I just read Phil Haack’s Test Better post, and I liked the dicing of terminology around testing/QA. It occurred to me that if the goal is more to build/generate confidence (and it is), then maybe the better job title would just be Confidence Builder. What do you think?
P.S. I totally agree that automated testing isn’t enough. I also agree that you don’t have to have others do the testing for ya. But there is validity in the concern about bias. To test well is a discipline, even an art, but as with many things in software, if you don’t have specific professionals doing it, you can try to do some cover–you can make it suck less.
Like good Design, testing takes an empathy with users. So testers (confidence builders?) can leverage practices from Design disciplines to build that empathy. Doing at least some lightweight user research, spending time as much as possible with users, those can help.
Testing also takes imagination; it takes a certain amount of compartmentalization–to try to set aside what you know of the software design and approach it with fresh eyes. Imagine that all you know about the software is what you see in front of you. Imagine that you have some goal/desire for why you’re looking at it (this is where the user research can help again). Now let yourself go.
Still, you will get better results having people who actually are not so biased doing the testing. You’ll get the best results (and most confidence) testing with and observing users. So even if you don’t have dedicated confidence builders, you’ll be better off doing that.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t test your own stuff–you absolutely should, especially if you don’t have folks dedicated to it, but if you’re going for confidence, nothing beats both testing with users and testing with professional confidence builders.