How to sell software testing?

In the last two months I was testing software for Enrise via Polteq as a part of their development team The Impediments. Testing for them has been nice and instructive. The people at Enrise did not stop asking questions. Most of the questions I answered immediately, but some took a while to find the right answer. The question that lingered the most was: “How do we sell software testing to our customers?” I have to say that I’m very glad that Enrise asks this question! It shows me that Enrise sees the value and the importance of testing. The high quality software that Enrise delivers, can only be delivered when there is time set aside for software testing.

So how do you sell software testing?testing

  • Sell a project (testing is part of the project).
  • Only provide guarantee for production incidents when the customer pays for testing.
  • Make the customer aware why you value testing.

Basically, you do not sell testing, you sell quality!

Software development is practiced in teams. Testing is a set of tasks that need to be executed in the teams, so there is implicit time for testing. You need to see that testing is essential to quality software and the time needed to test has to be allocated. The software may appear more expensive to your customer, but this will pay off! In the long-term, you will see less disturbances of production when the software is professionally tested. Investing in quality up front is worth it.

You’re probably thinking: “How will testing add to the quality?” Well, in many ways… I’ll give you three:

  1. If you plan to test, you will need testable requirements. Ask questions on user stories until you have clear what your customer actually wants to have. Developers usually make more assumptions and think about the solution, where testers think about value for the customer. More questions in the beginning will result in an easier development process and a smaller chance on defects.
  2. A tester tests software instead of checking if the software works. A customer will use the software to see if it works, where the tester tries to find the edge cases and out of the box situations. A negative age is an unlikely situation, but a typo in a birthdate is quite plausible… The tester thinks of these situations, so when these typos arise in production the situation has already been covered.
  3. Testing is about mitigating risks. This implies that the risks need to be identified. Testing will create a better view on risks. So even risks that are not mitigated, can be communicated to the customer. Then it’s up to the customer to decide what to do: Invest more to mitigate these risks, or live with the risks?

In short: if you want quality products, you really need to test!

*This blog is also posted at Enrise

Is a test manager still needed in Agile development?

This is the translation of my article for Polteq in TestnetNieuws 2012-2.

Within Agile the responsibilities shift more to the executing teams. For instance the planning and estimation of the work that used to be done by management, now lies completely within the teams. So is there enough work left to justify the function test manager? To be able to judge this we need to do a couple of things. First determine what a test manager did and which parts of his work will stay within Agile. Next is to determine if new responsibilities and tasks arise fir the test managers.

Who does what?Who does what?

The first tasks that come in mind when I think of the traditional test manager are:

  • Create and update test plans;
  • Set the test policy;
  • Initiate and execute product risk analysis;
  • Estimate the work;
  • Create planning;
  • Report on risks, progress and quality;
  • Manage the test team;
  • Manage the test project.

Mostly organizing tasks dealing with testing. When we start working Agile, many of these task will be picked up by the Agile teams. These teams will have the responsibility to estimate and plan the work that is provided to them. A clear indication the the work of the test manager will be less… Whenever the Agile teams execute their planning sessions they need to think about risks, because these risks will influence the amount of work. Therefore the product risk analysis will be split up into smaller parts and will be executed every iteration by the teams.

Next the test plans, test policy and reporting. One of the Agile principles states: “Working software over comprehensive documentation”. So we need to find out how much of the plans and reports is still valid in Agile and how we can minimize this. Test plans cannot become comprehensive documentation! These plans usually leave little room for flexibility and flexibility is just what the Agile teams need. They need to be able to adjust their plans every iteration to fit their needs. The policy will be dealt with later on in this article.

Reporting is also placed in the Agile teams. The teams report on their status every day at the daily stand-up; everyone talks about what they will do and which impediments they have. The burn-down chart – a graph to show how many work is still left in the current sprint – should also be part of the stand-up. It helps to track the progress and well functioning teams will adjust their plannings according to the information of the burn-down chart.

The Agile test manager

The Agile test manager will focus more on people management and therefore has the responsibility to pick the right people for the different teams. The test manager needs to make sure that they hire people fit for Agile, testers have the opportunity to attend essential courses and that sufficient growth possibilities are present within the organization. Beware that not every good (or even excellent) tester is fit for Agile!

Test manager juggleManaging the test team has become more complex. At first we had a test team that worked together, but the testers are now divided over different teams. In stead of keeping one plate in the air, a multitude of plates should be kept in the air. It is reasonable to assume that this aspect of test management takes more time than before.

Another important aspect is facilitating knowledge sharing. Of course the knowledge should be shared within the Agile team to enable good and efficient work of the team. But when there are multiple teams, these teams can also learn a lot from each other. The test manager should have a test meeting once every couple of weeks to let the testers of the different teams learn from each other. In this way the teams can benefit from problems and best practices from other teams.

Thinking about risks within the team is very important, but this should also be done at higher levels within the organization. During creation of the product backlog and the release planning (cross-iteration activities), the test manager should make sure that a risk analysis is performed. The impact of different backlog items on each other should become clear. Some items are prerequisite for others and should be planned like that. In projects with multiple teams it often occurs that multiple teams effect the same parts of the system, this risk needs to be addressed during release planning and the sprint planning sessions. In short, we need a helicopter view on the project with a focus on quality and risks.

The business needs a view on product quality. With Agile testing we do not need to reinvent the wheel, a structured testing approach still offers insight into quality. The Agile test manager needs to create a generic test approach that deals with several subjects. Think of how to register defects, dealing with non-functionals and how to do end-to-end testing. The amount of freedom that the teams get to fill in how they deal with these topics depends on a number of factors like risks, the maturity of testing, the maturity of the team, etc. The approach should offer space for the teams to make their own decisions.

Conclusion

Small project with only one or two teams don’t need a full-time test management job, one of the more experienced testers in the teams will be able to fill the role of test manager. Organizations with large and/or a lot of projects have enough room for a full Agile test manager function. So the role of a test manager will not disappear!

The focus of test management is more on people management. Next to that on facilitating and controlling the quality of testing. We need generic guidelines to manage the testing within the organization and the test manager needs to supply these. These guidelines should not limit the freedom of the Agile teams too much.

Thinking about risks still is important. This should not only be done within the Agile teams, but also cross-iteration and even cross-project. The test manager can offer the helicopter view and look at risks on several levels. It’s very important to realize the risks with multiple parallel Agile teams.

So: Yes, in the Agile world we need test management!

Growing need for technical testers

technical testThis is a translation of my article for the “Testkrant Jaargang 2012 Editie 1“. The article is based on my experiences at Polteq.

The world changes and this sets new requirements for testers, especially the technical aspect of testing. Cloud computing enables us to use functionality from the cloud. For cloud computing we need to test if the functionality of the cloud service correctly supports the business processes, but we also need technical tests to check if the service correctly integrates with the existing systems. We also need to monitor the service in production by using test automation, which needs technical skills.

The other big “hype” that requires technical testers is Agile. By using multi disciplinary teams, the tester gets closer to the developer. Direct communication between these two functions will increase since less documentation is used. To enable good communication, the testers will need to know something about development and vice versa. The iterative and incremental character of Agile requires to execute regression tests more often. This demands for more test automation. This article will describe some situations for cloud, Agile and test automation that will clarify the need for technical testers.

Cloud

A growing number of companies uses services from the cloud (e.g. e-mail, CRM or environments). All services are provided via the internet and should be integrated in the current business processes. Testing the communication with the service is a technical task. The focus will be on the messages that are used to communicate with the service which requires looking below the GUI.

Using cloud services has an impact on internal development projects. Whenever we need to test chains of events after internal changes a connection to the (live) service is often unwanted. So we need to use a stub or mock to simulate the cloud service in order to test our processes without touching the production version of the cloud service.

A service comes with agreements and contract with the supplier about performance and other aspects of the service in production. We need to check in production if the supplier will keep up to the agreements. There is the need for frequent (or even continuous) tests that will monitor the service. This implies test automation which will be covered further on in this article.

Agile

Agile uses four simple basic priciples:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The importance of interaction can be found within the multi disciplinairy teams. Less documentation can only work of the team members communicate well on what they are doing. To understand what the other team members are doing, you will need to know about the other disciplines. We expect from our testers that they have a basic knowledge of programming and have some basic programming skills. This will help to discuss about software architecture and possible solutions, which will be defined by the team.

The short development cycles force us to test incomplete products. The tester will need to apply the use of drivers, stubs and mocks to be able to test. Creating or setting up these facilities to support testing needs to be signaled (and preferably also executed) by the testers.

The working software that gets delivered every iteration will need to work together with the previously delivered items. Each iteration the functionality will increase which also reflects on the size of the regression test set. This set grows, but the time to execute it is only limited. The frequent execution of the regression test set, together with the time pressure, make a good business case for test automation. You should not think to lightly of test automation within Agile.

Another requirement as a result of the frequent deliveries is good version and configuration management. The testers will need to help to make this a succes. When and how to integrate? Which demands do we have for the different environments? Technical knowledge will help to get a better and clearer view of what should happen.

Test automation

No need to explain that test automation has technical aspects. Since test automation is an important part of testing with cloud computing and within Agile, test automation deserves some special attention.

Test automation can occur on different levels. The foundation for test automation is set with the unit test. These unit tests are in general created by the developers, but this does not mean that testers are not involved. We can help the developers apply test design techniques, since we have more knowledge of testing. Pair programming of a tester with a developer can be of value here. The tester can assist the developer in thinking about which test cases need to be created. In addition to this assisting, we can also review the unit tests when we have enough knowledge and skills with respect to the programming language.

Functional test automation is closer to the testers. With Agile development the graphical user interface keeps changing to meet the (changing) requirements, so succesfull automation needs to be at a layer below the GUI. So once again we need to know how to manipulate the code to be able to test the functionality. When automation is used that does use the graphical user interface, this GUI must be manipulated in some manner. When we use Fitnesse or Cucumber to achieve this, it seems like little or no technical work, but we do need some programming. Both Fitnesse and Cucumber need an interpretation layer to talk to the test object. Allthough both come with a lot of standard functions and options, they almost never fit completely for your specific situation. Therefore we need to add some functionality, which needs to be programmed. More and more it is expected from the tester that they can do this.

Multiple contexts require continuous testing. Within Agile for the integration and regression, with cloud for monitoring the supplier, etc. The only way to achieve continuous (or at least very frequent) testing is by automation. Thinking about how to realise this and actualy implementing it requires knowledge of architecture, programming and testing.

Conclusion

The software we create is getting more and more complex. This does not only require more technical knowledge from the developers, but also from the testers. In test jobs we see requests for programming skills (preferably in multiple programming languages) and people expect the testers to be able to discuss about architectural problems found during development. The integration of different systems, as seen with cloud computing, requires the testers to be able to read technical logging, use drivers, stubs and mocks, etc. The closeness that we find in the Agile teams implies more technical discussions and communication.

The tester needs to keep up in the quickly changing world, where Agile and cloud are becoming the standard. The only way to keep up with the speed of development is to use test automation. The tools that will be needed for this should not only be used, but also understood and implemented. So yes, the need for technical testers grows.

Keep learning and broaden your knowledge, so that we – as a test community – can fill this need!

Testing in China

ChinaTest 2012Last 9 days I’ve been in Shanghai together with Martin Pol for Polteq. Luckily the typhoon didn’t reach the part of Shanghai we were in, we had some wind and rain, but nothing to extreme. We’ve presented some tutorials and tracks at ChinaTest 2012, but also needed to visit a couple of companies to talk about testing. So there was a lot to do in very little time. At one company you speak with a selected group of a couple of people, where at other companies you have a room filled with about a hundred people and a video connection to other offices where also a hundred people are attending our presentation on testing. No matter what the setting was, we would get a lot of questions, since everyone wanted to learn as much as they could from our visit. This was also the case for the conference.

Together we presented a full day tutorial on structured testing. It was great to notice how people at first were a bit hesitant to ask question, but during the day dared more and more. Some concepts that require little explanation in Europe, required more in China and the other way around too. The next day of the conference Martin had one half day tutorial on compact test process improvement and I had two half day tutorials. Both of my tutorials dealt with Agile testing. The first one was on how to work as a tester in scrum teams. At some parts of the tutorial I had groups of people discuss together on some topic and then present their findings to the whole group. Usually I can follow what people talk about and try to guide them a bit in the direction I want them to think, but my Chinese is not good enough to understand the discussions 😉 So I just had to trust that they were talking about the topics I wanted them to. When we started discussing about the topics in English it became clear that they did. The other tutorial was on how to improve testing in Agile (mostly scrum) settings. What struck me was that most questions dealt with automation and tools and not the actual job of testing.

The third day of the conference started with key notes from Martin Pol and Richard Bender. After these keynotes we had to do some more company visits. The last day of the conference we both needed to do some presentations. I presented on how to test mobile apps and on the Polteq approach for testing cloud computing: Cloutest. Both of these topics proved to be very popular! Martin presented on outsourcing for a crowd that seemed to grow during the presentation. The conference ended with a set of lighting talks, where Martin told that we need to save the testing skills and I provided some fast insight into Agile.

Usually I try to provide some information on the different presentations I attended at a conference, but since these were all in Chinese there is not much that I can say about them.

I’d like to thank the organizing committee for a great conference and hope to be able to come back for the 2013 edition!

Certified Agile Tester

CATLast December I became a trainer for Certified Agile Tester (CAT). Following the course has been very intensive, but really great! Four full days of training, with a couple of hours every night to keep up with the provided material, followed by an exam. The effort paid off and I passed the exam, so since then Polteq can offer the training!

Giving this training feels great. Seeing how your students evolve in using Agile and getting more comfortable every day is very satisfying. This course actually has all the elements that I mentioned in my post on good courses. Every day starts with explaining the theory (and exam material) to the students alternated with discussions. All the students actively participate in the discussions, allowing them to learn from each other’s experience. Another part of the day is a practical exercise, where the students work together in teams to experience what working in Agile teams is like.

Not only the students are learning from this course. Every discussion we have, provides me with more examples that I will be able to use the next time. Tomorrow will be the last day of exam preparation and I want to wish my students all the luck with their exam on Tuesday.