Quantifying the Value of Your Testing
Can you put a dollar figure on the value of your testing? Many of us would probably scream “No way!” Testing is an art. Testing is inscrutable and immeasurable. It’s a service that generates little buzz when done well, sort of like another unquantifiable service—janitorial work. When a janitorial service is doing a good job, who notices? But when the place is filthy, that’s a whole other story.
Let’s say our testing team is doing a great job providing useful insight from the start of the lifecycle, exposing need-to-know information to people who need to know it, and making developers look good. We know we’re valuable. If we take a vacation, the whole team anxiously awaits our return. But if someone above you—say your boss’s boss’s boss, who doesn’t know you from the mailman—needs to improve the company’s balance sheet, how does this person recognize your value?
In a recent talk hosted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Information Engineering and Management (IEM) program, Dale Callahan, director of the executive graduate program in IEM at UAB and author of Resumes Are Worthless, said that if you want to prove your worth, you’ve got to calculate it.
No matter how squeamish it makes you feel to put a number on your contributions, keep in mind that numbers talk. Numbers make or break your employer’s day. If you don’t put numbers out there on your profit contribution, someone else will, and that someone else—i.e., your boss’s boss’s boss—most likely won’t have all the information needed to accurately evaluate you.
Kevin Hillstrom of MineThatData says employees are no different than baseball players, whose statistics directly correlate with their market value. You might argue that it’s impossible to measure statistics on what a person can do; a person doesn't have an on-base percentage.
Maybe not, but what do you have? What do you do? What have you done? Did you find a defect during the pre-shipment period that saved your company x dollars on cost of the repair and distribution? Did you write defect process documentation that saves your team five hours of cleanup each week? Did you learn to maintain your test environments and do deployments yourself, taking those tasks off a developer’s hands?
If you do something that speeds up a process, protects your company’s brand, or lowers the cost of restorative actions, put a number on it. Share your numbers with your boss a couple of times a year just to keep your value fresh in his mind. When it comes time for review or renewal of a contract, it’s a whole lot easier for employers to write a check when they can say, “That person made $100,000 for the company this year.”