If you are familiar with the BBC’s Little Britain comedy series, you will have probably seen David Walliams performing a Mr Mann sketch. Mr Mann is a very demanding customer, he has ludicrously specific requirements and no ability to compromise. Much to the annoyance of shop keeper Roy, Mr Mann is prepared to simply ‘wait’ – presumably forever – until he gets what he wants.
As Software Engineers, the very nature of our job means that we work with very specific sets of requirements. As software testers we have a tendency to blend these together into complex test scenarios with the sorts of prerequisites and demands that would make even the likes of Mr Mann seem easy to please. Sadly, when we don’t get all the pieces we need in one go, the temptation to wait for the rest of them to arrive can become overwhelming.
It is important not to forget that each and every test scenario is designed for good reason and will no doubt reveal something fundamental about the item under test. However, we must keep this end goal in context. If we can’t proceed with Scenario S as is, we must challenge ourselves and re-examine our test tactics to keep things moving. This is vital if we are to keep lowering the risk to the parent project.
OK, so this approach won’t always pay off, it’s a bit like trying to avoid a traffic jam – sometimes you just can’t. It is also important that we don’t become engrossed with spinning-plates or distracted with investigating the trivial low-value areas.
Sometime ago I had a track driving lesson, the instructor told me “Whatever you’re doing, it isn’t working. Try something different – anything will do!”. He certainly had a way of emphasizing this message, and I didn’t much appreciate the feedback at the time, but maybe he had a valuable point?