Quality is Customer Value: My Quest for the uTest MVT Award

One thing I respect about uTest is their continual pursuit of ways to increase customer value. It’s an essential business objective to ensure the health and growtrophy_goldenth of our company. ‘Value’ should be the middle name of any good tester. “Lucas Value Dargis.” Sounds pretty cool, huh?

I had just finished my 26th uTest test cycle in mid-2012. I had put an extra amount of focus and effort into this cycle because there was something special at stake. On some occasions, uTest offers an MVT award which is given to the Most Valuable Tester of the cycle. The selection process takes several things into account including the quality of the bugs found, clear documentation, participation, and of course, customer value.

The MVT award not only offers a nice monetary prize, but it’s also a way to establish yourself as a top tester within the uTest Community. I decided I was going to win that MVT award.

As usual, I started by defining my test strategy. I took the selection criteria and the project scope and instructions into account and came out with these five strategic objectives:

  • Focus on the customer-defined ‘focus’ area
  • Report only high-value bugs
  • Report more bugs then anyone else
  • Write detailed, easy-to-understand bug reports
  • Be active on the project’s chat

When the test cycle was over, I reflected on how well I’d done. I reported nine bugs — more than anyone else in the cycle. Of those, eight were bugs in the customer’s ‘focus’ area. The same eight were also rated as very or extremely valuable. All the bugs were documented beautifully and I was an active participant in the cycle’s chat.

There was no competition. No other tester was even close. I had that MVT award in the bag. I was thinking of all the baseball cards I could buy with the extra Cheddar I’d won. I even called my mom to tell her how awesome her son was! You can only imagine my surprise when the announcement was made that someone else had won the MVT award. Clearly there was some mistake…right? That’s not how you spell my name!

I emailed the project manager asking for an explanation for this miscarriage of justice. The tester who won had fewer bugs, none of them were from the ‘focus’ area and they weren’t documented particularly well. How could that possibly be worth the MVT award? The PM tactfully explained that while I had done well in the cycle, the tester who won had found the two most valuable bugs and the customer deemed them worthy of the MVT award.

I was reminded that my adopted definition of quality is “value to someone who matters” and suddenly it all fell into place. It didn’t matter how valuable I thought my bugs and reports were. It didn’t matter how much thought and effort I put into my strategy and work. At the end of the day, a tester’s goal, his or her mission, should be to provide “someone who maters with the most value possible. I’m not that “someone who matters.” That “someone” is our customer.

It was a hard pill to swallow, but that lesson had a strong impact on me and it will be something I’ll carry with me moving forward. Congratulations to the MVT. I hope you enjoy all those baseball cards.

A Gold-rated tester and Enterprise Test Team Lead (TTL) at uTest, Lucas Dargis has been an invaluable fixture in the uTest Community for 2 1/2 years, mentoring hundreds of testers and championing them to become better testers. As a software consultant, Lucas has also led the testing efforts of mission-critical and flagship projects for several global companies. You can visit him at his personal blog and website.

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