Focus on Goals over Risks

Looking into the discussion on what goes into a Test Plan and what goes into a Test Strategy – it’s my personal opinion that we can improve our business alignment. Risk-based testing and Product Risk Analysis have been around for long – but better models have emerged to address what will be more impactful.

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Conway’s Law for Test Automation?

Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization’s communication structure.

Melvin E. Conway via Wikipedia

Conway’s law continues to be one of the hard truths in IT deliveries. It tells us that solutions are shaped – by the shape of the delivery organization. While Conway’s law is usually seen on a macro level (Just Eat UK is an example) – it also applies to smaller units (see the Angel of North anti-pattern).

As software test automation becomes more and more like a software development project – I would hypothesize that Conway’s law indeed predicts the shape of the (test) automation solution. So in other words, if the shape of your automation is a pyramid/triangle, so is your team structure heavy on development tests.

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Stop Writing Overdone Test Plans

While I have previously talked about writing down expectations and alignments – I would much prefer a more lean and up-to-date approach to test plan documents. Looking at what we know now, an separate test is more of a sign of missing trust between parties than a collaborative value add for the business needs.

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You Cannot Be Everywhere

A key lesson with the whole situation is, that there is no Nirvana, no steady state nor closure to everything. The only constant is that life is ever changing. Coming up around the corner is a new change – some can be planned for and others not so much. Imagining that things can be different is the first step to dealing with change (Thank you, Virginia Satir).

There will always be more things needing attention. Sometimes it’s based on the fear of missing out (FOMO) and the urge to be involved in everything. You will very easily find yourself stretched too thin – and needing a way to scale the effort, both professionally and personally. Clocking more hours will only work in the short run. Remember, it’s ok not to scale – sometimes it’s actually the best solution.

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Strategy is about Making a Map

Strategy is not where you are heading, but how you’re getting somewhere in the long run. That goes for all strategies, and even for test strategies. Though for test strategies we often get caught up in mechanics of selector strategies, testing types and techniques that we lose track of the higher purpose: Moving the business towards a vision.

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A More Advisory Role

Over the last year I have looking to work myself out of the test manager role and into a more advisory role. And by April 2021 I was given the formal title change from Senior Test Manager to Senior Advisory Consultant.

I have had the title “Test manager” probably since 2008, so it’s been a while. In the companies, where I have been employed, the Test manager title has never been with line management (hire/fire). Rather it has been similar to a project manager, with a focus on the testing deliveries of a project, release or program.

I will still be leading test activities, but my role for the future will be more about enabling someone else doing the testing or someone else having a testing problem to solve. There are plenty of test activities done by people in non-testing roles – it’s the activity that matters.

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Trends for the Tester Role

YMWV – this is a model for reflection not to a 1:1 scale of everything in the universe. It might be useful.

The space for the testing professional is under pressure – for my own role and even more for the “traditional” testing professional. At least since 2017 there has been a shift and ongoing disruption. I finally have a form to visualize some of the trends that puts the role of the tester under pressure:

  • SIT / UAT debate
  • Low-code trend
  • Modern Testing
  • Quality Engineering and whole team approach

I still see two key areas (stars below) for the classic tester to move into: exploratory testing based on weak signals and supporting the end-users low-code activities (test tool smith). For the more managerial and coordinating role I will have to get back to you in a future blog post.

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Imagine That Things Can Be Different

One of the key skills of a knowledge worker – and testing people are knowledge workers – is to imagine that things can be different. I have written previously how to recruit for curiosity – and contributed to the book of “21st-century skills for testers“. But apparently I have missed to highlight the key skill of imagining that things can be different.

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Darlings, Pets, Cattle and GUID’s

Kill your darlings and treat your tests more like cattle than pets, are among some of the heuristics currently around for managing your environments and automation test suites. These heuristics tells me that the environments and automation are in a state of product or even commodity, while previously the tests and environments where like darlings and pets – named and nurtured.

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Something About Leadership

17yo: Dad, do you not know how old I am - and what I can do myself? 
Me: Oh, I know buddy. As you are learning new stuff, I am unlearning to help you

While this quote from my kitchen about a week ago, as all to do with the young man learning the ropes of life and me unlearning to always to help him and his 15yo brother out – there is an key parallel to leadership and building self reliance in teams. My role these days are less about direction and (micro)managing a team of testers on a project, more about enabling others to succeed with their testing both in the delivery teams and in the board room.

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