Functional Testing Industry Wisdom

Importance of Domain Knowledge for Software Testing

Recently in conversation with one of the Test Managers, we came across an important discussion – Whether to pursue Technical learning or Domain knowledge? After certain years of work experience, people tend to move to managerial aspects where you are required to have expert domain knowledge to bring in new business. Just like Defect’s Priority and Severity, every tester has to have two main skill categories – Technical expertise and Domain knowledge.

During a Testing interview you will be asked technical as well as domain level questions – your practical experience of testing concepts, experience level with tools usage and knowledge in specific domains – all are gauged during an interview. Technical skills vary from Manual testing, automation, security, cloud, IoT, networks to performance testing. These can be developed over the course of time via courses, classes, hands-on work, tutorials, etc. Testing concepts can be cleared as you work on different projects following waterfall or agile methodologies. But testers are more confused about the Domain knowledge and its importance.

Domain Knowledge

Each industry is different when it comes to their way of business, hence the required skill set also varies not only from the technical perspective but also from the business perspective. In simple terms – Domain is basically a grouping based on the type of business rather than technology/platform. Almost all IT companies organize their projects in different verticals based on different domains. Some of the common domains are Banking, Retail, Insurance, Healthcare, E-commerce, Telecom, etc.

Why domain knowledge is relevant to testers?

Domain Knowledge for Software Testing

In simple terms – “Testing is context driven”. It’s good if you already know the ‘context’ to be tested 🙂 anyone can ‘Check’ but not ‘Test’. The difference is same as a novice driver and an experienced one. Novice driver focus on just driving with the fear of road whereas experienced driver can gauge the air pressure, engine sound, music connections, rear-view, appropriate acceleration in traffic, etc.

  • Suggestive: The job will be done anyway, but a domain expert can be suggestive. He / She can provide feedback, suggest for improvements, and be an active participant in a lot of decision-making meetings.
  • Prioritize: A Domain expert can help prioritize the test areas most relevant to the application.
  • Requirements: Quick understanding of requirements and thorough analysis.
  • Effective: Better simulate the business flows and end-user actions, i.e. effective test scripts.
  • Roles: Testers with domain expertise can play multiple roles like requirement analysis, client interaction, pitching for new business, training, etc.
  • Defect Triage: Knowing how the application will be used and how it is expected to perform, will tell QA whether a given defect is trivial, significant, or critical.
  • Client Relationship: Helps in building Client relationship since domain experts are likely to use business language while reporting & communication.

How will you test an e-commerce website if you don’t know about portfolio management, order management, payment gateways, user management, etc.? How will you test a banking application if you don’t know how a payment is processed end-to-end? When testing a healthcare product, it’s good to know about terms like provider, inpatient, outpatient, and anything involving medicine will require the user to be aware of ICD’s (International Classification of Diseases). Why do you think UAT team members are from the business team who have a thorough domain knowledge?

Start building the capability

Unless you know the domain you can’t write and execute better test cases and can effectively simulate the end user actions. There is no particular stage where domain info is a must – it is required throughout the Software Testing Life Cycle (STLC), starting from getting new business to delivering a quality product. Meet business experts, get knowledge transitions, read online resources, hands-on work are all the means to gather domain knowledge.

People with technical expertise tend to become ‘Technical architects’ and others with in-depth domain knowledge become ‘Business Analysts’. In order to be a successful Software Tester – you need to balance the technical expertise with domain knowledge. And if you are an amateur – Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. Start building your capability now!

Do you agree that domain knowledge is important to be a good software tester?

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