The magical “Phakkis” and Software Testing
If you have ever travelled in a bus in rural parts of Pakistan, you’ll recognize this very well. Yes, those buses that are labelled as “Non-stop” because they stop a lot. And on each stop, many vendors move in the bus who sell all kind of food, household items and even medicines. Some of them leave the bus when it embarks for the next stop whereas the ones who sell really deep solutions like medicines, they usually prefer to stay in the bus and do their marketing until the next stop comes. The most common of them sell “Phakki”, “Munjon” etc. Though I can take any of the examples but I’d prefer the “Phakki” because it has a personal connection.
These vendors are highly skilled marketing people. First, they won’t start directly from what they sell rather they’d start the talk by praying for everyone’s successful journey and may start with a generic statement that encompasses all the passengers like “all my brothers and sisters; the elderly ones and the kids etc.” Then they explain at length the typical and common symptoms of the illnesses that people would have. To be specific, in case of a “Phakki” seller, he’d ask if you ever feel heaviness after eating hard, or do you have gas trouble or do you find it hard to ease you during various trips to the washrooms. They would pick problems that are common and remember that “the problems that are hard to go away”. After this five to ten minutes talk that would grab the attention of all the passengers, they’d then tell you that they a magical solution to all the problems mentioned before which is a “Phakki”. (For those who don’t know what it is, it is a well grinded mixture of many herbs and it is usually taken by putting it onto the palm of your hand and then tossed into the mouth and then water is gulped to take it inside. It is also called a “Chooran”)
(The photo is taken from here. No, I’m not endorsing their product, I just have a policy to add link to the original photo)
As a customer, you are set to believe that the magical “Phakki” can solve all the digestion problems of all the people in all the situations. That’s what they do it deliberately by making the message generic and that’s where if we ever buy a “Phakki” should be aware of. As I mentioned the personal connection and here it is: I do use “Phakki” (though I don’t buy from those bus vendors but prefer to get it from source), but I know that it cannot solve all my problems. So I use it to solve a “typical problem in a typical situation” and it perfectly works there. For other digestion problems, I take other medicines and also take a good control of what I eat when I have that problem.
Sorry for the long description of a thing that you may not like but I hope you know where I am taking this.
The many tools vendors especially those who sell automation tools would do the same marketing trick to you. After all humans are humans. Whether they are trying to cure digestion systems or information systems, they take easy paths. If you take a look at marketing techniques of those tools, they’ll be strikingly similar to the “Phakki” sellers i.e. they’d take the problems that are very common, the problems that are hard to go away like making a poor quality product a high quality one. They also often don’t provide the situations where not to use their tools and the associated hazards. They just tell you that you use our tool and “all the problems of all the teams in all the organizations in all situations will go away”.
Rather than taking the extreme path to simply stay away from such tools, I suggest you the same approach I mentioned above. Use that tool to solve “typical problem in typical situations in typical teams”. For other problems, use other tools or techniques. Keep in mind that “using a tool is not a strategy rather the strategy can have one or more tools”.
Same caution has to be applied when “processes” are sold to you that if you follow a certain standard like ISO or CMMI, define a super process that will solve all your problems. In this case many of the authors of those standards or processes do know that their solution will not solve “all the problems of all the people in all the situations” but their “product” is soon picked by marketers who are the trainers and implementers of those processes. They start making claims which are not always true. When you go for adapting a certain process in your culture, you should know that it will solve “some of the problems in some of the situations” and is not a magical “Phakki”.
As Jerry Weinberg writes in his book “Errors: Bugs, Boos-Boos, Blunders”:
There’s never going to be one best way to test and fix software, no matter what some marketing organization tries to sell you. Ultimately, you have to develop your own process, to create the unique service you can offer to your employer or sell to your clients.
Lets use the “Phakkis” aka “tools” and “processes” in the above fashion to live a healthy life and deliver healthy solutions.