Software testers balk at ISO 29119 standards proposal

The ISO wants to standardize software testing, but it's encountering pushback from testers and is unlikely to get uptake in large companies

Efforts by the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) to standardize software testing are receiving some pushback, with an online petition launched to stop the plan.

ISO, along with IEEE and IEC, have promulgated a set of standards known as ISO 29119. These standards can be used within any software development lifecycle or organization and cover processes, documentation, techniques, and keyword-driven testing, with some of the standards published last September and other parts due to be published either this year or in 2015. "By implementing these standards, you will be adopting the only internationally-recognized and agreed standards for software testing, which will provide your organization with a high-quality approach to testing that can be communicated throughout the world," a description of the standards says.

But not everyone sees it that way. The "Stop 29119" Web page on offers a contrary perspective. "It is our view that significant disagreement and sustained opposition exists amongst professional testers as to the validity of these standards, and that there is no consensus as to their content," aid the petition's creators.

An opponent of the specification, Scotland-based test consultant James Christie, does not like the idea of a standardized approach to software testing nor the approach of the ISO effort. "ISO 29119 puts too much emphasis on process and documentation rather than the real testing," Christie says. "Of course that is not its purpose or the intention of the people who have developed it. However, I have seen in practice how people react when they are dealing with a messy, complex problem and there are detailed, prescriptive standards and processes on hand. They focus on complying with the standard and lose sight of the real goal."

An analyst, however, was a bit dismissive of ISO 29119. "I haven't really followed it, but in practice I don't see a lot of impact on most development from any ISO standards -- good or bad," analyst Jeffrey Hammond, of Forester Research, said. "I glanced through the standards as articulated, and I didn't see how they add a ton of value other than standardizing some terms. I can't see many of the development teams I work with dropping everything to achieve ISO 29119 compliance, especially when it totally missed the idea of combining testing practices with development practices in an agile context." Hammond added he did not see much involvement in the effort from testing vendors such as HP, IBM, or Microsoft.

This story, "Software testers balk at ISO 29119 standards proposal," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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