Project Management Institute

External Impact

Enhance Your Risk Management by Having Outsiders Examine Your Project's Work


Enhance your risk management by having outsiders examine your project’s work.

By Ronald B. Smith, PMP

Most project managers know that testing new software and/or hardware products before they’re released is an important part of risk management. But determining precisely what the project team should test and what independent experts should test can be more complicated.

I believe project teams should do their own testing for two parts of the process: unit testing (the isolated testing of each path of code) and function testing (the testing of each product function). The project manager must plan and establish a trackable process for these activities.

However, the final three phases—component, system and regression tests—should be done by someone outside of the project team. Component testing is when the components are tested together. System testing is an examination of the product in a total systems environment with other hardware and/or software combinations. Regression testing is the final examination. It verifies that all the functions of the product work as intended, and the quality and performance of its output is tracked.

The point of component-system-regression testing is to find defects or shortcomings in your final product. Having an independent in-house team or an outside third party do this is best for several reasons:

They are more likely to find errors. Project teams can lack the motivation for testing their own work: a mindset of wanting to expose errors or defects. They might even assume no errors exist. After all, finding flaws in one’s own work is not easy: Imagine trying to write a critique of a paper you have just written.

They can be faster. The experts specialize in testing, and this experience and speed can reduce time to market.

They can discover the unexpected. Learning that the product does something it’s not supposed to do is valuable information—but it’s not something project teams might think to look for.

They often have more experience and certifications than project teams. Testing experts also likely have better testing tools, debuggers, tactics and techniques. Relying on these professionals also eliminates the potential for conflicts of interest, so the testing can produce unbiased findings.

They can provide data for the customer’s quality assurance and quality control review functions. Such data also can help to identify potential cost savings.

They can provide evidence in legal proceedings. For instance, if there are patents and product liability claims, you will have independent, verifiable information in your records.

Independent testing is about reducing the risk of project shortcomings. It increases your chances for overall success and cuts operational life costs, which makes it a valuable investment. PM

img Ronald B. Smith, PMP, teaches project management to technical graduate students at the University of Houston, Houston, Texas, USA.
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