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The Pains of Prevention (TESTHEAD)

On October 26, 2011, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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It’s about time for a little light hearted humor and some more of Aaron Scott’s “Two Leaf Clover“.

Everyone that uses anything has run afoul of Murphy’s Law once or twice… or more. The old adage “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible moment”. Also, Murphy’s Law is not contrarian; washing your car in the hopes that it will rain doesn’t work.

What can be even more frustrating is when you look into things and you try to be proactive, and then realize that sometimes the prevention is worse than the disease (at least that’s how it seems on the surface). We had this experience in preparation for our now annual trip to Southern California to spend Thanksgiving with my siblings. Last time, we were anxious because some needed work for the car had been delayed, and we felt anxious about such a long road trip. This time, we decided we would be proactive and get everything checked out on our car well in advance. Granted with a 10 year old car that has almost 80K miles on it, we figured that there would be some work needed. We just weren’t anticipating $2,000 worth!

Ouch!!!

Of course, there’s two ways of looking at this. We could press our luck and run the risk of something happening, which it might not, but hey, it just might. Or we can bite the bullet and invest now to clean up all of the issues and have the peace of mind that we covered our bases.

Granted, $2,000 feels a bit steep, but how much would it cost me if our car broke down somewhere between San Luis Obispo and Long Beach. What would we have to pay for a tow, a delay of game with our family, and then the same potential bill or maybe even more?

Does this sound a little bit familiar to you testers out there? Wouldn’t it be great if we could know ahead of time the areas that were going to be hairy and scary, so we could adequately plan for and invest up front to deal with the potential “road trip”? Well, the answer is, we can, but we have to engage to do it.

If you are in an Agile shop, you don’t have any excuse not to do this, you are embedded with the development team and should have the same access to their materials and information. If you don’t speak up and get involved early, you deserve the technical debt that’s going to come your way. If you are in a more traditional shop, granted, you have a cultural battle to fight, but you can still fight and win. You have to use the same analogy; do we want to do preventative maintenance or get towed and pay the big bucks? When presented that way, many project managers, and development managers will loosen up and say “OK, you have a point, let’s get you involved earlier”.

There are a lot of things that are out of our hands and we won’t know what hit us until after the bruise shows up, but that doesn’t need to be true all the time. No, we can’t plan for everything, but we can plan for a lot of things, and many of them will yield big dividends with small outlays of time and attention. By being proactive and focused up front, we may even get enough of a head start to easily keep apace with developer and project management demands… well OK,  that may be a pipe dream :).

 

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