TI – any place, anytime, anywhere

I was invited to be the opening keynote speaker at the first EuroSTAR roadshow in Warsaw. And if I would like to discuss “Test Improvement” please. This is a synopsis of some of the points I made and the audience liked.

I want my team to improve, but they are not allowed to change a thing…

Don’t think I’m joking, I’ve been given this “additional” assignment several times.
It might be based on the natural human fear of change, maybe it’s because it’s hard to leave your “comfort zone”.
People could be uncertain about their own role, now and in the future. In fact resistance usually originates from the fear of the social impact of the change: does it impact my career? does it affect my relation with my coworkers? And what about my career?


Dia26Getting the people involved in the change participate in making it, is an important step in overcoming this. Participation cannot simply be switched on or bought in a store. Be aware that it’s not based on being invited to meetings, discussion sessions and workgroups, it’s based on the feeling that people have about their role and influence on the changes at hand.


And yes, of course you can help them. Crucial is that helping people is NOT forcing them to do it “your way”. It is all about enabling them to do the best they can in their context. In other words: give them the means they can use in their situation.

Wherever you put the emphasis, “means they can use” has to be true.

  • The MEANS have to enable them to achieve what they want or need to achieve.
  • THEY have to use it, so it has to be in line with their skills.
  • Whether they CAN use it depends on their abilities and if they are allowed to use it.
  • If people choose to USE something it’s because they think/know/feel/hope/expect/… that using it enables them to do it better, faster and/or cheaper.


If you’re interested in the full presentation, you can see a video coverage of it at Test Huddle. You can also view it on SlideShare.

Final thought


EuroSTAR 2015 Opening

I promised to share the opening of EuroSTAR 2015 with you. That’s why I’ve created a subset of slide images and share them in this image-blog.

Thanks for the many positive reactions I have received on the 2015 event.

PS As soon as I’ve recovered, I’ll share more insights and thoughts on the EuroSTAR 2015 conference through this blog.EuroSTAR 2015 - Opening.001 EuroSTAR 2015 - Opening.002 EuroSTAR 2015 - Opening.003 EuroSTAR 2015 - Opening.004 EuroSTAR 2015 - Opening.005

EuroSTAR 2015 - Opening.006 EuroSTAR 2015 - Opening.007 EuroSTAR 2015 - Opening.008 EuroSTAR 2015 - Opening.009 EuroSTAR 2015 - Opening.010 EuroSTAR 2015 - Opening.011 EuroSTAR 2015 - Opening.012

Test Improvement is choosing

For me personally, one of the most difficult things in life is choosing. Especially because I don’t know what would have happened if I had chosen differently… And in the back of my mind, that “what if” game is constantly played. 

keep-calm-and-choose-wisely-33So my expert advice in test improvement is to choose wisely and consider several (all?) options. Don’t make choosing an everlasting process, just make sure you choose what helps. To be able to choose, knowledge about and experience with several approaches and models is necessary. Try to find a way that enables you to compare them and find the combination that suits the context and the purpose.

What usually helps is looking at aspects like:

  • Testing only?
    Is the scope of the model testing-only or does it consider a broader area?
  • Training?
    Is training available to ensure that everyone involved has the opportunity to learn about it.
  • Staged or continuous?
    Is the model prescribing a standard sequence of improvements in (big) steps or does it give free choice in the sequence of improvements in (small) steps.
  • SPI related?
    Is the approach or model linked to a Software (Process) Improvement model or approach that is already used within the organization or linked to a SPI approach that would help to improve more than just testing.
  • Scalability?
    Can you apply it to help a single project? A team? A department? A complete organization?
  • Are improvement suggestions “included”?
    Some models and approaches focus on finding the current status of testing and the required status; several include concrete improvement actions and highlight enablers
  • Required budget / investment?
    How much time/effort is required for preparation, execution and implementation of the implementation. What is the claim on the organization? Especially since you take into account that Business as Usual will always need to continu. And that the required budget needs to be available; in other words, your approach has to be fit for budget as well.
  • Top down? Bottom up? A mix?
  • Alignment with current test and development approaches, e.g. waterfall, iterative, incremental, Agile, Scrum, DevOps.
  • Culture
    Align your improvement approach with the culture of the organization and its peopke; although this is not typically something that is defined in a SMART way, this is key to success.
  • People
    Do the people in the organization like the improvement approach and are they willing to change in line with it. Again not typically something that can be defined in a SMART manner…

When I choose based on these – or similar – aspects, I tend to organize a walkthrough of my approach with experienced fellow testers. For me, it softens the “what if” voice in the back of my head.

Peer review gone wrong

Thank you Cyanide & Happiness!

The models and approaches to choose from are plentiful, probably worth (yet) another blog post.

Back to test improvement – for now

Last week I organized a meeting with several colleagues who have, just like me, several years of experience in the improvement field. I’ll try to cover the topics we discussed in a number of posts, this is the first. The meeting turned into a great discussion about test improvement and we discovered – despite working in the same industry – so many different stories to tell. Any situation is different, isn’t it?

One tool to rule

Which underlines the most important lesson to learn in successful improvement: there is no such thing as “one tool to rule them all”, sometimes not even within one organization or department.

This is the what differentiates a manager from a leader: a manager sticks to his model of choice and tries to fit the context in his model; a leader uses what is “fit for context and purpose”. And in many cases, that’s more than one model or no model at all.

So, if you really want to improve, one of the things you have to keep in mind is that you need to focus on improving and not on the model you want to use.

The characteristics of each test improvement model define its added value and its limitations. And that is why the foundation for succes needs to be laid at the start of any improvement initiative: what model(s), if any, will you use?

To be able to decide, you’re first step needs to be defining the objectives of your initiative:

  • Reduce time
  • Save cost
  • Improve the quality of the delivered product
  • Improve the quality of the test process
  • Improve the skills & knowledge of the team
  • ……

On target

Scope comes second:

  • what area will you consider
  • what is the size of the group to consider
  • is only testing considered or do you include other disciplines like development and operations as well

Third is taking into account the resources that are available for the initiative:

  • Budget
  • Time
  • Skills
  • ……

Culture of the organization is fourth: are they open to change, eager to improve. Context is fifth: what approaches and tooling are already being used. And sixth is your best guess of the current maturity: the more mature an organization is, the easier it is to implement improvements and ensure that current “good” practices remain in place.

In other words, current & future test improvement has to be:

Current and future TI

The next step is to come up with an approach that suits all of the above. Worth another post, I guess.

Why I chose a Coldplay song

When I was invited onto the stage at EuroSTAR 2014 in Dublin, they asked me what song I would like to accompany me. They suggested “Bonfire Heart” by James Blunt.
Maybe because I’m Dutch and we Dutch tend to be blunt?

I really like that song, but it had to be something by Coldplay. Reason is simple: ever since I was at the Mylo Xyloto concert they gave in The Hague, I’m a big fan. Not just because I like their music, also because they perform with enthusiasm, spirit and are doing everything they can to make sure that the crowd really enjoys the concert. A bonus for me is that their lyrics resonate with me.

Take for instance “Paradise”.

Schermafbeelding 2014-12-19 om 22.06.31

Funny thing is that, by changing a few words, I can actually make it a test song:
Imagine the “girl” is a tester at the start of his career or a senior tester implementing a new and better approach. Both are “expecting the world”.
Isn’t it great to be naive and innocent?
They discover pretty soon that the world is not ideal; in the real world testing as well as changing the “way we work” is an ordeal. The message I hear, if I continue replacing words in the lyrics, is that a tester needs to keep dreaming of that ideal world in any situation, to be inspired and motivated to overcome whatever he needs to overcome to achieve his goals.

If this test-lyric is in line with your test-story, I know you have a great story to tell to our community. And it’s perfectly aligned with “Walking the testing talk” since that is what it’s all about. Your story is all about good and bad experiences, lessons learned and almost forgotten are shared. You have tips, tricks, and good practices to share as well as the passion for our testing craft.
Take this opportunity to tell your story and submit it to EuroSTAR. The worst that can happen is that you have to speak in Maastricht in November…

EuroSTAR 2015

When the EuroSTAR team called me a few weeks before the 2014 conference, I expected some questions about the talk I was invited to give. To my surprise, they asked a completely different question: “Would you like to be the EuroSTAR programme chair for 2015?” Since it is the first international test conference I attended [1996, Amsterdam], spoke at [1999, Barcelona] and a conference I was able to attend over 13 times, I was honoured and exited and of course I said yes. I gladly accept the challenge of being programme chair of the greatest European Conference on Software Testing Analysis and Review and make this a memorable one together with the EuroSTAR team.

EuroSTAR 2015 - Maastricht, The Netherlands

EuroSTAR 2015 – Maastricht, The Netherlands

Picking the conference theme was not as difficult as I expected it to be. Delegates enjoy inspirational talks from those that are truly involved in operational testing. They value a conference where good and bad experiences as well as lessons learned and almost forgotten are shared. They want to take home tips, tricks, and good practices. Last but not least, they want to share the passion for their craft and be inspired. That’s why the theme for EuroSTAR 2015 is “Walking the Testing Talk”.

Please visit the EuroSTAR website for more information on the theme and the call for submissions.

The Awful Truth About Test Estimation – discussed

At EuroStar I faced the challenge of discussing estimation and the awful truth about it. To make my live a bit easier I decided to use Prezi. If you Google-Fu, you’ll end up with all kind of stories (I’m deliberately not referring to them as presentations). Some of them are really great and if you look at them, they take you by the hand and tell you a story. Hopefully the story that the creator wanted to tell you…

Why mention it in this blog? Because the challenge was not in telling the story but in estimating the time required to tell my story. My ‘historical data’ is based on PowerPoint-slides, including animation, that help me tell my story step by step. Including details. Prezi is different, it’s like the red line. Not too many details, just some info to support the story. Mainly graphics, not text. So, I know how much time a PowerPoint deck takes, based on the number of slides. Now translate that into how much time a Prezi- flow takes!

I guess it was a combination of experience, knowing what I wanted to tell, trial runs, experience and luck that made it happen exactly as I estimated: after 30 minutes, it was up to the audience and my moderation skills, to have a good discussion about… estimation! Which lasted – as planned – the rest of the available time.

My point is that, even if you change the “tool” (from PowerPoint to Prezi), and the context (from a talk into a question session), you can use your experience and understanding of the “new context” to come up with an estimate. Also for your next test assignment.