Software Testers—Are You Effective Bug Advocates?
While explaining the importance of storytelling, David Greenlees explains why motivating the buyer is an important aspect for a tester to ensure that bugs receive adequate attention to get fixed. This very much explains the essence of bug advocacy.
In the book Lessons Learned in Software Testing, the authors associate bug advocacy with the phrases "You are what you write" and "Your bug report is your representative." While writing an accurate bug report is quite important for advocating your bug, bug advocacy actually goes beyond the bug reports and has more to do with what happens outside the realm of the defect tracking system.
Here's the gist of a real life story that appears in the book Leading with Questions:
The Challenger Spacecraft was launched on 28th-Jan-1986, but unfortunately exploded 73 seconds post lift-off. Much of the research of what went wrong with the Challenger launch focuses on the lack of communication between NASA and Morton Thiokil, Inc (MTI). MTI was the contractor responsible for the component that failed during the launch. Almost 2 years before the fatal launch, MTI became aware that there could be a problem with O-ring, a sealing component. The engineers at MTI documented this problem and insisted that further testing needed to be done to determine the reliability of O-ring. Upon further testing they confirmed that the O-ring was not reliable at lower temperatures. One strong possibility of this bug not getting enough attention, the researchers say, was due to the fact that the people around the table were afraid to express their doubts or even to ask questions that they had determined before entering the room that morning that they would ask.
The very fact that engineers at MIT had documented the problem in advance and it was not enough to avert this disaster should give insight into why the scope of defect advocacy goes beyond just the bug reports. Conveying the bad news is a communication art that every tester has to master. It does require a rare courage and a willingness to stand by what is right and communicate with tact to all the stakeholders.
Another equally important aspect is having influential work relationships with the people who matter. James Watkins, the author of The First 90 Days, has some profound words about relationship building: “You come in with a relationship bank account that has a zero balance and you have to start to build it up.”
If you want someone to help you or to do something for you, it is best to meet those people before the first time you actually need them. You need to start building the work relationship before the need arises.
Effective bug advocacy goes beyond just the bug reports—it involves demonstrating an acute sense of anticipation and exercising a positive influence on the stakeholders.
As a tester, are you being heard the way you want to be heard? Are you an effective bug advocate?