Skip to main content

The Economics of Software Testing: Opportunity Cost

 When I was in high school I learned about a very interesting concept called Opportunity Cost in my Economics class. To be honest, it's probably one of the only things in high school that I still remember. I still remember this very interesting concept because it's everywhere.

What is opportunity cost?

It's the value of the next best alternative of a resource. (Source:

In other words it's the "price" you pay for making a choice. Every time you decide to buy something, or spend time doing something etc. you are ultimately paying an opportunity cost by making that decision.

Example I

Here is a non-work example of how opportunity cost has affected me recently:

I was in the final steps of going live with a personal project, had registered the business with the tax agency, done my research on logistics, website was ready, budget was done etc.

But then I took a step back.

My time is limited. 

Aside from working, helping out around the house,   cooking etc and spending time with my daughter and husband in the evening - I don’t have much time left over.

So then I thought to myself: where would the time to continue to pursue this project come from?

It would either come from my a) exercise time or b) my reading time

The (main) value I get from both of these activities is that I get to "recharge my batteries"/relax.

The opportunity cost of my personal project is being able to recharge my batteries/relax.

I felt this wasn’t a price I was willing to pay so I decided to stop pursuing my personal project.

How does the concept of opportunity cost apply to testing? 

Let’s assume time allowed for testing is limited and you are currently looking into setting up test automation for your project.

Let's first look into the activities we could be doing instead of setting up test automation.

  • testing to find more issues
  • creating a test report of the testing you do recently 
  • learning new testing skills that could help you with work 

Remember: Whatever the value of the next best alternative use of your time, is the opportunity cost you pay for setting up test automation.

Now let's assume that this, is your most important activity

  • testing to find more issues
The value you get from this activity is having a clearer and better understanding of the state of the SUT (Software Under Test) now.

Therefore, the opportunity cost of setting up the test automation is having a clearer and better understanding of the state of the SUT (Software Under Test) now.

(Note: the benefit of test automation comes later, not now)

I find many people only think about the time needed to do a certain task whether it be to create a report, set up test automation or write a lot of test cases.

But the opportunity cost is another cost you need to be aware of, to be fully informed, of the price you pay, for any decision you make.


Popular posts from this blog

Getting started on a testing project

I started on a new project a few weeks ago and thought it would be a good idea to share a checklist for what new testers on a project need and some good starting questions when you, as a tester, are new on a project Checklist for what new testers on a project need (Note, your project may not include all of the below) Note to check if user credentials are needed for any of the below

My Most Used Test Heuristics (with examples)

First, what is a heuristic? A heuristic is a guideline ,  it is fallible.  Therefore, it will give you a good idea of what behaviour you should see BUT it isn't definitely what should happen - it's up to you to confirm that the behaviour you are seeing is correct.  In a previous blog post I shared a step by step guide on  how to test without requirements/little requirements.    But I figured it's good to share my most used test heuristics that I use for testing without requirements. They are: Consistency with History Consistency with User Expectations Consistency within Product Let's take a look at each of them along with some examples to illustrate the concept. 1. Consistency with History  The feature's or function's current behaviour should be consistent with its past behaviour, assuming there is no good reason for it to change. This heuristic is especially useful when testing a new version of an existing program. (Source: developsense) Example: Whitcoulls, a

Bloggers Club: The Importance of Exploratory Testing

 Before we dive into the importance of Exploratory Testing, I would like to clear three things up. Firstly, I align with this definition of Exploratory Testing, by Cem Kamer, it is an approach to software testing that consists of simultaneous learning, test design and test execution. Secondly, I don't think Exploratory Testing has to be a substitute for test cases, it can complement test cases. (It's up to you, how or if you choose to combine both Exploratory Testing and Test cases when you test a feature) Lastly, exploratory testing is not adhoc testing - adhoc testing is random, unstructured testing, exploratory testing forced you to think critically about the application under test. (For more about the difference go here .) Job Interview Analogy To illustrate the importance of Exploratory Testing, I'd like to first use the analogy of a job interview. (I wrote about this in a previous blog post but will expand on this further) The Test Cases in this analogy In a job inte