May 4, 2006

...Learn TDD with Codemanship

Testers & The Bottom Line

A high-performing sales person knows what they're worth to their employer. That's why they can earn so much money. If you bring in $10 million a year, then it doesn't sound so unreasonable to take home $500,000 in commission.

They're the lucky ones. The rest of us have value that is far more intangible. We're not so obviously connected to the bottom line, and even if we're worth $10 million a year to our employers, they probably won't be able to see it.

Connecting to the bottom line is a critical skill if you want to earn what the top sales people earn for the job you do.

The problem is that most bosses will view you as a cost, and the sales person as a benefit. The sales person brings in money into the company. You take it back out again. This is, of course, a very blinkered view. It's the kind of logic that makes project managers think that star programmers deliver software, but testers slow the programmers down.

Overheads in business are - at best - viewed as a necessary evil. Testers in software development are often viewed with the same disdain.

It's tre that it's very difficult for a tester to describe the value they bring to a project, because the value they bring is complex and intangible. It's not directly measurable. But it can be measured indirectly.

Think of how you might measure the volume of a complicated object - like a person, for example. A person has a very, very complicated surface, so the old "length x width x height" formula would be impossible to apply to a person. It could be accurately applied to a rectangular tank of water, though. If the inside of the tank is X metres by Y metres, and the water is Z metres deep, then the volume of water is X x Y x Z cubic metres.

Lower a person into the water until they're completely submerged, and measure the depth of the water now. (Let's call it P.) So the volume of the water plus the person is X x Y x P metres cubed. The volume of the person is the volume of the water and the person minus the volume of the water by itself. That's how we can indirectly measure the volume of something as complicated as a person. It's (X x Y x P) - (X x Y x Z) or (X x Y) x (P - Z).

Consider the key variables in project performance:

    * Time
    * Scope
    * Cost
    * Quality

Could we measure the difference between a project with testing, and the same project without testing? What might we expect to happen to, for example, productivity in the days, weeks and months after we got rid of the testers (or after we hired some good testers)?

What do you think might happen? Answers on a postcard, please...
Posted 14 years, 8 months ago on May 4, 2006