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Lean Testing & Early Waste Removal – is it a fantasy? by Ian Howles, Wipro, UK

  • 06/04/2010
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  • Posted by EuroSTAR

As you have started to read this I will assume that you are interested in testing and familiar with the “V” model.   There are others [iterative, incremental, Agile etc] but for the purposes of this article I will use the terminology and methodology that is common.

Let’s start with a common misconception:

Testing is easy and anyone can do it!!!

If that is the case why do we have lots of independent testing companies (large & small) and global system integrators all extolling the virtues of independent software testing, the numbers of skilled  / certified resources they have and how they can save you money by adopting their processes and methodologies.

There are hundreds of reasons why testing is not easy, including but not limited to:

• Systems are increasingly more complex, more complex code, more complex integrations, and more complex business solutions.
• It takes skilled testing resources with the right training and application of experience to do well.

You will of no doubt heard or seen from one of the independent testing companies (large or small) that by removing defects early in the life cycle (left hand side of the “V” model), bottom line costs can be reduced; cycle times cut, defect leakage improved.

The rates of improvement, be it £, € or time vary but they all agree, applying lean practices and removing waste early in the lifecycle is good.

So if it is not a fantasy, how do we do it?

Well you could be forgiven for thinking that you just apply the following and hey presto all will be fine:

• Reviews
· Inspections
· Walk thoughts
· Peer reviews
• Measurement
· Balanced Score Cards
• Techniques
· Risk Based Testing
· etc

But alas it is not that simple. I’m going to use an analogy of driving a car to a destination in order to explain.

You need to know where you are on the map.  If you are in a car and you don’t know where you are a map or a list of step by step direction will not help!

You can use an assessment method such as TMMi ( for this but as long as you know where you are you have a starting point.  Before someone shouts, cars that are fitted with satellite navigation will show you where you are based upon your GPS position, I accept that and the navigation pinpointing where you are is analogous with the assessment above!!

So you now know where you are, but where do you want to go?  What is your destination? It’s the same as identifying your destination on the map.

Now this is where it starts to get complicated.  What if your destination is different to the rest of the organisations, you as the tester / testing manager may want to go to a different place to the development manager, business sponsor or the business user.

Destinations can be based upon many things such as:

• Business domains
· Safety critical,
· Government,
· Retail etc
•Business products
· What is being sold to whom
· Risk appetites
· Agile organisation vs. Non Agile
· etc

Suffice to say, if the destination or goal can’t be agreed on, the directions will fail, the organisation will not reach a common goal and waste removal will continue to be a fantasy and you won’t be able to make the difference that is always extolled in the sales presentations.

It has to be a collaborative destination.  “Share the Goal”

So now you know where you are and you have a common destination, what route are you going to take? Do you want to take the fastest route possible, motorways and dual carriageways or is travel economy more important, what about getting the best miles per gallon (MPG) on the journey or it could even be a balance of the two extremes.

Every journey for every company / team is different.  Everyone starts at a slightly different points and not everyone wants to or needs to get to the same destination.

What is the risk to the journey?

• What is the risk of not making it to the destination? Failure
• What is the impact of not making it to the destination? Cost of failure
• What is the risk of arriving at the destination late?
• What is the impact of late arrival?
• What is the risk of changing direction once on the journey?
• What is the risk of changing the destination?
• What is the risk of an accident on the way?
• What is the risk of not taking the correct passengers with you?

These risks need to be managed, just as you would in a car journey:

• Split your route up into stretches
• Plan and announce your arrival time
• Plan your rest stops along the journey
• Prepare your vehicle for the journey ahead
· Washer bottle
· Fuel etc

Check your route against known diversions or delays

Take a phone along to advise of delays or changes of plan

It’s then a case of starting out on the journey; following the directions and monitoring the road signs to ensure compliance to the map and directions to ensure you are still on the right road.

As with any long journey, you would not undertake the journey without planning to take regular breaks, rest stops, the same is true for organisational journeys, don’t try and change it all at once, start at a project level, do one project or a few at a time (depends on how many change agents you have available) then move on to the next leg of the journey. Once you complete your first leg of the journey let your passengers know; highlight the success before starting the next stretch of the journey.

So you are now on your journey, don’t forget to collaborate, you are not the only driver on the road, it has to be a collaboration between all parties; it is as much to do with relationships as it is to do with process.  Failure to collaborate will result in a crash and once again waste removal will continue to be a fantasy and you won’t be able to make the difference that is always extolled in the sales presentations.  Lack of collaboration, arguments and disagreements along the way are natural, but lose concentration on the journey and the agreed destination and you will crash.

In conclusion:  Lean testing is not a fantasy, but you have to navigate the route very carefully, understand where you are starting from, decide where you want to go, explore the route options (Motorway, Dual Carriage, A / B roads) to ensure that you get the required value (MPG), ensure you are taking the right passengers on the way to reach your destination at the correct date and time for your organisation.

About the author:

Ian Howles works for Wipro Technologies as a Practice Director concentrating on Banking, Insurance, Capital Markets and Government accounts. Ian is an energetic and experienced Testing Consultant with a 22+ year track record of delivery.  With experienced in multiple Software development life cycles in various roles and on different size projects from 5 people to 500 people. With in depth understanding of multiple testing roles including sales, sales support, people management, project management, team management and financial management in addition to his end to end test lifecycle experience.  Ian is a founder member of the UK Testing Board.

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