Is testing and/or ISTQB really dead?

During and in the aftermath of EuroSTAR 2011, a lot of discussion was going on whether testing was already gasping for air, struggling to stay alive in an altered world. A lot of opinions, a provoking keynote and some time of reflection allowed me to consolidate my thoughts and to share them with you.

First of all, testing is not dead. If you only take a look at all the fuzz we, as testers, are making, only to prove to ourselves that we exist, we cannot say that testing is dead. We must all agree that testing was already burried several years ago. There are few jobs or even activitites that keep on chatting about definitions, standards and stuff, instead of sharing stories and experiments on how to improve the overall quality of software.

If testing would still be alive, and testing is indeed, like almost any test approach clearly states, about collaboration, then where are all these collaborators? Where can we find the business users, functional and technical analysts, software architects and project managers (non-exhaustive list) while our beloved testing conferences take place? Right. Working! Creating things! And that is what we should be doing.

In the comments of one of James Bach’s posts, Jari Laakso claimed that ISTQB is killing people. I can only assume that he’s joking, since no human with an IQ of less than 2 digits would read James’ blog.  But that does not mean that the whole certification discussing has little to no value. There are 2 opponents on the battlefield: the traditionalists (“every tester should be certified”) and the partizans (“a certitificate is a claim for stupidity”). They share the same weapons, and even often use the same tactics: a solid belief in their own opinion.

I’m ISTQB Foundation certified, and an accredited trainer, so I haven’t got an unbiased view. A certification doesn’t make you a (better) tester. But neither does having no certificate. For me, the certificate is like a driving license. With the right training, everybody can pass the exam to obtain a license. The license only guarantees that the holders have at least learned once the same set of basic skills. Do they need all of them, all the time? Of course not!

But some people are “naturals”. They can drive a car, because they have good genes, because they have practices similar eye-hand-foot coordination games in their childhood, or because they’re just plain lucky. Are they lesser drivers? Of course not.

If I would be hiring a personal driver, one of my requirements would be a driving license. Even though I know that doesn’t give me the guarantee that I’ve found the best driver. And maybe, someone would advise me, based upon his/her experience, to hire a driver without license, because of his skill set. And maybe I would, but then I would suggest the driver to take the exam.

An ISTQB certificate doesn’t make you a better tester. It isn’t a guarantee on tester quality. It’s a mandatory hurdle towards internationalization. And it needs adaptation. Urgently! Let’s start by adding a workshop Exploratory testing to the curriculum, and see what will be the impact…