Testing Services provides a platform for QA professionals to discuss and gain insights in to the business value delivered by testing, the best practices and processes that drive it and the emergence of new technologies that will shape the future of this profession.

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April 29, 2013

Next-Gen QA - ISOLATED TOOLS TO INTEGRATED SOLUTIONS

 

 

Continuing the Next-Gen QA series, in this blog, we take a look at the third parameter that will help in the paradigm shift - ISOLATED TOOLS TO INTEGRATED SOLUTIONS

 

The whole credibility of QA organizations being termed 'independent certifying' units will be at stake unless they adopt a holistic approach and embrace integrated solutions. Test Optimization needs to go one step beyond application testing to cover underlying test infrastructure (environments, hardware and software components), tools, solutions, configuration control and movement. The future will belong to tools and solutions that guarantee similar testing and production environment components (hardware, system and application software) with short provisioning timelines.

 

Listed below are the latest trends/approaches to move towards this direction:

 

Ø  Application Life Cycle Management solutions (ALM), Continuous Integration (CI) will help achieve test optimization right from the requirements phase.

Ø  DevOps solutions will help bring the development and operations teams together to manage an E2E view of an application. Streamlining release deployments from development to production will be the first step.

Ø  Test Data Management tools and solutions will play a significant role in reducing testing effort and achieving data security compliance, both in testing and production (through Dynamic Data Masking).

Ø  Innovative engagement models to support agile development methodologies and Test-driven Development (TDD).

Ø  Performance Engineering and Security Compliance solutions that will extend beyond testing.

Ø  Cloud QA service embedded with Server virtualization through PaaS/SaaS/IaaS models will change the development/QA infrastructure landscape dramatically and reduce the downtime significantly.

Ø  Analyzing and recommending the right set of integrated solutions and audit tools that will help technology organizations achieve quality and excellence at an enterprise level. 

 

To conclude, keep the enterprise vision and goals in mind and accordingly look for integrated solutions rather than looking for tools/solutions to address only QA needs.

 

In my next blog, we will talk about another key parameter - QA BASIC TO QA ADVISORY SERVICE.

 

See you soon.

 

 

 

April 25, 2013

Six key considerations while conducting assessments

On April 18th, 2013, at QUEST 2013 QAI Conference & Expo @ Chicago, Allyson Rippon, Executive Global IT Manager, UBS and I presented our views on establishing a standard for testing activities across the organization. Based on our presentation at the conference, this post will contain some important insights on how to build the brand image of testing across the organization. 

Success of the process improvement initiatives depends on the assessment of current state as it provides inputs to decision making process. However, most of the organizations face complications due to the heterogeneous nature of the Quality Assurance (QA) teams considering that

  • These teams are distributed in several locations across the globe but operate in a federal structure
  • The staffing models they follow could be one or combination of in-house, co-sourced, single vendor or Multi vendor outsourced
  • Different QA processes such as waterfall, agile or iterative etc. are  adopted to the organisations' delivery methodology
  • Projects execution is in multiple technologies (Legacy, package implementations, emerging technologies, integration projects etc)
  • We may see independent QA teams conducting testing or developers executing testing or in some cases business analysts/business users executing testing - Varied QA team autonomy

Challenges

  • The different taxonomy practised by teams resulting in poor communication.
  • Difficulty in identifying common set of processes or deliverables that satisfy the objectives of the process improvement initiative because teams are at different levels of maturity.

Six considerations to reduce the impact of the diverse nature of the teams

  1. Assessment by an independent team - Usually bringing an independent vendor to conduct the assessment will help in fair assessment process of the test process improvement initiative. In case this is not feasible, members from Project Management Office (PMO) or business analyst areas having testing background can be considered for this activity.
  2. The model used for assessment should be capable of providing numerical output based on an acceptable statistical model and should be agreed by the stakeholders before the start of the assessment.
  3. Coverage is a critical element for ensuring validity - The greater the number of data collected; the higher is the confidence of the output from the model. For small organizations, all the QA team members can be easily assessed. However for medium to large organisations a balance has to be struck. Data from more people is desirable and can result in near accurate results, but we always face time and budget pressures. Moreover, when teams of different sizes are assessed, full coverage of small teams and scant coverage of large teams can skew the assessment results. From my experience, I recommend 10-15% of the group size is optimum coverage for an assessment.
  4. Collection of evidence is another critical element to be considered during assessments. Any testing process to be assessed will have a deliverable that is typically maintained in a tool, which may not be same across all the teams. It is recommended that teams declare the tools they are going to analyse for collecting evidence and seek agreement with the stakeholders prior to the start of the assessment.
  5. Typical assessments are a black box to the participants or management until the teams produce the recommendations. However, in process improvement scenarios, it is best to communicate constantly during the assessment process. For example, the participants should be informed of the progress at each step of the assessment process. Also, they should be involved during the recommendation elaboration stage as they are closer to the process and are the best people to provide improvement suggestions.
  6. One of my best practice recommendations would be to maintain complete traceability right from the process improvement objectives (requirements) to the evidence collected, gaps identified and the recommendations. This traceability forces the assessor to ensure complete coverage and demonstrates rigour in the entire process.

April 4, 2013

4DX - The Golden Experience

The sun's scattered rays are too weak to start a fire, but once you focus them with a magnifying glass they will bring paper to flame in seconds. The same is true of human beings--once their collective energy is focused on a challenge; there is little they can't accomplish.

4DXGoldenExperience.jpgA common experience of most test management teams is that they are pretty good in setting goals and targets but more often they don't have a consistent approach to achieve them or are trying to focus on too many things at once.

We might have been sharing the same experience had we not been introduced to Franklin Covey's 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) framework through a 2 day internal workshop conducted by Infosys. 4DX is powerful methodology that helps translate business strategy into laser-focused action. This framework helped us to accomplish a Wildly Important Goal (WIG) of increasing revenue share from specialized services by 7% y-o-y. We achieved this goal 3 months ahead of the target date.

The 4DX Program recommends the following 4 disciplines to be practiced by each test team -

·        Focus on the Wildly Important - Everyone on the team is crystal clear about and committed to the "Wildly Important Goal" (WIG), the one goal that must be achieved.

·        Act on the Lead Measures - Everyone knows and commits to a few "80/20" activities that will have the most impact; then use "lead measures" to track those activities.

·        Keep a Compelling Scoreboard - A compelling scoreboard motivates people to win. We tracked our progress towards this goal regularly by maintaining a dashboard, which also kept track of movement of lead and lag measures, along with the overall target.

·        Create a Cadence of Accountability - Every team engages in a simple weekly "WIG Session" to track successes and analyze failures. Regular meetings with the core and leadership teams helped us to keep the focus on.

Lessons from this Journey

·        Focused approach has helped team to understand the goals better as well as the need to accomplish them

·        Participation from the team/consultative approach has brought in accountability to all team members and has resulted in better results with lesser efforts

·        Due to need for regular reporting on progress of Lead measures, it has become part of daily routine of the team to work in the direction that will help them to achieve the said goals

·        Weekly WIG meeting has helped the team to stay focused

Business Impact on achieving WIG

·        Opening up of new areas with existing customers for new service lines. We have been able to generate revenues by getting into newer areas.

·        Establishing ourselves as leaders in new service offerings

This is a very effective methodology and we are glad to inform you that we are now Gold certified.

April 1, 2013

Benefits realized through Effective Test Data Management

 

EffectiveTestDataManagement.jpgWith significant percentage of effort being spent on Test Data Management (TDM) activities in projects, its benefits are often questioned by clients. Some of the common questions include:

·         Why is a different team needed for provisioning test data for applications being tested?

·         Will this result in reduction in FTE count?

·         What benefits will be realized by having a TDM team?

·         What is the value add TDM team will bring to IT?

 

With various stakeholders, the questions vary depending on their vested interests. However, from my experience I have seen significant benefits being derived by merely following a streamlined process where all the requests are funneled through the TDM team. Below are a few benefits gained by following a structured approach and having a dedicated TDM team. 

·         ~30% effort savings are achieved in overall TDM process due to workflow automation, data request templates, data reuse and overall process improvement

·         Availability of production like data to various test teams eliminates over 5% of integration defects

·         Customized test data to various types of testing - functional, integration, performance, security, etc. there by resulting in no overstepping of test data by various teams

·         Reservation of test data helps avoids rework and data overstepping

·         Traceability of test data to test cases to business requirements helps to understand the test coverage as well as defect pattern

·         Reuse of the test data artifacts leading to reduction of cycle time

·         Optimal sub-setting process and gold copy creation (Gold copy is reusable test data set which could be a full copy from production or a subset or engineered data)

·         Reduced data refresh cycle

·         Reduced CPU utilization due to less volume of data consumed

·         Shared services pool of talents leveraging the best practices, processes, knowledge gained, etc.

·         Reduced IT budgetary spend towards non-production environments

·         Optimization of tools and software licenses

·         Last but not the least, reduction in Carbon footprint due to reduced disk storage and CPU consumption and organizations taking on the Go-Green initiative

The benefits far outweigh the investments made in having a dedicated TDM team and in the long run, organizations will gain much more as there is overall reduction in CAPEX and OPEX due to increased efficiency and effectiveness seen with streamlined Test Data Management and provisioning of data.