Testing is a cost center

A cost center is a part of the organization that doesn’t produce profits.  In other words, a necessary evil.

For a long time, all of IT was considered a cost center.  You paid for IT infrastructure and staff, but didn’t consider it an investment in your business.  But businesses in the late 1980s and 1990s started realizing that investments in IT equaled improvements in productivity.  IT investments really started paying off.  And then, with the growth of the internet in the 2000s IT because essential to business.  A professional web site became a marketing necessity. E-commerce became a critical sales channel.  And support & customer relations became valuable IT investments.

But testing is still considered a cost center, even within IT. It’s just something you have to do to release products. Some businesses would skip it if they could, but they feel a need to do due diligence to avoid embarrassing bugs, costly outages, and dangerous security breaches. Some developers have embraced testing, but many more still grumble about *having to* write tests for their code or wait for QA to finish testing before they can release.  Even Agile shops.

People quote the Agile Manifesto about people over processes or working code over documentation to justify the belief that testing is not merely a cost center, but an unnecessary evil.

Testers have always known that when it comes down to crunch time, testing is the area that gets cut first.  Some justify that it is because testing is the last step, and the last gets cut first.  But it’s not the last step.  Deployment is.  And nobody wants to cut deployment out of the process.

How can we help organizations realize that testing is not a cost center?  That it makes development faster.  That quality has value, even if it isn’t qualifiable.  That solid testing processes are beneficial, and that good testers are worth a premium.  That testing needs to be planned for up front just like design, development, operations, and support.  That testing isn’t a cost center within IT, that it actually adds value.  Or does it?

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One thought on “Testing is a cost center

  1. As a related note to this, I’ve seen sometimes, testing isn’t necessarily cut, but the scope of it is and/or the automation portion is cut (we just do manual testing to get product out on time, skip automation or put in backlog to handle later). And the automation portion gets cut often because the scope of work is just too big and not planned well in advance.

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