TDD Tells Us What is not Known

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You cannot meaningfully test that which you do not adequately understand. The time to find that out is before you start development. TDD tells us what we do not know. Sometimes, it tells us what our stakeholders don’t realize they also don’t know.

Imagine you are developing the software for a casino’s poker slot machine (loosely based on a real case). Part of the behavior needed is to shuffle the “cards”, mixing them up into a new order. That would be the stated requirement. If we try to write a test about this, we realize that this is not nearly detailed enough. What is meant by a “new order”? How new? How will we know when the shuffling is adequate? Are there any regulatory requirements about this? Industry standards? Not being casino experts, the developers probably don’t know and would ask the customer. The customer might realize that they aren’t clear themselves.

Testing something requires far more rigor than most people apply to their businesses, and that means the development team that does TDD not only finds good questions to ask, but can also help the customer to more fully understand their own business domain. At times, this leads them to realize even more business value than they knew they wanted.

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