How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love ISO 29119 | TechWell

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love ISO 29119

If you’ve heard of ISO 29119, I expect it was through the #Stop29119 movement.

But have you read the standard? Do you really know what all the brouhaha is about?

Of course not, because it costs hundreds of dollars, and you can’t drop that kind of money just to do research.

After a bit of shopping around, I found copies of the first three sets of standards from the IEEE Standards Association for just $331—about half what they cost on other websites.

Except, of course, the end-user license specifically states the work is copyrighted and I am not to share them. Each page of the document has the following message:

No further reproduction or networking is permitted. Distributed by Thomson Reuters (Scientific) LLC, www.techstreet.com. Copyrighted material licensed to Matthew Heusser on 2014-09-08 for licensee's use only.

That’s right: They made it illegal for me to share through copyright law. Then they wrote a computer program to auto-fill my name so that if a copy gets into the public domain, they know whom to sue.

If you wanted to pursue the standard, you’d have to pay for what will eventually be all five parts, likely at a higher price tag—close to a thousand dollars. Then you could not share the material and would instead have to work alone, trying to normalize the existing process to the standard.

And normalizing is the right term for it, because the standard creates a number of required documents and some optional documents. What you’d do is match the existing process to the terms in 29119, adding required documents and items if the organization doesn’t have them.

Who is likely to be assigned this work? It seems unlikely to be a single key decision maker, like a director of software engineering. More likely it will be someone junior doing the grunt work. That person will then need to explain to the managers, executives, and team members how the new, standards-compliant process will work.

Not exactly a prescription for success, is it?

Instead, the organization will buy copies of “The New Standard for Idiots” and bring in a consultant for training and making sure the documentation clearly follows the standard.

I want to trade value for money. The scenario above is a complete violation of the kind of company I am trying to build—and, in a difference sense of the word, the kind of company I would like to keep.

I’m not accusing anyone of evil intent; nor am I saying the folks behind the standards are bad people. I simply described a system of forces and the logical outcome. We’ve seen this before in ITIL, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, HIPPA, and countless others. Access to the standard is limited and expensive, the standards themselves are overwhelming and complex, and so an industry of compliance and training springs up around the standard.

I don’t see how these practices benefit testing. I signed the ISST petition to stop ISO 29119. And I hope you will too.

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September 8, 2014

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