April 4, 2023

Ben Fellows

The Evolution and Importance of Software Testing and Quality Assurance: A Conversation with Michael Bolton

Ben Fellows

In a recent conversation, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Michael Bolton, a renowned expert in the field of software testing and quality assurance. With decades of experience, Michael has observed and contributed to the evolution of the industry. In this blog post, we will delve into some of the key topics covered during our discussion, including the importance of terminology, the connection between customer service and software testing, the role of senior management, and the social dimensions of software development.

Importance of Terminology and Misconceptions

One of the critical aspects discussed by Michael was the distinction between "software testing" and "quality assurance." He emphasized that while these terms are often used interchangeably, they have different meanings. Software testing refers to the process of evaluating a system by executing it and identifying potential issues. In contrast, quality assurance encompasses a broader set of activities aimed at ensuring the quality of the software throughout the development process.

Misconceptions about the role of testers in the software development process can lead to confusion and frustration. Testers are often perceived as gatekeepers, responsible for preventing bugs from being released. However, Michael argues that testers should be seen as helpers, providing valuable information to stakeholders about the software's behavior, risks, and potential issues.

The terminology used to describe testers and their work can also impact the perception of the profession. Using accurate and well-defined terms can help create a shared understanding and contribute to the overall success of software projects.

Historical Context

Throughout our conversation, Michael shared his personal journey into software testing and quality assurance. Starting his career in customer service, he eventually transitioned into the world of software development and testing, inspired by the influential work of Gerald M. Weinberg. Michael's journey highlights the significant changes in the industry over the years, including shifts in technology, methodologies, and attitudes toward testing and quality assurance.

The influence of Weinberg's work on Michael's perspective is evident in his approach to software testing. Weinberg's focus on the human aspects of software development, as well as the importance of understanding and improving the system as a whole, has guided Michael's thinking and career.

Customer Service and Its Connection to Software Testing

A key topic in the conversation was the importance of customer service as an aspect of quality assurance. Michael stressed that the ultimate goal of software testing and quality assurance is to provide value to the end user. Good customer service helps achieve this goal by addressing the needs and concerns of users and ensuring that the software is usable, valuable, and enjoyable.

The value of customer service experience for software testers and developers cannot be understated. This experience can help them empathize with users, understand their needs, and identify potential issues that might arise during real-world use. Additionally, cutting customer service can have negative impacts on potential career paths, as it eliminates opportunities for learning and growth.

The Role of Senior Management in Quality Assurance

The conversation also explored the gap between senior management and quality assurance. Michael highlighted that managers often lack exposure to the realities of software testing, leading to unrealistic expectations and misaligned priorities. To bridge this gap, he stressed the need for proper training and exposure in management roles, enabling decision-makers to better understand the intricacies of software testing and quality assurance.

The importance of feedback and retrospection in well-functioning organizations was also discussed. Michael emphasized the need for open communication between senior management and quality assurance teams. This dialogue can help identify areas for improvement and foster a culture of continuous learning and growth.

Software Development as a Social Activity

Michael highlighted the social dimensions of software development, asserting that it is a highly collaborative and communicative process. As such, the role of testers in identifying and addressing problems is critical. They act as information providers, bridging the gap between different stakeholders by offering insights into the software's behavior, risks, and potential issues.

Critical thinking is an essential skill in software development. Testers, developers, and other stakeholders must be able to analyze and question assumptions, identify potential problems, and communicate their findings effectively. This collaborative, critical thinking-based approach helps ensure that software projects are successful and meet the needs of their users.

Wrap Up and Key Takeaways

In our conversation with Michael Bolton, several key takeaways emerged. Envisioning success and examining potential problems is crucial in software testing and quality assurance. Testers play a vital role in detecting inconsistencies and issues in software, providing valuable information to stakeholders and helping to improve the overall quality of the product.

Adopting a "red team" mindset for quality assurance can also be beneficial. This approach involves testers and other stakeholders working together to challenge assumptions, identify weaknesses, and push the boundaries of the software in order to uncover potential issues. By adopting this mindset, teams can proactively address problems and deliver higher quality software to end users.

Further Resources and Contact Information

For those interested in learning more about software testing and quality assurance, Michael Bolton's blog at DevelopSense.com offers a wealth of information and insights. Additionally, James Bach's blog and shared resources at Rapid-Software-Testing.com provide valuable guidance and perspectives on the subject.

To connect with Michael and James, you can find their contact information on their respective websites. They welcome feedback and engagement from the software testing community, fostering a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement.

Throughout our conversation, Michael used various analogies and metaphors to explain his viewpoints and provide examples to clarify concepts. These analogies served to illustrate the importance of critical thinking, communication, and collaboration in the software development process. By employing these skills, teams can better understand the needs of users, identify potential issues, and work together to create high-quality software products.


Our conversation with Michael Bolton underscored the importance of software testing and quality assurance in the rapidly evolving world of technology. As software becomes increasingly complex and integral to our daily lives, the role of testers and quality assurance professionals is more critical than ever. By understanding and addressing the challenges and misconceptions surrounding the field, we can foster a culture of collaboration, critical thinking, and continuous improvement that benefits both the industry and its users.

By appreciating the historical context of software testing, recognizing the importance of customer service, bridging the gap between senior management and quality assurance teams, and embracing the social dimensions of software development, we can ensure that our software projects are successful and deliver value to end users.

In a world increasingly reliant on technology, the lessons shared by Michael Bolton offer valuable guidance for software testers, developers, managers, and other stakeholders. By taking these insights to heart, we can work together to create software that is not only functional and reliable but also meets the needs and expectations of users. By fostering a culture of collaboration, communication, and critical thinking, we can drive innovation, improve the quality of our software, and ultimately deliver a better experience for all.

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