Third party testing

Third party testing is something that can cause some heated debates on whether to use them or not. The effect they have on an organization and quality of the output.  Here I will put in my two cents and will carry the conversation more if anyone wants.

For me I have no issue with it. Now with that said there are some conditions I have, that I will go through (if not this will be a very short post), and I will also go through the arguments that I have heard on the subject (with my take, of course)

Here are my conditions though I have:

They are used for staff augmentation and not just cheaper labour.

Want a good way to get a bad reputation is replace full time staff (letting them go) to be replaced by a third party resource. Here is a good example of some bad press when that particular model is done.

Staff augmentation is meant to cover off the additional workload so that teams can produce more, when needed. When using a Third party vendor they have the ability to bring on resources with the skill sets needed at a faster pace than hiring processes in North America. Usually within a week or two you can have a resource in the system starting to get some work done. Compared to a usual hiring process it could take a month.

They are resource to scale. Most of the third party vendors that I have worked with can get 1 to 10 people in a short period of time. That is there business model and it is done well on most days. You may get the odd hiccup or delay, yet based on needs it is still quicker.

Most Third Party resource vendors also allow for quick turnaround. What I mean is if a resource is not working out as planned or they decide to leave that organization they can bring someone in fairly quick. Or if things start to slow down for your organization or there are budget cuts needed they can be let go first and allow for a core team of full time employees to stay unaffected to continue work. When I say unaffected I mean: not let go.

There are other advantages, as well as disadvantages to using a third party model. For that I will go into a little more detail during the arguments that I here regarding the model’s use.

Argument #1 – You are going to replace our jobs to them.

When I first heard this argument I would scoff at the idea. That was until stories, like the one above, happened a few years ago. I always thought it was about augmenting the staff to meet the needs of the workload. I still believe that and still lead by it. There is still a part of me that is cautious and willing to defend when needed.

What I believe is that when using a third party it is actually going to bring in more work and that work will be more fulfilling as the easy, menial tasks can be handed off to the additional resources. It makes total sense and it is generally how the model works. I will get into why with the second argument point.

Argument #2 – They don’t know the system.

Yep, you’re right. Here is the catch: so would any new employee who walks into the door onsite. There is going to be a learning curve and the work they will be doing at first will not be difficult or intricate. An organization would not take a junior analyst who just came in to work on day one and assign them a multi point of failure set of test cases then walk away. That is a recipe for disaster. So why would we expect the same for someone that is on the other side of the world that is starting to work with you?  They are there to help and will need to have a good training system in place to provide that.

Argument #3 – The time delay is unmanageable.

If that was the case nobody in North America would follow this model. Yet there are a lot of very successful organizations that use this model very well.

There are so many communication and workflow tools out there that the time zone difference is more of an annoyance then anything. As well my experience has shown that they are willing to work around our schedules and ensure there is proper communication between the two locations.

There are other arguments out there and, to me, they are based out of the fear of the unknown. If a company is just starting to use this model and nobody has been through it before, it can be scary.  Once they open up and accept it for what it is, Staff augmentation, it can be beneficial to everyone. The opportunities of innovation can start to arise as the trivial work can go to the additional resources while the teams onsite can focus on more “fun stuff” while looking at ways to do things better.

I think the one key thing that I need to stress, I have said it throughout this post, it is all about staff augmentation. This has to be realized from top management down and it must remain consistent. Any deviation from that and it will erode trust throughout, which in turn will erode productivity and finally quality.

 

 

Accountability

Does anyone remember the comic “Family Circus” and the character “Not me”? Little would we know reading that we would hear similar story lines in the workplace.

Every now and then we will experience “Not part of my job description” or “we are not responsible for that”. This has been heard all to often when something needs to be done right away or when a critical issue occurs. It is something that is not conducive to a fully functioning team. When I say team I mean organization.

To shift accountability is like a defenseman  on a hockey team not willing to get in deep of the opposing team’s end to help the offence or visa versa. We all have a part to play in ensuring the success of the the organization and with good leadership it should not be an issue to step up and say “my fault”.

To me that seems to be the biggest issue in accepting accountability is saying those two words. When it happens, and it will happen we are human after all, those that are accountable should learn from the issue and work towards it not happening again. With the right leadership others within the team should step in and help make things better.

The reason? John C. Maxwell’s book “The 21 irrefutable Laws of Leadership” law number  5 – The Law of Addition. In very simple terms this law states that everyone helps everyone regardless of the level of authority. Build people up and in turn you build te organization. If I were to look at this law with my Jiu Jitsu path. As I am writing I am one promotion away from achieving my black belt. Years and years of learning, training, competing and sacrifice has gotten me here along with one other thing, helping those around me. See if I just went in throughout my training being selfish and not willing to help the lower belts and to push the higher belts I would still be where I am, belt wise, yet I wouldn’t be fulfilled.  My game would be useless against most competitors at my level, since nobody pushed me, take what I taught them and use it against me.

In all honesty, as much of an honour it is to have that black belt around my waist, I can wait. See like most leaders, I am not concerned about titles. I am happy when I get to see others around me succeed. Yes I am a Sr. Director and I use that title to help as many people as I can. All it means is I have the ability to reach more people.

Sorry everyone I got a little off topic and will discuss more about leadership in other posts. For now it is all about accountability. It is something that is needed for an organization to survive. Missing it, even for a small fraction, creates an environment where there is lack of trust and no transparency. Over time it will grow like a cancer and cause issues throughout.

It is a good thing to stand up and show that you are accountable for your actions. It shows true leadership skills that will take you far, while also giving you the feeling of fulfillment

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Sorry for the delay

Hello everyone,

 

I am so sorry for not posting in a very long time. As some of you know I travel and compete every year (for the past few years) to the IBJJF World Masters tournament. So normally for the past few years my summers are very hectic, aside from my family and work, my training goes into overdrive.

Normally I would pick things back up and catch you all up with my QA corner sections in SPaMCAST and things would be good. Unfortunately life got in the way (everything is ok just got super busy) and I couldn’t get my thoughts down on here.

Good news is soon you will all be caught up. The bad news is I will be busy over the next week or so to get all caught. It is not really bad news, I see it as a lighting a fire to get things going.

With the craziness I have been dealing with I have had the opportunity to read a few good books on leadership.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and The 21 Indispensible Qualities of a Leader by John C. Maxwell. As well I have been re-reading Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why. I needed to get my mind back into the swing of things. I found I started to get complacent and not giving it my best as a leader. There is always room for improvement. As I have always said “I am not an expert”. There are published works out there that state that and it has stuck with me ever since I read it. Being an expert means that there is no room to grow and we all know that is not the case.

So over the next couple of weeks I will be not only catching you all up on my podcasts, I will also be adding more of my views of leadership so that we can all grow together.

On a couple of notes:

My trip to the World Masters got me to the second round for the second year in a row. The experience is something that is hard to describe. There are so many legends in the sport that compete or are there as a spectator I sit there in awe. Don’t get me wrong I want to win and I try to win. It is one of the toughest tournaments out there. One of the best quotes that is used in the sport: “you don’t lose, you learn”. I use that outside of the mats at home and at work. We should all use it.

Secondly, I have been selected to teach at course at QAI QUEST 2019 in Chicago, as well as do a one hour track session. The course will be a very hands on course using techniques to discover the QA discipline Why statement. This is based on Simon Sinek’s books and I am looking forward to finding out what we come up with.

The one hour session is on estimation. We will look at some of the pitfalls and common mistakes that are not intentionally done while finding ways to get around them.

I am looking forward to 2019 in so many ways and I will close out 2018 on QA corner strong with content that will be useful to all of you. Thanks for hanging in there during my absence.

Post QUEST 2018

It has been a week since I got back home from an amazing week at QUEST in San Antonio. The conference had great discussions and sessions where ideas were shared.

Being identified as a Thought Leader and working through the Managers workshop was a little surreal. As some my readers know I am not one to pat myself on the back. I like to help and work with others with taking no credit, I like to hide in the shadows. During the week I had a lot of people come up to me and ask for advice or ideas to help them. It was such a great feeling to have people coming up to me and having thoughtful discussions on anything QA. There were times some of the conversations were on leadership issues as well.

As with any conference there was a lot of information passed around and there were a couple of things I made specifically sure I followed up on more: Team building tasks and AI.

Team building tasks are always welcomed. As any leader knows there is no one way to get a team to gel and provide the best work possible. The more tools we have in our tool box the more we can be effective with what we do with our teams. I provided some suggestions to some individuals there on what they could do and they were very appreciative that I was approachable.

AI is the next big thing and we need to get out on that wave to make our lives a little easier. The discussions I attended talking about it gave me some great ideas to bring into my organization and to add more topics into my writings (Blog and Book). I look forward to learning more about it and providing my spin on it.

Last but not least the one special thing I love about going to QUEST is seeing old friends from all over the world from previous conferences and meeting new ones. My kids got a little jealous that I met a few people that work on Pokemon games and sites. The outings and other social events helped bring people out of their daily routines and forget for a little while the stresses of work.

I’m looking forward to sending in my proposals for sessions next year. Again thanks goes out to everyone involved in the conference you guys did a great job.

QAI QUEST 2018

In less than a month I will be participating at the QAI QUEST conference in San Antonio. This will be the fourth time I will be speaking and I am just as excited about going this year as I was the first time.

It is a great opportunity to see others within the discipline getting together to share ideas, discuss multiple topics and have healthy debates on topics. It is a very structured event with multiple thought leaders there to help improve how we as a community can grow.

This year will be even more exciting for me as I will be one of the leads that will be participating in the Manager’s workshop helping other QA leaders in a collaborative environment to find solutions for problems they are encountering within their groups. This is an opportunity that I am not taking lightly. I am glad to share my hurdles and my thought process of getting past them.

Some of the topics I would be participating in are:

Communication

Estimation

Best practices

CoE

To name a few.

As well as the Manager’s workshop I am also doing a workshop within the conference on Writing TDD Test Cases to Support Manual and Automation Execution . 

I will be showing some techniques I have learned over the past couple of decades on documenting test cases from Unit test to full functional all the while making things clear for automation scripts to be created along the way.

The intent will be to show different ways of looking at things to see where improvements can be made with tweaks.  Since it is a workshop there will be some hands on activities to get more senses involved in the learning process. This way here things will be better retained.

If you are already signed up for the conference I look forward to seeing you there. If not you should take a look and see if you can go. It is always a great learning experience.

 

Risk management and testing

Risk aversion, that is the name of the game. That is what we do in QA, we help determine risks and work through some mitigation or treatment.

Throughout a project there are different views of risk and the ones that get the biggest notice is for the overall project itself. What is the risk to the organization or customers? What are the financial impacts? The ROI? There are plenty of risks identified and decisions are made.

Now the project has started and things move along until, bam, something happens and a bottleneck or worse a complete stop happens and the project is in danger. Happens a lot. So why? Why is it that with all the risks that are assessed at the beginning of a project that issues during development seem to have been overlooked or improperly assessed?

From my experience most of these issues occur either just before or during the execution of any sort of testing. The environment was not set up right. Test data not there. Partners not ready to test. These are just a few reasons that I have come across where things go bad.

Is it something that someone in QA did not foresee? No, we all have identified risks before in any sort of planning. What I feel the issue is that nobody listened until it was too late. I have had a lot of conversations with senior management on why things are they way they are. Those are not fun conversations because it usually ends up that the risks were identified just not added to the overall risks or that it was too late to do anything. Normally the latter is the case.

So what can we do? Obviously the status quo is not going to work. Senior leadership needs to have a better understanding of the entire picture before decisions are made. Do they need to see all the details? No, they just need to understand that there are some potholes in the path they want to take and they can figure out how to navigate them. In Value of QA I go into detail how knowledge management can improve everything across an organization and how QA has a clear defined role in doing so.

QA: Quality Assurance: Trying to avoid issues from happening. There is no reason why risks to testing initiatives should be identified in a project’s risk assessment. Senior management makes assumptions that testing efforts will be easy once everything is built. Then they start getting anxious when it doesn’t. As a discipline we should be preparing them for those moments.

Now is identifying the risks all that is needed? No, there must be a plan. Well two actually: A mitigation plan and a treatment plan.

Mitigation plans should be relatively easy. What are you going to do to make sure this doesn’t happen? It takes a little forethought and in the end has a good chance of working out.

Where I see things need work is a treatment plan. I have rarely seen a treatment plan outside of what I do. In most of my conversations I have heard that when things go bad it is usually an all hands on deck scenario with meetings all over the place to point blame more then come up with a solution. There is no need for that. There is no reason a treatment plan can be decided upon from the start. What would a treatment plan do? Well first off it would reduce the noise as to who is to blame and should get right to the solution.

Having a plan A and B is great, yet having other scenarios thought of is better. I am not saying that every scenario needs to be thought out. There is not time for that. Going with the more probable situations is the best way then having a high level plan of attack for the improbable scenarios. Just a here are the steps we will follow to get us back on track.

Risk treatment seems to be something that in QA should get more focus. Using that and getting more involvement with stakeholders early will help overall with avoiding the big potholes, or at least having the material with you to keep things moving forward.

Building testing skills

In the over 25 years I have been in the QA discipline I have come across two types of discussions about testing skills.

1 – It is an art and it is inherently it is a trait within an individual that cannot be truly taught.

2 – It is a mindset that can be taught and flourished to get the right outcomes and succeed.

I stand with option 2. Anyone can be taught anything and have them understand what it is they need to do to have the right mindset. Much like developing code or writing requirements it is all about how much you enjoy doing it and the ease it is to understand what is being done.

I have come across individuals that just couldn’t get how to test software. They understood the processes and what was needed they couldn’t understand how to get the tasks done effectively. Does that mean they were bad testers? No, from my view was that it was not framed in a way for them to get it completely.

One of the things that I have a hard time with with the multitude of courses out there regarding QA and testing. Some of them are really good and provide the understanding of true QA and how testing is a small component of a very big thing. There are others that just focus on testing and work on just the execution, not really providing the reason as to why they are doing what they are doing.

I have even come across some colleges that provide courses in QA. The descriptions I have read on a couple don’t give the real indications of what QA actually means and solely focuses on testing. When I researched these course it was a few years ago. A couple of them now have been discontinued with those schools. I can see why, partly because they never really gave the value this discipline has.

I have stated before I would love to see an entire program on QA within a college. Why not? They have them for engineering and development. It only makes sense.

In the meantime, here is what I do to build the skills of anyone that wants to do QA and testing.

1 – Get them to ask questions? They don’t have to get into the full details of what is going on, yet they should ensure they are getting enough details to get the job done effectively. Understand how the code works. When I first started QA and Testing I went overboard on writing cases and doing work. Since I didn’t understand the flow it got out of hand and a lot of duplication of work.

2 – Think efficient. To many times I have seen inefficient was of testing work that took too long to get done. Line up the cases in a flow, be smart about recording results, don’t write cases that are big.

3 – Review, review, review. This is one of the most important things I stress. Everyone within the delivery team should all agree to what the expected outcome a test is or that there is enough detail in requirements/stories to get moving on development.

The interesting thing here is what I just talked about is nothing new. There is plenty of literature out there that says basically the same thing. So if that is the case why is it difficult to build the skill set? Who knows, maybe management lack of understanding, conflicting views of what it means within the discipline, or no time to get that knowledge.

I fell if, at the very least, the three base methods I provided will give guidance to search out that knowledge. Get what is needed to improve professionally and the organization as well.

For me personally I am trying to draw out plans for a proper college program for QA, and I mean true QA. Obviously there will be some components of how to test, where I want to really focus is on Quality Assurance with Software. I want to build the community and help show the value.