When did we stop caring?

Today, we had a lunchtime meeting about our ever-contentious functional test suite.

Who cares about the functional test suite?

  • The customers really care about our functional test suite. I know, because when I was on the dev team I had pretty senior people coming up and asking me what coverage we had, and how certain I was about the system working.
  • The analysts really care about our functional test suite. Most of our tests check that the stories they’ve written have actually been implemented correctly. When we show an analyst an Abbot test running through the gui, they get to see whether the way we’ve interpreted their story is actually the way they meant it to work.
  • The devs, who are nominally responsible for the functional test suite, really care about it. With it in place, they can tell that their fixes aren’t causing bugs in other parts of the system.
  • The support staff really care about the functional test suite. With it, we can check that bugs in one version of a system won’t be there in the next one. We can provide interim workarounds with the knowledge that they really will be a temporary measure, just until the next version comes in, and we have more confidence that there won’t be any new bugs introduced.
  • The end users, whether they know it or not, really care about the functional test suite. If the functional tests are working, then the application is more likely to work correctly and their lives will be easier.

And the only reason the functional tests aren’t running, and haven’t been for a month or so, is because big companies being the way they are, the desire to get a new machine for the new code branch got lost in the pipeline. A few devs thought the customers didn’t care. The other devs thought the rest of the team didn’t care. I (on support) thought the dev team didn’t care. The end-users almost certainly think that support staff don’t care. As soon as some of us got together to talk about who stopped caring, though – whose decision it was to forget about the tests – the answer was:

No one. See above.

And who wants the tests back?


We all really want the functional tests. And there’s got to be a spare machine around the office somewhere. Who cares enough to find one and set it up? We’re not short of volunteers. And suddenly, the ever-contentious functional tests are once again our much beloved functional tests which let us know that everything’s all right, unless there’s a little bit that needs to be fixed. (There might be a few big bits by now, but at least we’ll know, and we care enough to do it.)

So maybe, if it looks as though nobody cares, we should just talk to each other (there’s a surprise). Chances are that if it’s important, people care. Nobody ever actually stops caring, unless they get the idea that nobody else cares either – which is why it’s so important to go out there today, smile, and care about your job.

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