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Why quality and testing terminology matters

Eva Holmquist
January 26, 2024

When talking about training in quality engineering and testing, most people are inclined to think about training the skills needed. And true, it is important to train skills, but you also need to train in the correct terminology. The benefit of setting a spotlight on a common terminology is huge.

In this blog we’ll talk about why it matters, if there are agreed upon definitions, and how to align quality and testing terminology.

(This is the eighteenth blog in the series “How to train cross-functional teams”, for links to previous blogs please go to the end of this blog)

Why does it matter?

Terminology seems like a dry subject. One that nobody cares about and that doesn’t matter. In reality, it’s important, because it’s the basis of our communication. If we use the same term for different things, we end up misunderstanding each other. The same goes for when we use different terms even though we mean the same. Misunderstandings are typically one of the main reasons of less-than-expected quality.

There are a lot of quality and testing terms. What do we mean when we’re talking about for instance system testing, non-functional tests, or exploratory tests? What do we mean by quality? If we don’t discuss it, we’ll probably have different interpretations.

For instance, in one of our projects when we were discussing the term quality, it became clear we had very different views on it. One colleague’s view was that quality was to fulfil all specified requirements. Another view was that the code was commented. And a third view was that quality was efficient code. We go with the TMAP definition: The totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs. Needless to say, if we hadn’t aligned our views, we would have worked towards different goals.

Are there any agreed-upon definitions?

At the beginning of our careers there were a lot of different terms floating around, and every project we worked on used different ones. As new in the field it was confusing to say the least.

Attempts to remedy this were done in the 1990’s by several books and glossaries, for instance the start of ISEB in United Kingdom and TMAP in the Netherlands. The big boost to have an agreed upon international glossary came with the work of ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board) from 2002 onwards.

I mentioned TMAP above. TMAP and ISTQB complement each other. TMAP is an international body of knowledge for quality engineering and testing in IT delivery, and builds on practical experience from thousands of people since 1995, keeping up with changing business needs and technology.

Since then, we can learn from those glossaries to ensure we use the terms consistently. In your day-to-day communications use these definitions as a basis and don’t hesitate to add other terms that are specific to your line of business.

How to train in quality and testing terminology

It’s really hard to just read a definition and understand the full impact of it. It also takes a long time to grasp all the definitions “on the job”. To help with the understanding, a training course is a good start. Followed up with discussions around terminology “on the job”, and you’ll go a long way toward aligning quality engineering and testing terminology.

It’s a good practice to train the entire team at the same time. This is because the discussions during the training course support the understanding of what a term means in the team’s environment. It’s also easier to continue with the discussions afterwards if they’ve started the discussions at the same time.

Both the ISTQB training courses and the TMAP training courses can be used to train the team. Personally, we prefer TMAP, because it is all about working with quality engineering and testing in an Agile or DevOps setting.

Conclusion

Even though terminology may seem like a boring subject, it’s important to facilitate good communication. And without it we’ll suffer from misunderstandings and lower than expected quality.

Take the time to align quality and testing terminology. This will improve your communication and increase the quality of your team’s deliveries!

How do you work to align the use of quality and testing terminology in your team?

Please, let us know in the comments below!

This blog has been co-authored by Rik Marselis, principal quality consultant at Sogeti in the Netherlands.

(For other blogs in the series “How to train cross-functional teams”, use this link: https://labs.sogeti.com/training-cross-functional-teams/.)

About the author

Senior Test Specialist | Sweden
Eva Holmquist has more than twenty-eight years of professional IT experience, working as a programmer, project manager and at every level of the testing hierarchy from a tester through test manager.

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