TestBash SF 2019 Live Blog: Risk or Fear

When we talk about risk, what increases or decreases it? Jenna Charlton encourages us to focus on a variety of aspects that help us to get a handle on the risks we face.

First is history… how often has this issue or similar issues come back to bite us. Second, how complex is the area we are dealing with. Third, what is the impact that an issue might have? Group those areas together and you can get a feeling for just how risky what you want to do actually is.

More to the point, much of the time we aren’t really approaching our testing based on the perceived risk. Instead, we are dealing with fear. We are afraid of the fallout and then we let fear guide our efforts. We think risk and fear are the same things. They’re not. Fear is not something we can quantify. Risk actually is something we can quantify. Fear is based on emotion and can range from annoying to genuinely disabling. By approaching issues from a risk perspective, we may very well find that there are areas we might not have considered. Additionally, risks can be debated and often mitigated. Fear can’t really be mitigated. We can talk ourselves down from our fear, sometimes, but we can’t honestly or objectively determine what is going on.

An important element of risk evaluation is to be able to discern what criteria are used to score the risks. When we can score a risk, we can define how those values are determined and what comes into play when we deal with those risks. Is there some way that we can come to an understanding where there is a limited or almost non-existent issue? Why? Usually, it comes down to experience and calling risks out and seeing if they truly are valid or not.

One of the ways we can do this is that we can understand what actually qualifies as “good enough”. Some areas really don’t require that intense level of scrutiny. Some areas certainly do but they are not always going to have that same level of risk. That’s important to see and understand. As we continue to test and work and explore a product, we get to see how risky certain areas are. MOe times than not, those areas are risky because there are unknown areas rather than areas of flakiness or fault. The more we know, the better we can anticipate issues and the less risky situations will be overall. Additionally, the more we know, the less we need to fear and that is always a beter outcome :).