Home > Articles > Programming

Building Alliances Between Testing and Other Teams

Long-time tester Karen N. Johnson shares some of her best secrets for strengthening relationships between the testing team and the other teams that are part of the software process. By building and improving alliances between testers and other team members, you can ensure healthier, high-functioning development environments.
Like this article? We recommend

With its frequently frenzied pace, the software development process can create a complex, tension-filled work environment. I've seen team dynamics where people feel pitted against one another, forced to fight for resources and time. The more political the work environment, the more challenging it can be to create trustworthy professional relationships. And yet, it's in exactly those difficult politically-murky work situations where we need trusted contacts even more. In trade articles and at conferences, we seem to avoid talking about difficult work environments—as though our challenges are just technology and deadlines—but the reality I've experienced is that people and team dynamics are often the bigger obstacles.

There are ways to create healthy professional relationships. Part of having a relationship is sharing a sense of connectedness, so it might be expected that building a product together would offer that sense of connectedness. Certainly, in high-functioning, healthy, level-headed environments, overall team dynamics are less of an issue. But what about in other environments, where the dynamics are sour? How can solid working relationships be exemplified and encouraged?

Building alliances in politically heated environments takes focused, concerted effort. Building an alliance goes beyond just building a relationship—alliances are about reciprocal relationships that take hold. Alliances are intended not just to foster a collaborative spirit, but to find ways in which teams can look out for each other and work together.

Given the specific elements of building a software product, there are three pairs of teams for which having strong, healthy dynamics is especially helpful:

  • The software test team and the development team
  • The software test team and the product design team
  • The software test team and the customer support team

In this article, we'll examine the three types of software development pairs and consider some real-life examples of how to go about building alliances.

The Software Test Team and the Development Team

In this work environment example, a product being built was for internal use. The product owner, Sheila, was a business user who was selected to oversee product development. Although she had extensive knowledge of the business, her experience in working with the software development process was limited, and she didn't ask enough high-level questions to expand her knowledge of the process to a comfortable state. The software developers and testers were unfamiliar to her, as most of the team consisted of newly hired consultants.

Some communication gaps had already taken place by the time I joined the team. Involved from the early days of the roughest product builds, Sheila was becoming skeptical of the product because she couldn't decipher the information that was being given to her. Now, the product concepts and design had been worked through, the product was being built, and unit testing was starting in earnest—but even the concept of unit testing was unfamiliar to Sheila.

As an outside consultant brought onto the project to map out testing, I made myself available to answer questions related to testing (or any other topic on which I could assist). In this role, I became somewhat of a translator for Sheila, from the technical jargon to the business side of the project. We had multiple conversations regarding the planned design, implementation, and execution of the unit testing. Sheila was slowly learning more about the development process and what unit testing actually meant. She gained confidence in what the developers were doing and began to be less disturbed about the defects that were being found as the product continued to evolve.

I worked closely with the development lead, discussing unit testing, offering ideas to be integrated at the early stages of development, and overall gaining insight into how unit testing was being structured. I also learned what was being tested at the unit level, which simplified assessing how and where testing might pick up, and where to fill in ideas for mapping out a test strategy.

Sheila began coming to me for my opinions about the development efforts. I was able to allay her concerns about unit testing overall by answering questions like these:

  • Why is unit testing so important?
  • Why shouldn't unit testing be viewed as optional extra work?
  • How does unit testing strengthen the product?

By taking on the responsibility of acting as a liaison and interpreter for Sheila, I relieved the development team of having to explain what they were doing. Somehow, an outside consultant, I was better able to confirm what the development team was doing, resolving the mystery and confusion of the process for the product owner. Being in the role of communicator between the product owner and the development team helped me to foster a strong relationship with the developers. They came to recognize that spending time with me, answering my questions, and planning with me offered benefits beyond just what I needed or the testers needed. It was a stroke of good fortune, perhaps, but I've seen elements of this scenario played out in other circumstances. Sometimes a team cannot speak for its own efforts to a project stakeholder as well as someone else can.

Here are three additional opportunities to build good relationships between the testing team and the development team:

  • Defect detection: First areas of focus. Many times I've coordinated with a development team to determine where to focus some of the first bits of testing. This alignment of priority tasks helps to build a shared sense of risk. Of course, testers can't always find the most important defects first, and sometimes the next iteration produces a new nasty regression bug. But having an overall understanding of what's important and focusing everyone's efforts in the same direction brings a natural alignment between testing and development.
  • Defect priority: Understand what's important. Defining what will constitute a high-priority bug versus a low-priority bug also helps. Priority setting is like having a shared risk assessment: Aligning thinking aligns the teams, helping to ensure that everyone feels, "Hey, we're looking at this product in the same light."
  • Good end-game behavior. When the release cycle gets down to the end, tensions are higher. In some settings, I've seen developers take tremendous pressure from executives when defects are found late. It's important to be aware of the dynamics that take place at the end of the cycle and try to do what you can to avoid adding to the tension. Once other teams have experienced that you're someone who works fairly, alliances begin to form.


InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020