ISO 29119: The rage among Software Testers

ISO (International Organization for Standardization), along with IEEE and IEC, have promulgated a set of standards known as ISO 29119. These standards can be used within any software development life cycle 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.

The ISO wants to standardize software testing, but its 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 push-back, with an online petition launched to stop the plan.

The Tester’s Grief

Testers reject this depraved attempt by ISO to grab power and assert control over their craft. It embodies a dated, flawed and discredited approach to testing. It requires a commitment to heavy, advanced documentation. In practice, this documentation effort is largely wasted and serves as a distraction from useful preparation for testing.

“Testing will be forced down to a common, low standard, a service that can be easily bought and sold as a commodity. It will be low quality, low status work. Good testers will continue to do excellent testing. But it will be non-compliant, and the testers who insist on doing the best work that they can will be excluded from many companies and many opportunities. Poor testers who are content to follow dysfunctional standard and unhelpful processes will have better career opportunities. That is a deeply worrying vision of the future for testing,” asserts James Christie, a self-employed testing consultant.

This is not a problem that testers can simply ignore in the hope that it will go away. It is important that everyone who will be affected knows about the problem and speaks out. We must ensure that the rest of the world understands that ISO is not speaking for the whole testing profession, and that ISO 29119 does not enjoy the support of the profession.

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.

The ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119 standards are developed by ISO/IEC JTC1/SC7 Working Group 26. Development of ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119 began in May 2007 by Working Group 26 (WG26) of the ISO/IEC JTC1/SC7 Software and Systems Engineering committee. ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119 parts 1, 2 and 3 became official International Standards in September 2013.



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