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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Test Master S1:E1

In Taskmaster (the TV show) celebreties are rated on solving challenges. At Test Bash Manchester 2020 the participants got a challenge too. A good interactive challenge, where you had to think outside the box. Encore MoT Team!

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Your Learning is on You

You, yourself, is responsible for getting the training, learning and knowledge you need. Don’t wait for your boss – be proactive, it drives your success. Here are some places to start:

Meetup’s are happening online now, which removes one primary barrier to attending great talks. Similarly conferences go online, some with a fee, some for free – some even in multiple time zones. Lastly online training sites are abundant with relevant information for the challenges you have. Yes – also for you!

Stop moaning about getting test automation and accessibility to be a part of Definition of Done, or how to build a whole team approach to quality. It’s already out there – reach out.

Just this week, April 2020, I’m attending:

With plenty of talks about risk based testing, test management in the light of automated deliveries, BDD etc. With live slack groups the experience is almost as the physical conferences :). Next up in may is the Online Test Conf, Spring 2020 with topics for everyone in convenient global time slots.

When your boss says there’s no budget for attending conferences in person this year (again!), there are other ways to attend – physically. You could try to submit a talk and get accepted, but the barrier is quite high. A great way is simply to reach out and volunteer to help the program committee. If you can time it, with regards to the budget year, ask you boss based on the conference program aligned with your company strategy. At least what the boss should do is to allow it to be company time – else take the time off. …

If you are hungry to learn

What I see in the global testing community is that Scandinavians are complacently waiting for the company to pay time, money and effort to their learning, while people in emergent economies (Hi Sfax and Argentina) are eager to learn and on the forefront of the trends of the trade. They are driving the change of a positive inclusive community.

Time to information is the key factor – not only in digital transformation, not only in IT deliveries and but for the organisation as a whole.

And for you!

if you still work in silos, your success – will be less

Mike Lyles, Smart Bear connect 2020

When Subject Matter Experts test

Teaser for [Test Bash Brighton 2020] : How to Coach Subject Matter Experts to Do Testing

In the recent years I have been working on projects with no dedicated testers but plenty of testing. The testing has primarily been performed by subject matter experts. This is where it gets interesting, as my role on these projects has been to lead the testing being performed by people that have limited experience in testing. They also have no desire to be testing specialists, after all they are already specialists in their own subjects, however, everyone agrees and insist that the testing needs doing. So how do we ensure that the testing being done is done well? 
 After having worked on several very different projects, yet still with subject matter experts doing the testing, I have been able to get both the public process clerks and the technology specialists to perform excellent testing. This talk is about the approaches that I have found work well: 

  • One of the approaches is for me to prepare the test cases and prepare them only as headlines. Sometimes preparing the tests as open questions helps too. 
  • Another approach is to lead them as if they are doing the project participation voluntarily. They probably are, but still it helps to respect where they are coming from.

 The lessons though (good and bad) is relevant to many testers in other situations, especially being the only “tester” on the team. The story applies equally to developers and business end users doing most of the testing and you will have them contributing with great testing in no time!

What you will know after the talk:

  • An understanding of how testing looks when done by subject matter experts
  • How to lead a testing activity with an appreciative and motivating style
  • Examples of how teams can do great testing without dedicated testers
Test Bash Brighton, March 2020

Less Test Managers, More Test Coaches

One of the trends/shifts I experience in testing & test management in particular is the Test Coach as discussed initially here: The Shift-Coach Testing Trend (Oct, 2016). Recently (Aug 2017) it came up again in a Twitter thread, where Stephen Janaway stated the inspiration to the title of this blog post.

Less Test Managers and more coaches. That’s how I see it going.

Fittingly as they inspired the first post with the talk “How I Lost My Job As a Test Manager” presented at Test Bash 2015. This post is a further elaboration of the Shift-Coach test management trend. Here are some of my experiences:

  • I have been assigned to an agile development team to introduce them to 3 Amigos, Test data driven test automation and such things. The purpose of my involvement was to enable the team to continue the practices without me, and without testers besides the business analyst / product owner (See The domain expert is the tester) as they are doing Shift-left. Similar to an agile or scrum coach, my approach was to look at it as a change in the way of working.
  • Another project is an infrastructure project, there are no testers only technicians configuring Cisco routers that by software can replace firewalls, iron ports, VM servers and other network equipment. The project has to implement 80+ of these, so I setup both a test process and an ITIL change request process acting as a test and release manager – another quite frequent trend. I could continue in the project for the duration, but instead I setup guidance and leave when it’s sufficiently in place.

This might be similar to a test architect, a (internal) test consultant activity. It has nothing to do with diminishing testing. Rather I see it as more testing happening, something that would not have been done without the coaching from a test manager. It’s all about finding a test approach that is fit for the context.

Here are some things others have written:

The competence of the test coach is to have enough change management expertise (people skills) and test management expertise (domain skills) to know how to coach and facilitate the change. Should test coaches test too, perhaps when required, but not necessarily. The activity is primarily to up-skill the team to continue on their own.

The “Test Coach” is a trend similar to “shift-left” and all the other shifts in testing and test management. I see it as a pattern, and what I read from the threads and discussions is that many test managers gradually shift towards test coaches.

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Co-creating smarter testers

Co-creating smarter testers” is the byline of the Ministry of Testing, a small company with a great impact that I have been following and supporting for 7 years* now . I have attended TestBash’es, webinars, challenges, discussions and memes. And now for the first time in Denmark – Anders Dinsen and I are bringing the world known Meetups to Copenhagen (Aarhus 2017 you’re next).

Ministry of Testing – Copenhagen

Copenhagen, DK
224 Members

The Ministry of Testing exists to advance the software testing industry in a fun, safe, professional and forward thinking way.Our meetups exist as a way to bring people toget…

Check out this Meetup Group →

The topics so far are:

At the first meetup we split into three groups, discussed risks and how to TEST THEM RISKS. Dearest to me was the discussion of stakeholders and new places to test. Great to see that even with very little information, we can still do a rapid testing based on business objectives. There is so much more to testing these days.

600_457785753

1: since a EuroStar 2010 t-shirt competition 🙂

The Shift-Coach Testing Trend

Shift-Coach is when testers and test managers trends towards being coaches and facilitators of the testing activities. Shift-Coach is more about leading the testing than leading the testers to paraphrase from @DevToTest Joe DeMeyers blog post.

The ground breaker for this trend, is to me, the talk “How I Lost My Job As a Test Manager” presented at Test Bash 2015 by Stephen Janaway. Stephen explains how reorganization of the test manager role forced them to be more a facilitator than embedded in the teams. Similarly many other great test managers talk more and more about people skills and coaching, especially in agile projects. I want to define shift-coach around the facilitation testing activities, and place testers that doubles as scrum masters in the Shift-Deliver trend.

In traditional (v-model) projects testing has often included people that were not professional testers; – in user acceptance tests this has often been business subject matter experts. The testing was done by someone with the best knowledge of the topic, and that may not have been the professional tester. That more and more projects do this – more and more, is a big challenge for many testing folks. But it is a significant trend in testing world of 2016.

Shift-Coach trend is visible when Alan Page  talks at Test Bash Philly 2016:

You’ve heard the rumors, and you’ve seen it happen. An organization or development team decides they don’t need testers, and you have big questions and massive concerns. Is quality not important anymore? Are they irresponsible or idiotic? Are their hats on too tight? Do testers still have jobs?

Alan Page is a career tester who has not only gone through the “no-tester” transition, he’s taking it head on and embracing it. Alan will share experiences, stories, strategies, and tactics (and failures) on how he’s taken everything he’s learned in over twenty years of software testing, and used those skills to have an impact on software engineering teams at Microsoft. Whether you’re going through this transition yourself, think it may be coming, or just want to tell someone what an absurd idea this is, this is the talk for you.

This trend goes along with Shift-Right, Shift-Left and Shift-Deliver discussed separately. I discussed these trend labels at Nordic Testing Days 2016 during the talk “How to Test in IT operations“ and coined the labels on the EuroStar Test Huddle forum.

legocoach
Drive the Testing – Coach!

Publications and Presentations

Presentations, Webinars & Podcasts

Other publications

  • 21st Century Skills For Testers [Collection by Kramer & Ayadi, jan 2021]: apply the 21st-century skills: critical thinking, communication,  collaboration, and creativity.
  • Test Automation for Software-as-a-Service Solutions [Synapse QA SuperReads, Jan 2021]: New tools are breaking ground in this space and have some clear benefits, yet also have to apply some good-old automation practices. https://synapse-qa.com/2021/01/13/automation-for-saas/
  • Could Modern Testing Work in The Enterprise [Guest blog for Panaya, May 2018] So far I have mostly thought that “Modern Testing” of the A/B testing podcast would never work in an enterprise context. But it seems some tools and existing approaches in the enterprises already fits well with the ideas of the concept. http://www.panaya.com/blog/testing/could-modern-testing-work-in-the-enterprise/
  • DevOps is cool, but get involved in OpsDev for Test Environment Management too! [Guest blog post for Plutora, Oct 2017] The hyped mnemonic “DevOps” is equally true the other way around: OpsDev http://www.plutora.com/blog/opsdev-test-environments-management
  • Testing during Transition: Test Criteria for Outsourced Software [Sticky Minds by TechWell, May 2017] In the world of IT outsourcing, it is not uncommon for a company to have its applications and infrastructure developed or maintained by others. How would you design acceptance criteria of a transition trial so that it is testable and clearly communicated? https://www.stickyminds.com/article/testing-during-transition-test-criteria-outsourced-software
  • Using Business Decisions to Drive Your Testing Coverage [Sticky Minds by TechWell, November 2014] In a business setting, software testers have a great challenge: to articulate how they support the business lines. One way to approach this is by addressing the business decisions—and there are plenty around. Use them to drive your testing activities and increase the business decisions being covered by testing. http://www.stickyminds.com/article/using-business-decisions-drive-your-testing-coverage 
  • The answer is: Why – because the answer depends on context.[The Testing Circus,vol.6 2.ed February 2015]: When asked about testing approaches, the options are so plentiful, that the reply is often “It depends” – and followed by a range of elaborations. But in our eager to reply, we forget to listen. http://www.testingcircus.com/february-2015/
  • The Testcases Template Trick – Getting One Testcase To Call Another [EuroStar TestHuddle, Nov 2014]: When doing test analysis I often find that we need to do test some customer feature over and over again for a range of combinations. I recently found myself able to redo a trick I learned a long time ago https://huddle.eurostarsoftwaretesting.com/the-testcases-template-trick/

Articles for The Ministry of Testing, 2011+

  1. Robot Process Automation As A Power Tool For Testing [Ministry of Testing Dojo, Mar 2018]: While there are other power tools for web and API testing, the RPA tools are a class of their own, as RPA tools allow for codeless automation macros on the desktop. RPA tools can do some very handy things. They can be used for both test data and regression testing. In this article, we’ll walk through a real testing example and show how you can get started using RPA. [TOP 6 on the Ministry of testing 2018 article list]
  2. Testing is Shifting [Testing Planet 2017 by the Ministry of Testing, Mar 2017]: Change is the only constant, they say, but we still need to manage change – and cope with it. Coping not only means surviving mentally, but also adjusting to whatever happens and figuring out how to be productive and create value for our stakeholders when things change. [https://dojo.ministryoftesting.com/lessons/testing-is-shifting]
  3. About Closure [The Testing Planet by Ministry of Testing, Nov 2014] When I’m in a testing activity I want my test cases [Passed], my user stories [done] and my coffee [black].  Stuff may have a start point, some states in between and an end state. Let’s look at ways to represent states and articulate the meaning of states. [Reposted: Closing the Gaps]
  4. The Daily Defect Count and the Image of a Camel [The Testing Planet by The Ministry of Testing, April 2014] Count the defects daily – the ones that are part of the project work load. The number goes up and down during the cycle – why and what can you learn? [Reposted: A Track down History ]
  5. The Day Testing Died But Didn’t [The Testing Planet by Ministry of Testing, Jan 2014] To play according to textbooks is fine, up to a certain level. Perhaps up to master level, but not to grand masters. [Reposted: Chess and Testing ]
  6. One Test Case is All You Need [The Testing Planet by The Ministry of Testing, November 2013] If you can come up with just one business transaction – that crystallizes why the customer will be kicking and screaming to want to use your application, then you have a very good understanding of your customer and all you need is that one testcase. [Reposted: One Test Case is All You Need. Original on WebArchive.org]
  7. Recognize and Acknowledge Your Skills [The Testing Planet by the Ministry of Testing, June 2013] What you know and what you do is an important part of being you. Often it is required to rethink: What do I know? What are my skills? How strong are they? [Reposted: https://jlottosen.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/tying-it-all-together/]
  8. The Build-A-Tester Workshop [The Testing Planet by The Ministry of Testing, June 2013] A small social game of Build-A-Tester can be used in a team to open the discussion, less formally than with Belbin and MBTI checklists. [on WebArchive.org]
  9. A Little Track History that goes a Long Way [The Testing Planet by Ministry of Testing, July 2011] The purpose of this tracking tool is to collect just enough data to answer the frequent question “Will we finish on time” [Reposted; A Track down History ]