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Slow Testers - What do I do?

I am a software developer, and I am currently developing an application for a major bank. It is almost complete.
In the early days when I was developing the requirements and then developing, testing the software etc, everything was hunky dory. The problem I have now is that when I release a new version of the software for testing it can sometimes take the testers weeks before they respond with any issues. The software contains detailed financial calculations and in fact the test team consists of three actuaries. All of who are busy, and I'm not in a position to tell them to hurry up, although I do frequently ask.
The problem I have is that this down time is extremely boring, and I tend to goof off. The problem being that I get paid by the hour. So my weekly earnings are reduced.
Theres only so much research into new technologies, web surfing etc that one can do! My boss has started to encourage me to stay home when theres nothing to do, which is OK for her, but I dont get paid. Does anybody have any ideas as to how I can negotiate this period so that I don't end up "doing time" merely so that I get paid?
I still have 2 months of my contract to go, and who knows, these actuary guys are so slow that they probably wont have even finished then.

Tony
Thursday, December 20, 2001

There are several possibilities. If slow testers' performance is acceptable by the management

then you can
* Release smaller modules for testing
* Look for another parallel project
* Renegotiate your contract
* Perform the testing by yourself (generally wrong approach, but...) and get paid for it.

else
* Draw everyone's attention to the situation
* Other ?

Ilia Bromberg
Thursday, December 20, 2001

Tony -- need more information:

1. Are the testers the actual customers, or are they workers hired through the same consulting firm you work for?

2. What sort of tests are the testers performing?  Unit tests, feature tests, integration tests, usability tests, regression testing ... ?

3. How much of your testing is or can be automated?

4. How are you prevented or blocked from making forward progress while the testers are evaluated?

5. How much do you test your own code before releasing it to QA?  Are there tests that the testers normally do that you can take on yourself?

Alyosha`
Friday, December 21, 2001

Well, you could be there and support the testers as needed and start developing a product...

Well, not that ethical...

Anonymous Coward
Friday, December 21, 2001

What I would do:

Add a lot of extra buggy, unneccessary, and unasked for features in order to make it look like it actually takes more time than it does to complete the project.

That way, both parties will be happy.  You'll be paid for the entire duration of the contract and your employer will think that he/she is getting a real top notch system.

You might even go as far as not completing the project on time or at all and remain in check with 80% of the rest of us...

Guy Incognito
Friday, December 21, 2001

The testers are mathematicians - actuaries to be exact and they are checking the "answers" that the system gives for very complicated financial econometrics. The testers are also the customers, earn huge salaries, and basically, cannot be bossed about, mores the pity. Not anyone can test this system. They are the only ones capable of creating test scenarios and actually knowing what the answer is going to be, otherwise I'd do it myself. I have developed the system to some very carefully detailed specifications and all the testing I have done is fine up to now, but its up to them to throw some curve balls at the application as it needs to deal with that too. Only they can determine the result of the curve ball.
The gui etc has all been tested OK way upstream and I dont need to worry about that at the moment.

Dont worry Guy Incognito - I'm already overdue, so I remain firmly with the 80% :-).

Tony
Friday, December 21, 2001

Tony: I'm still not clear on how your further progress is blocked ... have you run out of features to implement, perhaps?  Are you in 100% bugfix mode now?

In this situation I would remain on the clock and let your customer know that the quicker their testers get their feedback in, the cheaper the project is going to be for them.  You shouldn't have to shoulder the cost of their inefficiencies.  Maybe a financial incentive will help them get their butts in gear.

Alyosha`
Saturday, December 22, 2001

It seems pretty clear; guy writes software for actuaries, the software has a certain function that shouldn't be improved too much upon because it should just work well.  The users aren't a terribly enthusiastic bunch, just like a normal business.

Not all places are well-managed and energetic software houses.  If the actuaries are willing to put up with a potentially buggy product, well they put it upon themselves.  He should document how far he went, and perhaps a guess of what possible defects may exist outside the spec.  That way he can't be blamed too hard for any defects which exist.

That part about not knowing about bugs does disturb me a bit.  What exists outside the spec?  Why is it not possible to sit down with one of the acutaries and write an all-encompassing regression test?  Does the GUI get in the way?

Michael Rollins
Saturday, December 22, 2001

Assuming that you have performed all of the developer tasks outlined below, have you tried moving on to some of the tester tasks also outlined below?

Developer tasks:

- From inside outwards - focus on code
- Assertions - verify data flow and structures
- Debugger - verify code flow and data
- Unit testing - verify each function
- Integration testing - verify sub-systems
- System testing - verify functionality

Tester tasks:

- From outside in - focus on features
- Scenarios - verify real-world situations
- Global tests - verify feasible inputs
- Regression tests - verify defects stay fixed
- Code coverage - testing untouched code
- Compatibility - with previous releases
- Looking for quirks and rough edges

Mark Pearce
Saturday, December 22, 2001

The application is completely tested, there are no outstanding bugs.
It works exactly as defined by the requirements.
It references a financial dll (VB6) that contains all the algorithms and formulae for computing certain financial statistics. Only the dll needs to be tested.
All the reporting etc relies on the dll.
With the festive season here I think I'll just relax and enjoy the problem. I'm going to tell them that I am not available after the end of the contract, maybe that will get them going. If they want me to stay then I'll just negotiate a rate which makes it Ok for me to work less hours.

Like they say, you can lead a horse to water...

Thanks for the input.
Tony

Tony
Saturday, December 22, 2001

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