The Testing Time

When I started school, we had a term called ‘Extracurricular activities’ that was meant for any thing other than studies and was essentially meant sports/debates etc. As we grew up in the same school, within few years that term was then called ‘Co-curricular activities’ as the school bosses thought that these activities actually contribute towards your studies.

So when I started my last post on Wasted time in testing, I heard lot of noise from people around me who were not happy with gauging hours as a means of productivity for knowledge workers and knowledge testers. I mostly agree to them. So now I am calling that ‘Wasted Time’ as ‘Supported activities’ along with the time called actual Testing Time. Say in your typical day, you spend some time to create virtual machines, install some pre-requisites, generate some data, update some test plans etc., I’m calling all this as ‘Supported activities’ time.


(the original photo is here: )

Ok, enough background and now let me share with you results of the survey that I did on this subject.

The average answer from the respondents say that the time spent on Supported activities is 43% and the range of answer is from 25% to 75% percent.

The three major contributors for these activities are Creating test environment and setups, Test data creation and Too many meetings.

So what did we learn from it? 🙂

For me, one is affirmation that others in the discipline of software testing do have the same %age spent on these activities as I have here. So I’m not alone.

And may be it’s time to think so as how we can some how save some time out of these supported activities to have more time spent on actual testing tasks. Tackling them all could be challenging but we can look at some of the opportunities. For example, it is possible to automate test environment creation for sure and that can be our starting point.

This is important because any time spent on any activity costs money. And I got this quote today morning on LinkedIn by Jerry Weinberg: “Being rich is having money; being wealthy is having time.–Margaret Bonanno, writer”

By the way, Michael Bolton is going to hold a TechWell webinar on a similar topic. I’m joining and hope to get some ideas.


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12 responses to “The Testing Time”

  1. HH says :

    Good post. This sounds much better, because positivism works better. But I promise I can give you a long list of “wasted activities” in the name of testing. You will find making VMs and creating test data more productive and fun after seeing my list. Happy Testing. 🙂


    • majd says :

      Thanks for your comments. I’d like to hear more on those activities 🙂 As long as the tester knows where the time is going and has a sense to improve the standard of testing, some of these activities can go along in the background.


  2. Zaki Shaheen says :

    Hmm.. Interesting statistics. I’d like to mention two things:
    a. you didn’t say how many people did you take the survey from?
    b. The question you posed at the end, as to how to minimize the “supported activities” and maximize real work, I think if your stats are correct, there really is a need for another job opening called “QA support engineer” – whose task is basically to optimize the test-bed creation, test-data creation (automated or manual), find out new tools to do it, make their own tools and so forth. Take the example of network or system support staff in the office which we take for granted. If they were not there, every time your hardrive crashed you’d have to get a new one, format it, install it, reinstall all the software..and things like that. And that’s just one thing. Since that was a lot of time, and soething that happened on daily basis, we created a seperate job description for it and called it the network support staff or networking engineer.. or network administrators. (In Apple, on your very first day, there is no one to guide you on how to connect to the network… you have to do it all by yourself 😉 – imagine that!).

    Finally, awesome stuff 🙂 Keep the knowledge coming!


    • HH says :

      @”In Apple, on your very first day, there is no one to guide you on how to connect to the network” – This practice is pretty common in a number of companies. No spoon feeding and do-it-yourself. 🙂


    • majd says :

      Thanks Zaki for your comments and you brought up a very good point of having people work as support guys. I have another example from the engineering world where Engineers would do the design work and the draftsmen would do the detailing of that design. However this may work for bigger organizations only who can create such positions. Again, some cost would involve which we are looking to save at the first place 🙂


  3. Ather Imran says :

    That’s the right approach. Couple of thoughts:

    1- The key is really development of mindset that we need to optimize and be efficient about the supported activities. This is an issue of organizational culture as well as personal habits. Both are important. Only once we have in our mind that we need to optimize can we follow-up with some action in that direction.

    2- Excellent that you have some real data. You cannot improve what you cannot measure and any measurement is better than no measurement.

    3- We can also consider who should do such support activities. May be, the senior testers can have their junior team members do the support stuff more, so they can spend more time on the real testing. Its important that critical people do the more important things.

    Great going!


    • majd says :

      Thanks Ather for your thoughts as always. I really appreciate them!
      You brought up a good point that it is actually the culture and the mindset of individuals and the company that creates an environment where people have a sense of how important the time is. Let me see what I can do to create such an environment 🙂


  4. Jie Chen says :

    Interesting post! I like the term “supported activities”. One immature thought: if there is large potential to save time for these kind of supported activities with a careful schedule? In my mind, some of this activities may be reused and some may be done by junior staffs.


    • majd says :

      Thans Jie and I’m glad that you liked it. Your thought is not immature and we do have experimented with testing interns and it has been great help. May be some day, we’ll have this more formalized to give testers more time for the thinking tasks.


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