Monday, July 16, 2007

Where does testing belong?

I was once tasked to head a newly-formed testing group. It consisted of me, another programmer, two contractors, and a mechanical engineer. The groups responsibilities were to support existing test and manufacturing systems, create new test stations as appropriate, and automate certain manufacturing steps that were still being done partly by hand. The VP of Engineering wanted to call it Test and Automation, until I pointed out that it might not be wise to say I work for the T&A group....

But where does testing belong? I've seen three different choices in the 1/2 dozen or so companies I've been:
  • A completely separate group. Each member of the group supports one or more projects.
  • Part of the engineering department.
  • Part of the manufacturing department.
I think it really depends on the size and focus of the company. If you're in a small startup, all the engineers wear multiple hats. Sometimes you're called on to test, sometimes to help with product design, and sometimes to just get customer samples out the door. A separate test group may not make sense.

Of course, if you already have three or more test engineers then you may want to group them together. Get those guys together and they share ideas and solutions, just like any other engineering team.

If the company's products are mature, then test is probably part of production. Your job is to get product tested and out the door, and you may be called on to debug test stations, process flow, or maybe the product itself.

If test is part of the engineering team, then the test systems may evolve almost as fast as the product itself. When the design engineers add a new feature, or marketing has new specs or a new customer, test engineering has plenty of work to do.

At least, those are my thoughts on the subject.

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