funding. Visionary test managers and testers have a tendency to bring out unique testing ideas and sophisticated testing projects. In this way they believe that they can easily convince their upper managers to invest in their unique projects, but they are wrong.

Once your testing ideas are unique and visionary, your chances of finding an investment for them are unfortunately lower. In other words, you need to spend a considerable amount of time explaining your unique ideas to your upper managers. If your ideas are not understood well by decision makers, they are not funded, as sure as two plus two equals four.

In conclusion, some people believe that software testing investment/funding should flow from upper management to test departments and testers. They say that “if the upper managers are not visionary and they do not have sufficient knowledge about testing and quality, do not waste your time advertising testing, and never dream of any testing investment.”

In my experience, I have never seen a CIO or upper manager talking about test techniques and benefits of test management software. But I have experienced investments made by these people. Long story short, if you have competency in testing and you are committed to promoting it in the right places at the right times, in the long run you will find your funding. Don’t expect any people to fund testing unless you pull out all the stops.

You need to know that “sovereignty is not given, it is taken.”