Test Process Improvement for a Low Budget

At the start of the current economic situation (some would call it an economic crisis), we were asked to create and present a workshop on test process improvement “on a shoestring” a.k.a. for a low-budget. Companies nowadays do not have the time and the means for extensive improvement initiatives. However, they are in dire need of improvements that help them in achieving cost reduction, shortening time-to-market and achieve a higher quality level. In other words: do more with fewer resources, in a shorter period of time and with higher quality, without (almost) any investment. Challenging, yet not impossible.

Do what is necessary When you have been working in an organization for a while, several actions and activities turn into routine: you perform them without really thinking about. For the majority of actions, that’s fine because they are necessary steps you routinely perform to get where you need to be. For some actions however, you need to fight the routine and perform them consciously every time. Because sometimes they’re not necessary, over the top or counterproductive. Most of us know that, yet do not take the time to discuss and implement changes to the way of working. Because “no one challenges the Way We Work” and this is, by the way, part of human nature. We do comment on the way we work and criticize things we want to be different, but don’t always act.

Another part of human nature however is that we knowingly and unknowingly collect ideas for improvement and ways to solve recurring issues. They just don’t always take the time or have the platform to turn those ideas into actions and go further than fighting the symptoms. By just doing that: creating a platform for collecting ideas to turn them into actions and for solving the root cause of the issues, you can improve your testing.

I’ve learned that an interactive workshop to gather improvement suggestions and select the most suitable measures with all involved parties, enables an organization to get the best out of their test team and create support for change and effectively improve the test process. All involved parties are needed, not just testers or test managers. So invite anyone who is working together with testing, from business to operations, from project management to developers. Crucial advantage: commitment is guaranteed by involving all parties.

Stop nagging

Gather ideas in small multidisciplinary teams. Ground rule: any idea or suggestion is welcome. Bad ideas don’t exist, even the suggestion to stop testing is fine! So, anything is OK.

Next step is to collectively cluster the ideas and set priorities: When do improvement ideas have effect? And what is the impact? What are the related costs (and benefits)? Last but not least, the easier it is to implement the measures the more successful it will be. The search is for “silver bullets”: Free measures that have immediate effect, high impact and are easy to implement. The workshop wraps up with an action list where each selected measure directly leads to concrete actions on the list.

Test Improvement for a low-budget does help, but is limited. Renowned test improvement models like TI4Automation®, TI4Agile®, TPI® Next and TMMi® as well as extensive experience in test improvement projects, still is needed to achieve improvements beyond picking the “low hanging fruit”. And by the way, any improvement initiative can only be successful if the people who need to do it are not only involved but are heard…

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Test Improvement Revisited

I don’t know exactly when I got involved in test improvement for the first time, but it was way before models were introduced for it. Maybe it was even before people started calling it Test Improvement… I’m actually in testing long enough to have been involved in the pioneering stages of it and, as an author, played a part in defining the profession. What I do know is that helping people and/or organizations to get better at (software) testing still is a major motivator for me. I think it is (one of) the most rewarding jobs within the testing craft there is. That’s why I decided to start a series of blogs on test improvement to share my experiences.

MY FIRST MESSAGE

Truly helping a person and/or organization is not forcing them to do it your way. It is all about enabling them to do the best they can in their context: give them the means they can use in their situation. Wherever you put the emphasis “means they can use” has to be true. THEY have to use it, so it has to be in line with their skills, not yours. Whether they CAN use it depends on their abilities and if they are allowed to use it. I’ve worked in organizations where, due to regulations, the tests had to be designed and approved before execution (otherwise the test results were considered void and the product was not allowed to be shipped). Exploratory Testing was not considered an option by management. 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. So the MEANS have to help them achieve what they want. In my opinion, “fit for context” says it all.

That’s also why I’m convinced that “one model to rule them all” does not apply to Test Improvement. I learned “through damage and shame” (sorry for the Dunglish) that the characteristics of each test improvement model define it’s added value. And it’s limitations. If you want to help improve testing and use a model, the improvement model has to be “fit for context”.

Context Driven TPI

Keep you posted!

I promised myself to improve my blogging and share my experiences in the area of test improvement through this blog. I already started working on the next post…