Keeping with the recent theme about freedoms I want do discuss testing with 3rd parties,  we can even add different departments within an organization as well. In the past 20 years more and more applications and back end systems have required to be more integrated than ever. Most of this is due to basic business logic of identifying value and whether it is better to buy (or subscribe to service) or to build.

Prior to Y2K (I just twitched as I wrote that) most organizations built what they needed to succeed. Now time to market was fairly long and Agile was not as widespread as it is today so it made sense to build. Also different departments were rarely integrated. Then the internet came into play and things changed. People were getting access to stuff they never thought possible and wanted more. Exponentially the demand for information grew. Along with that the demand to do transactions online as well instead of going to a store. It snowballed to something quite amazing because it forced organizations to adjust to meet those demands and also become innovated to catch a bigger piece of the market and improve client satisfaction.

So here is where things started to get tricky, to build what was needed would take a lot of work and speed to market is everything. What started to happen was companies started to form to only focus on key components to sell to larger organizations. What this did was  make the “Buy vs Build” decision making a key process to help improve value. Why spend time building something when somebody else already did and we can get it at a fraction of the costs? Also we don’t have to support it. Sometimes it makes sense to do that.

This also happens within an organization as well. The best example I can come up with is the banking industry and the use of the internet. Online banking has become such a big part of most peoples lives they take it for granted the amount of work that went into a site that shows your account balance and do almost all transactions you can do at an actual branch and you can do it sitting at the dinning room table with a nice cup of coffee in hand. There are so many departments and divisions that need to work together it is amazing.

Wow that took a little longer than what I wanted, none the less if you were not part of the growing pains myself and a lot of the experienced (that sounds better than old) individuals were we can now move on to the topic at hand.

I have worked and seen other groups focus so much effort on working with other groups or organizations that they become obsessed with testing with them to get work done. Now I do agree that there is a need to ensure that integration between systems are tested it is a must. The question that really needs to be asked is; do we really need to wait for someone to exercise our code? My answer is no, and I am sure that most of you that do any sort of SOA or transaction testing would agree.

For me as long as the Format, Content, and Layout have been defined (doesn’t have to be fully defined at first it can be done in Agile or Iterative fashion) teams can test their code before integration starts. Why not? Does the code know where the information is coming from? No, it is not like asking someone to hand you something from the other end of a table. Code expects to see something in a specific location and in something that it is coded to understand and process. Here is an example:

System flow A

Here is a very high level view of sending information between systems. Now I know most people I talk with understand the simulation of data and sending transactions through, yet this concept is still foreign to others even with a lot of literature out there about it. In the end it is a very simple process to exercise all the code you can without the wait.

System flow B

Now teams are in more control of the data that comes and goes. It is hard to do and not very fun to get started. Once you do the quality of what comes out should improve. Development can start doing some quick integration tests to make sure nothing goes awry. If you look at it from a certification perspective where sometimes you have to pull use specific data to run through the system, now you can.

Taking control of what you do as a team to get code out is important, relying on others outside of your control could cause delays or even frustration if issues arise and now it turns into a blaming session as to who’s fault it is. Stuff like that will put the progress of the product to a complete stop.

I am sure that this blog entry is what some of you and your teams are doing. My hope is that for those that don’t can use this to foster conversations here or other areas to help them get to where they need to go.

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