Search This Blog

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Future of Software Testing?

Well it’s Xmas, and there are a lot of programmes on the TV about the best of 2005 as well as people speculating about the market trends, house prices and economics of 2006. Who am I to leave a good band-wagon behind.......?

Part of my role as a Managing Director is to look forward and see what 'might be', where TCL could fit into it and where we can add value to our clients. For the last 6 years we have done relatively well in this regard, but I am posed by more of a challenge this fact I would say that my answer is still a work in progress!

Primarily, my views are that the convergence of Companies, Commercial Propositions and subsequently systems is driving a lot of the IT change we are involved with. It seems to be a world wide, multi sector trend, and areas such as VoIP, Mobile, Data, Fixed line and ISP convergence is a good example of how things are unifying. Let me give you a highlight from BT. You can now take out a Mobile tariff and join it with an ISP, landline and VoIP bill. The systems you have at home enable you to have a wireless (and wired) LAN, and when you come home your mobile will act as your home (fixed line) phone - routing calls through VoIP or your fixed line as desired. It’s brilliant because its simple (almost seamless) for the user, it’s cost effective and it’s easy to buy (online).

The challenges we face as testers of this kind of technology include:
The size of it all - things are getting smaller. Usability requirements are very different. The scale of the interfaces and joined up thinking across the organisation though is much much bigger. Needing good solid design work to make it a reality rather than a travesty.
The Complexity - lots of things in the same place. To test it you have to know a lot more, about a lot more things
Time to Market - the competition is fiercer than it used to be and time to market drivers are more acute in a lot more of the sectors. A statistic I was given at a recent networking dinner was that a new software product is outdated/superseded or competitively out priced within 16 months of its launch. Projects cannot last a year or two in domains like that
Data - lots more data in even embedded systems. The performance of the systems handling this data and the security / integrity of the data in the system and more often now across the Internet is on everyone’s minds - although not necessarily in the design!
Price - Excessive pricing is no longer tolerated. Quality and Innovation may be differentiators but in markets such as mobile telcos where there is near customer saturation the cost mark (even for very innovative products) is essential to get right.

So how does this shape the future of testing? It would point towards a necessity for more Non Functional Testing, for better, quicker design and for testers that can do more and know more about a lot more things. The future of software testing therefore is rooted in proactive, professional development. Significant specialism in some areas and amazingly competent all-rounders for others.

The thing is though; there is a doubt in my mind generated by History. Love it or loathe it, you just can’t ignore history. You see when I first started in testing I was lucky enough to work in defence. We had a very mature product, in a very mature industry and the testing processes had been evolved over 20+ years to something akin to clockwork. Many of the key features brought up at today’s conferences were already common practise even then. Regression testing, testing of requirements, TTRM/VCRIs etc all sorted. So where's the new stuff? Where's our evolution? How are so many people working in 'testing' by doing exactly the same thing every day?

We thought that automation was the key to the future, and indeed I have heard that said many times in the last ten years. But look around and you see that circa 85% of all testing is still manual. So what happened? Were there no market drivers to encourage time to market initiatives, innovative approaches or change? Did no-one do this? Well a lot of us did, but why didnt it become a uniform approach?

And finally, we have all seen the need for better professional development within testing but after all this time there are still very few Universities who even mention it as part of a Computer Science Degree let alone Research and Develop it. Certification courses really are in their infancy and we spend a great deal of time reminding people that testers have to be able to test not just push paper. There isn’t an industry body, a globally accepted and common practise standard and there are commercial interests getting in the way of the true development of better tools, techniques and practises.

So if History has taught me anything its that Software Testing has been pretty much stagnant over the last 10 years (In a way like the surface of the earth seems flat from space) . An industry of silos for a long time and in fact the last 10 to 15 years haven’t really got us substantially further forward as a community.

This leads me to an interesting thought....
For me Software Testing will only have a different future from what we do now if there is a period of commercial consolidation and consistent governance/control of standardisation. This isn’t needed just in the UK, but worldwide. There is enough financial reward in software testing for this to start happening, and indeed some companies in software testing have now floated - generating capital to invest in such consolidation. When this starts to happen we might just see the merging of practices across industries and sectors generating a new level of collective competence and standards which will drive the way we work, the skills we need and the development of people that the industry needs to get on a par with other areas of IT, and perhaps start to lead the way.

The future of Software Testing in my eyes is in Unification and collective advancement. Let's see if 2006 proves me right.

Merry Xmas 2005 Everyone. I wish you all the best for 2006, and look forward to meeting up with many of you at StarEAST in May.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Certification Programmes

Well my colleagues seem to be debating the pros and cons of certification programmes at the moment, and I have a couple of views on that so here goes......

I feel that the primary reason certification programmes exist is to set a standard, and this is a good thing. Testing has historically been seen as the IT backwater - where you go if you cant do anything well, or they cant think where else to put you. This is / was a reputation that was not good for testing as a whole, and any move to systematically remove that poor perception of what we do is something I welcome.

There are three areas that I feel are a bit astray at the moment with regards to certification:
  1. Practical Skills - Most importantly testing is a practical subject. It can be argued therefore that any certification programme without practical, useful, applicable skills is not really good enough. At present exams like ISEB Foundation and Practitioner don't seem to contain any 'hands on' stuff - and this diminishes the value of the qualification and thus the very standard (or 'bar') we were trying to set is perceived as lower.
  2. Standards Body - Any standards body will be having a headache trying to make a one size fits all programme that incorporates aptitude, practical and theory across development methodologies, industries and even countries. The key here however is consultation and I don't know how you can get involved in influencing and changing the certification programmes for the better.
  3. Commercial Interruption - My feelings on free trade and the removal of commercial barriers are very positive in general, but when it comes to certification and qualification programmes I feel that commercial interests should take a back seat. The current state of our market place, the money to be gained from training programmes and the commercial interests of some people who are involved with the certification side of things has, in my opinion corrupted areas of the usefulness of the current courses. There are areas of study within these courses devoted to commercial, trade marked methods and this goes a long way to creating an improper social construct of reality that these methods are a standard in their own right. Also for a majority of training providers the focus is on churn rather than quality of delivery and this generates content to the courses and behaviors in teaching that are improper.

So, what I would like to see happening is for the certification programmes to be more deeply routed into a more academic mind set. One where the standards would be set to achieve the right balance between Aptitude, Practical Skills and Theory - and they should link directly to / or perhaps from - qualifications such as University Degree courses. This will help to set a uniform bar without as much commercial influence.

Most importantly though, it must be time for the certification groups to extend consultation groups into centres of testing excellence and get some practical skills and measures into the programmes. Let people learn to test and show how good they are. Lets build on the idea of being an expert tester and show people how to approach anything, absolutely anything, with a testing mindset. Lets see more people adopt the tactics of James Bach, John Bach, James Lyndsay, Mark Garnett and James Whittaker in bringing people down this path and lets see some measure of this skill that shows how valuable it is. After all it isn't everyone that can do it!

In summary then, I feel that these certification programmes are a good start,
but they just aren't good enough right now. Time for a change. Time to
prove that testing is BRILLIANT and Expert Testers have a real,
valuable place in the IT landscape.

What do you think? Let me know your opinion - or take a look at the Blogs of Mark Garnett and/or James Bach to see some more opinions on this topic.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Security Testing Training - Public Course (March 2006)

Just spent the day out in Paris today, which has been good fun.

This time of year seems to agree with Paris. Lots of hussle and bussle and the Xmas lights look great.

While I have been out here I have made a provisional agreement for TCL to host a public training course in Security Testing, located in London (UK), in March 2006.

If anyone is interested then there will be something on the TCL website early next week ( and if you are really keen to get involved then you can contact Katie at our Exeter office (+44 1392 262 343) to register your interest and provisionally book a place.

I am very excited about the course because it is something we are putting together as part of a joint venture, and it is the first part of our journey into the security testing space in 2006. Its an area I personally find very interesting, but dont currently have much ability in :) Hopefully I will learn something as the course will be delivered by experts!

A public course means that there will be a mixed group of people to meet with and share ideas. With a bit of luck it might feel a bit like a mini conference, over two days.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Who am I?

Here's a bit from my resume ......

Founder and now Managing Director of Transition Consulting Limited (TCL), Stewart has experience from consultancy in the Defence, Gas, Electricity, Telecoms and Media markets. After completing a Masters Degree in Physics Stewart joined GEC Marconi CIS as a Graduate on a development programme to be a tester and has thus a relatively unique background in that he has always been a tester.

TCL now has circa 50 consultants, working with clients across Europe and Stewart is leading the development of the company, training and thought leadership towards its BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) of becoming a world wide centre of testing excellence.

Stewarts first industry presentation was at StarWEST 2005 and has previously attended STAREAST and EUROSTAR.

And here's a suitably cheesy picture :)

More information on Stewart and TCL can be found at

What Value in Values?

The StarWEST presentation on Aligning Corporate values and Test Strategies brought out some thinking in my mind about values - particularly personal values and how they fit into every day life - and in the work place.

'Society as a whole has lost its focus' – it’s a statement in a lot of MBAs and a lot of articles in places like the Harvard Business Review. They postulate that for a lot of people – particularly in the west - there is no Church to centralise their morals, values or community. Nor does the state provide this function. In fact after school age there is very little out there except the company/corporation in which we work.

Now this poses a bit of a paradox. Corporations by their nature are set up to deliver shareholder value – not necessarily value to the employees so in effect what we do (and the dollar value of that) is more important to how we do it. But if these organisations are the last bastion of social integrity then surely the how, the moral, the ethical should be much more joined up than this? When considering this idea for each CEO the question will always be ‘what value are values?’ and for each of us the question is 'How do my values fit into every day?'

A first level summary is that effective team working is contingent on shared goals, and a key part of this being an alignment of values around those goals. Sharing positive values such as truth, trust and integrity will bring with it more open dialogue and effective communications. It will also open up the team to innovate and change – hopefully for the better – and create a more evolutionary organisation.

At a higher level it is important to recognise that we are spending an increasing amount of time at work, making sacrifices and decreasing time in other parts of our lives as a result. The time spent at work should therefore be something that we want to do, not just have to do, as well as enjoy. This isn’t going to happen everywhere, and it isn’t going to always happen as a direct function of the organisation. There is a lot we can do as individuals to make it real and make it work for us.

Now there are some people out there who would question a lot of this, and talk about corporate brain washing and the effect a 'McDonalds like mantra' can have on individuals. I feel that those people have a valid point, but have missed the essence of what I am trying to convey.

For me the value of values comes from embracing the positive side of your own values and finding an organisation that shares them. Then by proactively adopting those values each day within the organisation and encouraging others do so as well we create an environment that we are all part of, want to be in, enjoy and get something out of. We will be more effective as a unit, more passionate about our work and know that each day we are contributing positive energy to the achievement of goals. This means we are making the organisation work for us, not the other way around. There is no need for a McDonalds like Mantra unless it fits to your own values and goals to have one.

The longevity of organisations both large and small is dependent on this being understood throughout the cultural programmes and by everyone in their own way making conscious decisions about how they take their values to work.

I understand Edward de Bono has done some work in this area and am off to look for his book. If you have any really interesting stuff that would be useful in my research please let me know.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The TCL Vision

Transition Consulting Limited (TCL) has been founded on a vision, which has three constituent parts:
Core Purpose

The Core Purpose of the company is: ‘To Deliver World Class solutions in software testing that are Innovative, Structured and Professional’.

The Values of the company are denoted by the T.I.G.E.R. acronym which stands for:
T- Truthful
I – Independent
G – Good Willed
E – Energetic
R – Realistic.

The Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) for the company is to become a world wide, world class centre of testing excellence by 2020. By this we mean that we want to be a centre of testing excellence that can (if required) deliver to any industry, in any country.

When the company was established, the share holders identified that true value to them was less delivered in fiscal terms but more in the work that they do and the enjoyment of the opportunities that it led to. This vision is therefore something that is very personal to the founders of the company and to maintain it during periods of growth is critical to the overall success of everyone involved.

TCL take the vision to the heart of everything that goes on in the company and to this end has set up an action team of Key Stakeholders and representatives from across the company to help define, document and action tasks that will contribute to its advancement. The team is managed by the Managing Director and output from the team is fed into an agenda item on the Management Team meetings. It is also published on the company extranet.

This Vision Key Stakeholder Team operates as a ‘think tank’ within the company with objectives as follows:

Clearly define the true meaning of the vision
Identify how T.C.L. can change
to align more closely with the vision
Run, and contribute to, internal
projects at T.C.L. to facilitate these changes
Carry the message of the
vision to each site and provide a conduit for information and feedback from
other members of T.C.L. and clients.
To understand the vision is to understand where TCL has started from, and where we intend to go. The clients we work with, the way that we set up our teams and deliver are all reflections of the vision and how well we are moving in line with it. The business plans each year reflect strategic objectives that will bring the company closer and closer to the 2020 goal. This should be defined and clearly communicated so that everyone can understand what TCL is hoping to achieve with each change and idea.

The biggest single key to the success of the TCL Vision is involvement. Information is published on the extranet, presentations are given at each party and the vision team themselves are present on site for discussions to take place. In addition to this, guests are invited to the vision meetings (monthly) so that additional feedback and contributions can be gained. More involvement is needed though and ideas are welcome from every part of TCL.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


STARWEST 2005 was brilliant.

About 900 people attended. Some for the whole week (like us) and some just for the main conference days. Everyone I met was interested in testing, open to learning and open to sharing experience, knowledge and ideas. BRILLIANT!

At this conference I was privileged to be asked to speak, and my topic was 'Aligning Test Strategies with Corporate Goals'. It was a topic close to my heart. An area I am very passionate about and it was incredibly exciting to get the opportunity to share my ideas with such a large group. I presented on first day of the main conference (Wednesday) on track W6. If you take a look at you can get some details on the presentation. If you want a copy of the presentation then send me an email and I'll see what I can do.

The primary message from the presentaiton is that Organisations seeking long term success need to create good strong team working. Team working itslef is contingent on achieving shared goals between the organisation and the people involved (in the team) and to do this is difficult. In taking responsibility for our position in the organisation as testers, we can look to the company Vision, Values and Goals to shape our testing effort and gateway criteria. This helps to join up the thinking around new products and services, generates the shared goal approach and also delivers targetted strategic value to the organisation in a way that senior managers, Executives and Board members can understand.

It was my first presentation at a STAR, and there are a number of lessons learnt from the experience - not least around the logistics and set up of such a large room. There were also lessons to be learnt around the idea that to present to a STAR conference, and particularly to large audiences (like at the Key Note speaches) you need to be part entertainer as well as a subject matter expert.

You also need to be open to debate and constructive criticism about your ideas. Only by accepting all of these can you hope to achieve what I regard as success: That someone comes up to you afterwards and says 'I feel inspired by what you have said and am going to give these ideas a try'. I was lucky enough to get this response from a number of people at this, my first presentation. But dont get me wrong, I would have loved it if everyone who attended had said it.

So, what else could I do? If you were there at the conference I would be interested to hear from you on the presentation content and style. Good? Bad? Constructive feedback all warmly welcomed.

So what are we doing here?

I have just come back from STARWEST 2005 in Anaheim, and while I was there someone asked if I was blogging yet? The answer was 'no', but I had no reason as to why that was.

Then I gave it some thought and realised there were two very important reasons as to why I should be and they are as follows:
  1. At TCL we have a set of values, which we hold dear and look for in everything we do. The foremost of these values is Truthful, and by opening up the thinking and discussions around the company to a public domain I can demonstrate the true commitment to this value
  2. Sharing of knowledge is essential to the development of software testing as a community. I enjoy the experience of conferences like STARWEST, and wanted to ensure that the sharing, confering and learning is continuous.

So here we are.

I have set the Blog up to cover Software Testing, TCL and the vision for the company. There's a lot going on in all three of those areas and I hope that you gain value from reading about things. I also look forward to comments, ideas and sharing that come as a result of this effort.


Google PageRank

Blogpatrol Traffic Statistics