July 22, 2012
How to be bipedal in requirements management and testing
I often get asked about how to plan a career in test management or requirements management. My recommendation is that you need expertise in both of these areas to do a good job. Even if you want to specialize in one of these areas, you will need thorough knowledge and a good understanding of how other roles in the project work and operate typically.
If you work with testing and want to perform that little bit extra, you need knowledge about how requirements engineering works and vice versa. Compare this with a sport like football; to be a more complete player like the Ibras and Messis of this world, you need to keep track of the positions in the team.
You might be an extremely good requirements analyst with years of experience from several different companies and knowledge of lots of tools, but if you have a weaker knowledge of testing, you will never be perfect. Likewise, if you are an experienced test manager but lack basic skills in requirements management, you’ll never be as sharp as you want and need to be to do a good job.
What I did to broaden my skills?
I have had the privilege of working with many fun things within requirements, testing and system development. Luckily for me this meant that today I have extensive knowledge and understand a bit about how the other roles work, what they expect and what makes their work easier or more difficult.
Initially, I worked with requirements management and gathered requirements from different users, requirements that someone else would use to build the system. What I was passionate about then and still am to this very day is developing systems that solve users’ problems.
I started to work for the IT department to have the opportunity to build systems that my users needed. I worked on programming for a few years and it meant that I now also had a basic knowledge of system development, which believe me is a great benefit when working with testing and requirements management. The work as a developer led me further into the area of testing. It was not only necessary, it was actually quite fun to test my own programs, even though I initially tested with more common sense than structure. Since I was close to the users I understood the importance of delivering as good quality as possible.
I was given the opportunity to work as a tester and test manager on a few projects and this gave me access to more tools and a better structure to my work. In recent years I have worked pretty much equally with requirements management and testing and I still benefit from basic understanding of programming as well.
Requirements management and testing are two sides of the same coin
If you master both testing and requirements management, apart from getting better at your work, you’ll be even more attractive in your business and the labour market. Let’s compare with football again. A team needs excellent players who are out of the ordinary. If you have an understanding of all roles in the team, you become a better football player who constantly thinks right from several perspectives. These are the football players that are always included in the national team and who can assume any position, any time, and have become of immense importance to the team. You have to have both kinds of players, that’s what makes the difference!
A modern way of organizing QA in a company is to gather requirements specialists and testing specialists in the same group or team. This leads to greater understanding and skills exchange.
The idea is that ‘we shall fight as a team.’ If we can get better together because we share our knowledge, it would be a fantastically simple and effective success. Everyone is ultimately working towards the same goal. Team members will learn to NOT blame others but to help where needed.
How you can make a difference at your work
The easiest way to start off is to further develop your current job or consulting assignment. Talk to your manager and explain that you want to be involved from start to finish of the development.
Are you in the requirements engineering area and want to add testing skills? Use these tips!
• Support testers in their work. Participate in testing to ensure that the requirements are realized and tested properly.
• Take advantage of the testers’ knowledge. When test cases are written you will gain new insights and details.
• Learn how to test as it will help you to write better requirements, requirements that are more complete and testable. This makes the entire project more efficient and cheaper.
Do you work in testing and want to add requirements management skills? These tips are for you.
• Participate in requirements discussions.
• Review the requirements to ensure that they are testable. Provide help to improve requirements. You already have the basic skills – if you can’t create test cases from a requirement, the requirement is not good enough.
• Once you have mastered requirements management, it is easier to “interpret” the requirements and obtain more precise test cases and flows / scenarios, thus ensuring that customers will be even more satisfied.
The next step
Dare to take the next step and learn more about the other area, be it testing or requirements management. Think of requirements management and testing as one broader skill. Strive to be involved in the entire flow, from requirements gathering to deployment. Broaden your expertise, read the literature and network with others.
Once you have managed to become bipedal, you will become more sought after both within your organization and on the job market. A requirements analyst who also has an eye for testing and a tester with a knack for requirements management will bring greater value to the project, and interviewers know this.