Why I am signing the petition to stop ISO 29119


There is a movement being started to stop ISO 29119. If you are even a wee bit serious about your profession, you should be knowing about it. Here’s all about it. Read it if you want to know more, or just skip to the end and sign the petitions.

James Christie gave a presentation in CAST 2014 on Standards – promoting quality or restricting competition? He talked about how some organizations are trying to enforce testing standards for their own economic gain, while victimizing the software testing profession. He also stated how the standards promote excessive documentation over actual testing, thus affecting the quality of testing by taking away time from the process. At a time, when we are trying to implement Agile, and moving towards exploratory testing, heavy documentation and rigid processes make no sense. And, to force it down the throats of everyone in this profession should not be tolerated.

As Fiona Charles puts it “People on Agile projects will struggle with the conflicting demands of their projects and the standards.”

There is a reason why I have not taken the certification. Why should I pay so much money for something that won’t add any value to my work, except a bunch of words I might never need to use? I know this for a fact that being certified does not say anything about the tester’s expertise or potential. Most current certifications, for a fact, can be easily passed by rote learning. But, would that help? Rote learning never helps. How much do you remember of the history lessons from your high school? You did pass the exam.

I have known many testers who are certified, but do not have a clue about testing, and are low performers. I have also known many testers, who are awesome at their work, have high potential, are high performers, and are not certified. That is why I ignore the certification status of people I interview, and instead focus on finding out myself about how much they are interested in testing, and how well they know their craft.

This is what Karen Johnson says about wrong hiring based on blind belief in certifications:
“For several years when I was working as a test manager, I interviewed and hired numerous people. Once during an interview, a candidate pulled out a certificate and held it up for me, telling me he should be hired instantly due to his certification. I asked that he put the certificate away and talk with me. After discussion, it was my assessment that the candidate had little working understanding of how to test a product. Perhaps he had memorized material or had someone else take the exam for him – whatever had been the case; there was no evidence that the candidate would be able to perform well. As this event took place some years ago, I will refrain from trying to recall more specifics.
Given this same scenario, if I did not have a testing background but needed to hire someone, perhaps I would have been convinced based on the certificate that the candidate was equipped for the job.

If a company is hiring testers and the person or persons interviewing do not understand testing (which is often the case with HR), I do not believe that hiring person is qualified to make a decision – or even qualified to establish a pool of candidates for others to interview. This is where certification is dangerous – at first glance, it sounds good, it seems like it should provide some assurance that a person is qualified. But as I have found, having a certificate does not provide evidence of a person’s knowledge or skill.”

If you read my blog, you will know I am not against learning. In fact, I am very passionate about learning. I keep reading books and blogs to learn more about my profession. But, I want to learn out of curiosity and interest, not out of fear. That is what this standard tries to instill – the fear of losing your job or validity as a software tester if you have not paid the bucks to get certified by rote.

If the standard is accepted, companies will start believing that testers without a certification are not good, which is far from the truth. They will start over-depending on tester certifications to judge the quality of a tester.

Iain McCowatt says “Standards in manufacturing make sense: the variability between two different widgets of the same type should be minimal, so acting in the same way each time a widget is produced is desirable. This does not apply to services, where demand is highly variable, or indeed in software, where every instance of demand is unique.

Attempting to act in a standardized manner in the face of variable demand is an act of insanity: it’s akin to being asked to solve a number of different problems yet merrily reciting the same answer over and over. Sometimes you’ll be right, sometimes wrong, sometimes you’ll score a partial hit. In this way, applying the processes and techniques of ISO 29119 will result in effort being expended on activities that do nothing to aid the cause of testing.”

Karen also explains this in detail in her blog where she says that the knowledge required by an e-commerce software tester, a BI software tester, and a Medical device tester are vastly different, and can not be covered by a generic testing certification. The testers would instead do better to learn more about their domain, and to get domain-specific knowledge.

ISO 29119 claims that it is “an internationally-agreed set of standards for software testing”. But, it is not “internationally-agreed”. In fact, many influential software testers, and the experts that I look up to, are against it.

Karen Johnson – My Thoughts on Testing Certifications
Fiona Charles – Why I oppose adoption of ISO 29119
Iain McCowatt – Stop 29119
Keith Klain – The Petition to Stop ISO 29119
Michael Bolton – Rising Against the Rent-Seekers
James Bach – How not to standardize software testing

If you agree with the above view point, and are interested in saving our profession from vandalism, please sign the below shared documents:

The Professional Tester’s Manifesto

The Petition to ISO

Other articles of note –
ISO 29119 Debate
On ISO 29119 content