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.

Named and nurtured tests with explicit steps and specific test data on all test cases are are a sign of a team stuck thinking that all problems can be solved with more and more specification and detailed up front design. We have seen numerous times that this is not how you build trust and collaboration – nor when handling systems that are not stable – nor when the subject matter experts test. You cannot structure yourself out of a complex situation.

We do need the darling solutions for the things that sets you uniquely apart and for the unknown of the new incoming features. We need the cattle, structure and standards for factory solutions and stable operations. Not the other way around – FFS!

Gold box problemsSilver box problems
Complex, multifaceted and ambiguous
Unpredictable and uncertain
Rapidly changing or chaotically decaying
Impacted by irrationality, emotion, dishonesty and bias
Rules based
Stable and predictable
Repeatable
Scalable
From Rob Booth, a co-founder of The Bionic Lawyer Project, via John Grant

Previous industry practices told that test cases needed to be richly detailed and hand crafted – with the rise of automation, and especially low-code, there is an alternative ROI.

Put Critical Thinking First

Even the one of the strongest holds for previous practices and structure is now promoting critical thinking over verifying and documenting everything. If you look at the recent FDA recommendation with regards to Computer Software Assurance (Epista has a good primer to the topic) – it starts with the intended use of the software, then drills into test types and approach for the test task in question and lastly appropriate records for assurance of the software. This opens up for continuous validation and continuous compliance in the regulated space! Finally, old chap – now to turn the ship around.

The industry has moved so far the recent years that the previous safe bets and previous “good industry practice” will not get us where we need to go. But we do have parts of the map for the future solutions – what is left for us is to imagine that things can be different.

We already know how to read the landscape

We can use the stages of evolution from the Wardley mapping landscape to position the parts of the systems relative to one and another. On the left we have the uncharted and on the right the industrialized:

Based on Simon Wardley‘s Evolutionary Characteristics Cheat SheetCC BY-SA 4.0

By addressing the system under test and aligning with the business user needs we can understand the relative positions of the technology stack, movements of the business knowledge and practices. We can see that exploration makes sense on the left side, along with subject matter experts intricate knowledge. We can also see that codified and explicit knowledge ties with codified solutions and industrialized on the right. JitGo has an excellent deep-dive into using appropriate methods.

There’s a huge difference in addressing a user need of cloud operated commercial standard systems and systems being held together with duct tape, WD40, gatekeeping and all the other dangerous animals in product management. While there used to be a difference between life science and the business-to-consumer solutions, the former is catching up and similarly needs to deliver faster and validated at the same time.

We already know how to deliver

We do know how to solve the core conflict of delivering quality faster while maintaining steady operations. Readers of the DevOps handbook by (Gene Kim et.al. 2016) will recognize the that the core conflict is addressed in the book. Readers of Accelerate will know the research behind the key drivers of improved deliveries and organizational excellence. Readers of Team Topologies will recognize the need to rearrange the team structures to beat Conway’s law. The book is already out there on A Practical Guide to Testing in DevOps – if that’s the niche.

To me it is about enabling organisations, delivery teams, bid teams and CTO’s to get their core challenges solved – not merely the status symbols and status quo. It’s clear that we cannot solve the challenges of tomorrow with the tools of years gone by. We need to stand of the shoulders of previous giants to reach the stars of the future quality solutions.

My current collection of IT Revolution books – non sponsored post.

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