The ISO 29119 Debate

Since CAST took place a couple of weeks ago, there has been sustained debate within the online testing community about the validity of the proposed ISO 29119 testing standard.

Some recent posts from influential software testers are listed below:

If you’re not familiar with the concept or contents then you can go and check them out on the “working group” website here or directly via ISO here – though you should note that to view the standard in its entirety, you will have to pay for a copy. Which is arguably the crux of the issue.

James Christie made an extremely cogent argument against the imposition of standards from an economic standpoint during his CAST 2014 presentation “Standards – Promoting Quality or Restricting Competition.” If you weren’t fortunate enough to make it out to NYC in person, then I highly recommend you watch the presentation in its entirety.

Here at the Ministry of Testing we have an inclusive philosophy, embracing the many styles, approaches and schools of thought that serve to differentiate how software testing is carried out and by whom. It saddens me to say that ISO 29119 is a direct threat to this way of thinking. Were ISO 29119 to be successfully published it would incentivise large testing providers to conform to the standard, and it would also encourage organisations to reject those testers and testing organisations who are not ISO 29119 certified or who have chosen to implement alternative software testing methodologies.

As things currently stand, and despite ISO claims to the contrary, there is currently no consensus with regards to the content of ISO 29119. I’d like it to stay that way; at least until the wider software testing community has been provided with a meaningful opportunity to review and debate the standard and how or if it is to be implemented at all.

If you feel the same way, I’d encourage you to sign the Stop 29119 petition via the “Count me in!” button below. Your community will thank you. 🙂

Count me in – Stop 29119!

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5 Responses to “The ISO 29119 Debate”

  1. David MorganSeptember 4, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

    How can you claim to be encouraging debate when you only mention the anti-29119 campaign, endorse the anti-29119 campaigners and give no voice to those who created the standard?

    This whole campaign is a knee-jerk reaction from insecure testers who feel threatened by the prospect of actually having to measure up to a standard – even though that is far from what 29119 is actually about. From what I’ve read, very few of the detractors have even read 29119; which is a shame as it is far superior to its predecessors.

    • Simon KnightSeptember 4, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

      Hi David. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      As stated within the post, we’re very open to all shapes and sizes of testing here. If you’d like to submit an article stating the case for ISO 29119, then I’ll be happy to hear from you (or anyone else) and we’ll certainly consider publishing it (so long as it meets our normal editorial requirements).

    • Zeff MorganSeptember 16, 2014 at 2:35 am #


      I understand your initial point, but you go a bit further than maybe you intended. You are making large assumptions about why people are responding this way. You say it’s because they are afraid they won’t measure up. Do you really think Cem Kaner, James Bach or Michael Bolton have any fear whatsoever of not measuring up to an ISO standard? Using this line of reasoning means you are giving those who argue against you carte blanche.

      It would be completely fair then for me to say that Dr. Stuart Reid, the “convener” of the standard (and founder of the ISQTB/ISEB), and other supporters are only promoting it in an attempt to limit competition from competing schools of thought in testing and to drive software development companies into the arms of consultancies bedded with the ISQTB (like TSG, who Reid is the Chief whatever of), who, I guarantee, already have a “certification” in the pipes that is ISO 29119 compliant.

      What? That’s not fair? I have no proof they are doing it only to line the pockets of the software testing certification cottage industry? Was that the longest sentence I have ever written? Probably, but I digress.

      Point is, I think many of us are willing to talk reasonably about the matter if you are. In my opinion, the petition to stop the standard is more about transparency than it is about the standard being “wrong”, although I wouldn’t be surprised to find a lot in there I disagree with. Assuming I was willing to pay for it just to give my opinion about it.

  2. Matthew ParkerSeptember 10, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

    I’m still struggling a little with what value 29119 actually gives the testing community that they don’t already have.
    What is in it makes sense for certain situations and will probably add value in those situations. The details currently available around 29119 tell me much of it is common sense in the right situation. Should they not do those things and put those standards in place (or whatever standards best suit the situation) anyway without ISO accreditation?

  3. Mark TomlinsonSeptember 17, 2014 at 12:44 am #

    To David’s comment: “This whole campaign is a knee-jerk reaction from insecure testers who feel threatened by the prospect of actually having to measure up to a standard.”

    Although you do not know me personally, I can assure you that I am not insecure. However early in my career I was led by other “more confident” engineers to believe that my role as a tester was secondary and to remain submissive in my position. How wrong they were. As a tester I generated questions that made those people uncomfortable. I asked the questions they were not willing to ask of themselves and their own role. And in their nervous reaction I detected a whiff of their insecurity, not mine. In those moments I knew I was testing more than just the software. In many situations I was reassigned to another project, asked to leave the company or squelched by management. But in my memory I can confirm that almost without exception my work as a tester was vindicated by the testimonial in inevitable failure of those same self-righteous bastards who eschewed the truth in favor of protecting themselves from perceived harm. And in my same memory, I think that I have failed them as a tester. No matter what I meant to contribute, no matter what I discovered in my testing, it would all be useless if I could find no way to save my colleagues from themselves.

    As a result, I’ve come to appreciate context-driven testing principles; and not just the technical practices espoused by our testing community, but also in consideration for the interpersonal and organizational context in-which I am serving as a tester. My best contribution to the success of the corporation, product, project or initiative requires me to be flexible and adaptive to the context that will best serve the effort. My testing is dynamic and interconnected with the subject of the test and the people I work with. Therefore I am generally opposed a static, forced, standardized definition for software testing.

    To be clear, my intentional use of the word forced together with standardization is not ill-calculated. I mean to imply that lesser-educated leaders in our industry might have no choice but to enforce a standard for software testing that is legally and mentally incompatible with the purpose of our work. Worse still would be a resulting false sense of security garnered by following a “by the numbers” approach to testing that we’ve seen at the root of many contemporary catastrophes around the technology world.

    More importantly, I believe it is unethical to encourage lesser-learned testers to have a false sense of their capabilities through a paper-thin certification derived by a standardized definition for their work. They might believe they are doing good testing by the book, by the defined standard, yet still miss the opportunity to prevent failure because they rigidly stuck to the standard. Like other technology disciplines, we can’t regulate and or standardize our way out of an industry dilemma rooted in a combined lack of education, aptitude and self-discipline.

    I believe that a backlash against standardization is a healthy defense of creativity. Backlash against standardization unites us in common purpose to improve what we do, perhaps more than standardization ever would. Backlash against standardization ensures chances of success precisely through the act of embracing dynamic, innovative approaches to quality and engineering. Backlash against standardization fuels the free market. Backlash against standardization preserves an individual’s right to engage in critical thinking. Backlash against standardization is like rock and roll, stickin’ to the man and beating the weakness out of our industry.

    Weakness and insecurity rely on standardization for their protection so that they may never receive challenge or criticism. So the ignorant might maintain their power, above reproach, safely pedasteled above the truths they fear. Standardization is an intellectual sleeping pill.