Test strategy

Over the past few months I’ve been working on a test strategy at work, some foundations for doing better testing, it’s been a lot of work but I’m slowing getting there.
There’s been a lot of re education, and educating from the start for a variety of levels of people across the business.
yesterday was, in my mind a break through, It’s been agreed in principal, and will be used on one of the largest projects we have done at work. 
How did i get to this point?
A lot of conversations, me learning enough about all the elements that I could answer any question, and debate any point with any person. repeating myself, in a variety of meeting with the same people. Having confidence in what i’m doing helps as well, the fact I truly believe that this is the right thing for us really help, I think at times it overwhelms my restraint and I can get a bit pushy with it, I do try to reign it in though.
So where am I know with it, I have a strategy doc, it needs a bit of additional detail around the edges, but we are moving forwards with it, and in the new year we will begin the implementation of it for the project, Really looking forward to that.
If you believe you can help the quality of testing where you work, you can make a difference, it takes passion, and patience, you have to be prepared and able to explain any part of context driven testing, at a multitude of levels, to a variety of people. If you can do this, you can slowly bring them around to seeing the benefits of doing it. You have to be aware of your work places particular worries, and hang ups, so you can address those in detail, and with confidence, if you don’t sound like you know it’s going to work, and be an improvement, you are not going to convince anyone else either.
Make sure it rests on a base of solid detail and fact, with actionable processes that satisfy your works needs. I started with the Dev team leader nearly a year ago, why him? because I have a good working relationship with him, and his opinions are well respected by the heads of IT, so when I got him on board I had a powerful ally. You don’t have to start with the main decision maker, its often easier to start with those that surround them, and slowly work your way along, addressing worries, providing details, and example, showing how it could work for you.
If they say no, find out why, understand what’s behind that, go away and understand that, and how you can address it. Its an achievable goal, you just need to make that first step.

BBST foundation in software testing

So I finally finished the course this weekend, and it was a fantastic one. Really engaging and thought provoking.
I’d really recommend it to anyone new to software testing, or new to the context driven school. There is even plenty of content for those of you who are familiar with the techniques but haven’t yet formalised what they know.

Counting those Test Cases

So we are working through a test strategy for a big software rollout at work, change of ERP for those of you that are interested.
As you will have read in my earlier posts we have a consultant in to help us with this, He’s done a great job of highlighting some pitfalls we have overlooked, and suggested some thing that we really need to be considering. However he also has a huge amount of work in his overview for writing test cases, writing test scripts , then running those test scripts. I have challenged him on this, I have suggested that we would be much better of if we used Exploratory Testing, and get the SME’s (subject matter expert) to use this rather than us writing thousands of test cases which, mostly will need rewriting as soon as the business gets a good look at the software and changes a load of stuff, like they normally do.
He seemed bemused that I’d want to take this approach on such an important project. I did my best to explain the benefits of the context driven approach, but I’m new to the whole thing, so we will see how well I do when we attempt to restructure the plan today.
Any pointers on how to sway people are gratefully accepted.

So that Consultant Test Manager…..

Well he’s been in for a week today, we have bombarded him with info, he’s taken a fair chunk on board, not done much questioning though, not sure why. I am sure it’s not because we have covered all angles.
I should get a chance to see his strategy doc either today or monday, from what I have gathered so far it’s going to revolve around the factory school approach. So he’s looks like he’ll be suggesting a more longer time frame, or higher resource requirement.
So hopefully in the next couple of days i’ll get the time to talk through with him about an alternative approach, he does seem open to the ideas of exploratory testing, and context driven testing, he’s just nervous about it in a project as I don’t think he’s ever taken that leap.

We’ll see how that goes.

He is thankfully highlighting the risks for the business about what we are doing, and how much work is involved, so we should be viewing those more seriously now we have a paid for opinion on the matter, more on that another time.

What have i learnt from this week so far, just because they have years of experience, doesn’t make them a better tester than someone who has a better understanding of the context.
That experience has helpful insights but it can also carry over problems from their experiences.

we’ll see how the next week goes.

Doug

Starting BBST software testing course

Just a quick post to say that i’m on a Training course run by BBST and it’s very exciting, work have agreed to pay for the online BBST course foundations of software testing. And I must say I’m really looking forward to it. I will be posting up how it’s going after its started later this month. but from the intro in the textbook it’s looking to be a great course.

I’m very much hoping to improve my knowledge about testing, and my practical expertise, and given the course seems to have plenty of practical exercise as well as lectures it should do the job.

Doug

Dog Training and Testing

So my partner is big into dog training, and she spends quite a considerable amount of time learning good techniques and putting them into practice with our little puppy. Most recently she been teaching the dog to bring items to her hand and given them to her.

A complex string of behaviour for a dog, first they have to pick up the item, then hold it, then carry it to her, then release it to her waiting hand.
What’s the got to do with testing, you ask. Well the way our dog is learning this reminded me of exploratory testing, it’s a technique called shaping, your dog does something you like, so you mark it and reward, and reinforce as they continue to do this. However you raise the reward criteria as they get a better understanding of what you are looking for. So as the dog nudges the pick up toy, you reward, they put teeth on it, reward, and so on, until they are holding it, and moving it, and on it goes until finally the dog has worked out what you want.

It struck me that this is so like ET, you come across the edges of a issue, and get that endorphin release that you are on the right track, who doesn’t enjoy finding bugs, and you keep testing around it until you understand more about the issue, and you keep at it, honing in on what’s going on, until finally you get the complete picture.
I speculated that this would probably mean that much like shaping, the more a dog is trained using this the faster they get at working out what gets the the rewards, the offer all sorts of crazy combos of previously learnt behaviours just to see what results in a reward, it’s awesome to watch by the way. Then ET is almost certainly the same, the more you practice ET the better you get, the more techniques you’ve learnt, that you can try out in crazy combos until you run across that issue you’ve been hunting for.
I’m new to ET, but this gives me a good deal of reassurance that its a solid path to learning good skills through your run of the mill practice makes, well not perfect, but definitely better.

That was my thought for the day. Hope you enjoyed it.

Doug

New project

Well I get to move on to a massive new project in the next few weeks, really excited about it, I’m nominally named as the test lead, not like there will be many people to lead though, we do have a new tester starting in november, taking to total number of dedicated testers to two, I know good isnt it. I should have some project resources for testing as well though.
Why am I so excited though? Well its my opportunity to demonstrate that exploratory testing is a worth while thing to be doing, that gives tangible results, and  works on the largest of projects, this is the biggest thing we are going to be doing any time soon.
The downside, I get this wrong and they won’t support ET any time soon, that and it could cost me my job, but hey I’m willing to take the risk, as I believe it will work and that we will show them that test case counting is pointless and a waste of valuable resources, and you never know i might get a new job out of it if I can play my cards right.
We are going to be installing a new ERP over the coming months, I suspect longer than they currently think, but that’s definitely for another time, and I will be responsible for providing updates on testing, bug tracking, test management and resource coordination, currently. We are getting a consultant in to help produce a strategy, and give realistic time frames and resource requirements for testing a project of this size, how much we agree is something that I will find out when they get this guy in. I might even post about it if it goes well.
I plan on ET with session based management to ease the company into the realms of real testing. that I will most definitely post about as I go along. It all starts in around 4 weeks for me. Here’s to it going well, lots of hard work but I am looking forward to it.

Doug

Test Strategy

Where I work I am the only tester who is employed to work on general software testing, we have a small team that works on the web site, they are quite separate to the rest of the business though, and constantly engaged in testing patches and updates, as you’d expect.

So my boss asked me to write a test strategy for the business, as you’d imagine I was over the moon at the chance to move us towards good quality testing, and away from meaningless metrics.
I thought the best place to start would be James Bach’s heuristics strategy, as its broad and easy to apply, and to that I have added some information about session based test management to give them some comfort around easily understood measures and metrics that will fill the void of the pointless test case counting graphs.
It has been broadly accepted by my boss, I suspect he doesn’t actually understand it, even though when I ask him about it, he assures me he does, and requires no further explanation, I do however have the dev team leader totally on board with it, and he loves the way it works, and is trying to support it as much as he is able, which is fantastic.
However we are about to undertake a major project to install a new ERP , AX to be specific and they are looking for a consultant to help write the test strategy for this project, now obviously I’ve asked why we are not using the strategy they just asked me to write, and I’ve been assured that any consultant will be writing a test strategy, with me based on what I have already done.
The downside is the CV’s that are coming in all read like factory school of testing grads, and I’m not looking forwards to having to counter everything they say about how I want us to go about testing, when I need them to support me in attempting to explain that we can not test an ERP with me and may be a couple of others in 4 months.
I really wish I knew some ET testing consultants in the area who were able to come in and help, they would still have to get past my boss and the project manager, but they would at least be starting with the advantage that they would be supporting the test strategy my boss has already said he wants to use.
He does however keep going on about getting in a consultant to ask about best practices, it’s deeply frustrating.
well minor rant over, pointers however more than welcome
Doug

Project drawing to a close

So for that last 4 ish months i’ve been involved in a sizable, for us, project to change some of the software used in our warehouse, I was brought in late to the party, they wanted to recruit a tester who had warehouse experience, we never found the right person, so they gave it to me. right of the bat I had to explain the volume of testing and checking needed for what they were doing was well outside what I had time to do, in the time frame they gave me. So they brought in a consultant to help with/run the testing.
From that point on, it all became about test cases, how many there were to do, how many had been written, how many had been done.
We had these amazing user stories that would have given us such a great place to test from, but they disappeared into the background, something I believe we are now paying for.
We bludgeoned our way through unit testing, well mostly, we did all the test cases so that must be good. the project team were happy though, They had a pie chart that was all green, I’m still not sure what they think its told them.
At this point i’ll say, i’ m not fond of how we have gone about this, but I didn’t feel able to sway the business over a trusted consultant and there decades of previous experience, I am after all just a very new tester, with no significant wins to point to to demonstrate my worth. So I have done my best to test what I can the way I know we should, and i’ve demonstrated how I can very quickly find issues.
We move on from those lovely unit tests to some system testing, out came those test cases again, even more this time, thousands (possibly an exaggeration), but as time went on, config was altered, stuff added, more tests cases were written to deal with the new or changed parts, and on this went, we still produced some lovely graphs, I’d managed to get a time required to test, estimate vs actual added to give some tangible info, unfortunately the consultant was really unsure about how to deal with this, so its been a bit adhoc in how it gets updated, no actually feed back from the team we now had running these test cases on how long they had spent on what, just an estimate on how long an area should take, and when all the test cases were done, that meant they musty have spent that long testing it!
I have learnt an awful lot on this project, it’s really  reinforced how much we as a company don’t know about testing, and how much I personally dislike the test case driven testing. The project is slowly drawing to a close, my work will be done in the next few weeks and I’ll be of to new and shiney grounds, which i’ll tell you about in another post.
Even though this was probably one of my least enjoyable projects I have come away from it a great deal wiser, and more experienced than when I started. I wish in those early days i’d had the confidence to push for using the user stories as the basis for testing. Hopefully I have learnt from it though.

Tell me about how you came to some of your critical learnings

Doug

So what’s this all about?

I work at a smallish company, we don’t do software ourselves, but we do use a lot of it in house, and we have a tendency to change and modify it, so we have a good IT team, recently I joined them as a dedicated tester. Well about 3 years go now, but I’ve been with the company in a variety of  roles for many years before that. My job in IT, test the major changes/ software additions we make to ensure no negative impact on the business.
So, testing, turns out its a bit controversial, side to it and everything, me, totally (so far) self taught. luckily I like reading obscure manuals and texts. I searched around the internet for stuff about testing, in my early days, kept seeing references to this ISTQB stuff, so i read some textbooks pertaining to it, boy were they heavy going, so much demand for paperwork, and documents. I didn’t understand how you’d have time for all that, we sure didn’t. So I kept looking about, found some fascinating stuff on contextual testing, now that made much more sense. Then finally, well so far, I came across James Bach’s blog, now that was a eye opener. it has lead me to find other resources on ET that have been invaluable in helping me get a much better grasp on what I need to be doing to be a good tester, long way to go that’s for sure, but I’m now at a stage where I want to share what I’m learning, sure it’s nothing new, but each voice shouting out about how to test better has got to help those new to the craft find better ways to test for themselves as well.

Doug