Monday, January 4, 2010

What is your "Touch-Time" as a Software Tester ?

What is a Touch-Time ?
In a Lean Production system the Touch-Time is the time that the product is actually being worked on, and value is being added. In the manufacturing Lingo, the time that practitioner spends with the machine shaping the product- is the most crucial time in the production. Everything else the practitioner does while at work does not amount to the value that gets added when he or she works on the product. Though not exactly from the manufacturing world, there is a good reference for the term "Patient Touch-Time" in this article . This article beautifully defines the strategies to make best use of Touch time with patients.

In his book The Professional , Subroto Bagchi has a following mention about the Touch-Time:

While learning about Total Quality Management (TQM) in 1990s, I understood the concept of Touch-Time from manufacturing world. In a factory amidst the activities that keep a manufacturing person busy, all that truly matters is when the raw material physically touches the machinery. It is only at that stage that there is value addition as the raw material converts itself into the next higher stage in production. While a factory head may feel proud of the state-of-the-art machinery in his factory, what truly matters is not its capacity but the Touch-Time the factory is able to achieve. Quite similarly, every professional must know the equivalent of Touch-Time in his field."

What is Software Test Engineer's Touch-Time ?
As rightly pointed out by Subroto Bagchi, Every professional must know the equivalent of Touch-Time in his field. For an example- a Sales person may be involved in myriad of activities like new product training, understanding pricing and features of product, travelling but all that actually matters for Sales person is the Touch-Time with Existing or prospective customers. Without this time, there won’t be any Sales and henceforth the profits.
A similar example for the trainer. A trainer may be spending time in many activities such as training content preparation, preparing course material etc. but all that really matter for training profession is the contact time spent with the trainees.
Like in many fields, I feel the Touch-Time is hugely important in the Software Testing also. What constitutes a Touch-Time for a Software Test Engineer ? In the simplest terms, it is the time a Software Test engineer actually spend for Testing the Product. Is there anything more important to the Software Testing group than this core activity of Test engineer spending time to actually "test" the product ? I think the answer is No. It is often said that Tester's role is to provide quality-related information to the company management to help them take better-informed decisions about their products. Which activity primarily leads to gathering this information ? It is the Touch-Time. No matter how much time one spends in planning, as long as actual Test execution is not optimal, the end information gathered would be flawed.

What activities actually do not form the Software Tester's Touch-Time ?
I would say any the time spent by Software Test engineer in any activities other than actual Testing wouldn’t constitute the Software Tester's Touch-Time. This may include Test Planning, Test case creation, Test setup, Meetings etc.

Does this mean that all the non Touch-Time activities aren’t important ?
Well, to me the answer to this is a "No" and a "Yes".
"No" because one cannot obviously perform testing without the supporting activities like immaculate planning, appropriate test setup etc. I would rather call these as "supporting" activities which though are not directly productive but are essential.
"Yes" because there has to be an appropriate balance between Software Testing and non Touch-Time related activities. A good chunk of non Touch-Time activities also include "Time wasters" like unnecessary breaks while at work, giving leisure more importance, spending too much time on personal emails, Social networking etc. I am not saying that one should do away with these activities but the point i am trying to make is to understand the importance of Touch-Time and be more Self aware of how time gets spent and what chunk of time gets devoted to Touch-Time activity of testing.

Is there a way to create more Touch-Time for myself ?
At the grassroots level, whenever i felt deprived of Touch-Time one of the first things to do is to understand where the time is going. For this, i have found the use of Activity Logs quite helpful. Knowing at a granular level which activity takes more time is a good starting point to improve and create more opportunity to spend time in things that matters the most.
One another idea for creating more Touch-Time is to Invest time in Exploratory Testing.

Any ideas, thoughts, comments ? Please do share it across.

1 comment:

Hs verma said...

thanks for good information.

Hs verma