Search This Blog

Monday, November 09, 2009

Zappers = PEST + More Testing Fun!

Anyone who has been following the migration of the PEST events into the new format Zappers will hopefully have taken a look at the new community website and realised that this is now taking off with a very different flavour of its own.

I was at the last event in Bristol and it was brilliant, competitive and lots of fun. Take a look at the video that Guy and the team published today:

It is my hope that now Zappers has become its own entity, and is receiving support and sponsorship from a variety of places it can go on to become the true community initiative we had always hoped it would be.

Over the next few months I believe we are going to see more from the Universities and students along with the expansion of the calendar for 2010 to include USA west coast and east coast events along with those in Bangalore and the UK. The first phase website is also going to get a big lift in phase 2 to become the hub for the community and the events.

If you want to hold your own Zappers event then please get in contact with Guy or Cat via the main site and they'll let you know what you need to do!

Zappers = PEST + More Testing Fun! that's for sure :)

The TCL Vision and BHAG

It's the time of year when TCL starts to think about the challenges it faces and how to align progress and investments next year to the vision for the company.
While we do a lot of things inside the organisation to this effect, I also like to share the outline for our BHAG to everyone - and indeed anyone that will listen ;) - as I feel it helps for everyone in and around the organisation to understand what makes TCL different and why we quest for the World Class status..........

Our company has been founded on a vision. This vision is at the heart of everything we do, and so it's important that you understand it, that you debate it, that you recognise what you do and how you can work in the best ways to advance the company towards its goals.

We've set our biggest goal with a target date of 2020. If we can get there quicker it would be fantastic and will enable us to dream again and set another big goal for the future of the organisation that we want to see go on for a long into the future. It is only when we work together as a team, across all the sites and all the operations, that we will get to the goals we have set out and all get the most from the journey that is TCL.
So let me take a moment to share with you what I see when I think about our company at 2020…….

We have a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) to be a world wide, world class, centre of testing excellence. This means that we want to establish TCL as a Centre of Testing excellence that has world class solutions and then be able to deliver them to any industry and in any country.

When we have done this we will see that:
Our company will benefit its employees and their families. They will benefit financially, emotionally, ethically, technically and physically through the way the company is run.
Our company will be financially robust and secure. We will have sufficient alerts and contingency plans in place to ensure we can survive economic peaks and troughs whatever the root cause.
The communities in which we operate will also benefit from TCL. We will actively make efforts to be involved in those communities and the issues that are important to them.
We will also ensure that each year some of our profits are given to worthwhile charities. These are charities that are important to the people in our company.
Our culture will be totally inclusive, with all levels of the organisation being informed and involved. Each person in the company will have a personal understanding and empathy with their colleagues in relationships that demonstrate integrity and respect at every juncture. There will be awards each year for long service and we will evolve a 'dynasty' organisation where people can join as a graduate and go on to have a full and fulfilling career with TCL.
We will gather views from across the organisation and set up a team to regularly introduce new ideas to keep the company aligned with the purpose, values and BHAGs and to be a proven source of information and inspiration around the company. Competition to be part of this forum will be high, and it will be necessary for the participants to undergo three month secondments to the team to get the work done.
The TCL solutions will be aligned and accredited with organisations such as ISO and the BCS. Our method SMaRT will be recognised as a management model and be used as a template and standard in blue chip organisations around the world.
Our employees will be proud to belong to TCL and will contribute to the company progression each day with energy and enthusiasm.
We will be using the latest technology and involved with the strategic decision making process with each of our clients having demonstrated consistently our ability to add value to that process.
Our reputation will be such that there will be healthy competition to join TCL, and the selection process will be rigorous to ensure that only people who display the core values and have the aptitude to support and contribute to the TCL vision are involved.
We want to take testing to a new level. A professional discipline that is consistently recognised for its value and resourced, planned and funded accordingly within all development lifecycles.
Our Research and Development capability will lead the way with innovative and intuitive solutions that are derived from the latest theory, technology and thinking across the world. We will involve and include academic research and consideration as well as commercial best practise.
Our solutions will have been benchmarked with companies in all five continents and proven within more than 10 industries including Defence.
We will be the testing partner of choice for Safety Critical Applications and SIL levels 3 and 4.
We will have offices on three continents and research and development capabilities at each. These will have links to Universities and we will provide some financial support and assistance to these universities in the areas of research that will help further the TCL purpose.
Our presentations at industry forums will be actively sought and solicited and our representatives praised for their credentials, innovation and inspirational style of presenting.
When a project declares that their testing will be conducted by TCL it will be perceived at all levels of an organisation that this is the best way to go and that both cost and quality will be in ideal balance for this delivery.
We will be seen for our Quality and Innovation but we will never be seen as overpriced – simply realistic for the demonstrable value we add.
We will never have been sued for malpractice or incompetence and our relationship with our core clients will span in excess of 10 years.

So, what is our company like now…
We have established a company that has succeeded for nearly 10 years in increasing its capability, Client base and delivery consistency. The company has grown to have a presence on three continents and is in the process of setting up a new operation in Switzerland. Our numbers are circa 100 over all operations, and we are maturing our processes, systems and teams to make a robust and sustainable operation at all levels.
TCL has remained profitable through good times and bad, and continually invested its time, money and energy in looking to the future. We've never stopped investing in our vision or preparing for the challenges of tomorrow, even when the challenges of today have taken a great deal to solve.
We have set up scholarship programmes with universities in the UK and the USA, and have run internship programmes with students from the UK, France, USA and India. We've set up management development programmes that use the best of what we know inside the company and combine it with professional training elements available to us commercially and from academia.
We've placed the needs of our customers and the needs of our people at the front of all our decisions, and evolved an organisation that is diverse and evolving with a strong set of cultural values that bind us all together as a team.
From all of this we can see that the state of our company is strong, despite the pressures and changes in the economy and the impact that this has had not only on us but on our Clients. We must not however be complacent, or for any moment think that this has happened easily or without measure or management. It takes vigilance and discipline to keep a company sustained through turbulent times, and in the long term. We must continuously seek out new efficiencies and innovation to meet the demands of the market and look forward to ensure that we are always ahead of our competitors, in the disciplines and services we chose.
Over the next quarter the company will be building its business plan for next year, and indeed looking out two years in its operational roadmaps. All entities will be involved and engaged, and they will be looking to first meet the basic needs of sustainability and then to move forward with the vision. To that end the following themes will be seen in changes over the next 12 to 24 months:
1. Research and Development
2. Charities
3. Succession
4. Efficiency
5. Heartbeat.
These things will not be easy, but they are exciting and they are the right things to do to move the company forward. This promises to be a very interesting and enjoyable next year, and indeed I view the next 5 years with great optimism.

I look forward to talking about the TCL vision with you, and what it means to all of us. I hope that you can see already how you fit into things, and how what you do at TCL is important and valued. I also hope that you can see ways in which you can make a difference to our pursuit of this vision and will be inspired to go out there to make it happen.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

MBA Dissertation : Being part of an Innovation Centre

I'm currently writing an MBA Dissertation on how being part of an Innovation Centre assists a business in its endeavours. It's a one company case study, of TCL and how we have worked with the Innovation Centre, and the University of Exeter, what we have got out of it, what we have given to it and what else we could have / should have done.
It looks at many aspects of things, including what the innovation centres are there for and how our business fits with that model, along with a perspective on how other businesses work with the innovation centre.
If you are reading this and your business is present in an innovation centre then I would very much welcome your views and response to this survey. All contributions gratefully received, particularly if you are part of the Innovation Centre in Exeter, but also if you are from elsewhere. The comparisons will be very interesting.

Note: The survey closes on Friday 06 November 2009.

Monday, November 02, 2009

NSPCC Annual Council Meeting

The NSPCC is one of the charities that TCL supports, and our support is more than just some donations of money. It's a charity that is very important to me personally, and one where we try to help them as much as we can. So this year I joined the Exeter Business Group, which helps the NSPCC to raise funds and network in the area. We've got some tough targets to meet, but it's going well. As part of my involvement I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the NSPCC Annual Council meeting in London. It gave me a chance to meet some people, see the launch of the strategy for the year and to get more of an understanding of how things work. It was a great experience.

So, this annual council thing. What is it? It's like a company AGM (annual general meeting). They vote in the new officers. They hear about the performance and successes last year and they hear about the strategy for the year ahead. Members get to vote on things, and there is open floor debate on any issues required. Quite a PLC AGM type thing. There is a huge difference though - it's not about money when you come to the NSPCC, it's about the very deeply held beliefs, values and vision of a huge number of people who believe that cruelty to children isn't right and can be stopped. This is a passion. This is a hugely driving force. It is quite something to see 400+ people in a room with such a passion. It got them from all corners of the UK to a council session in London. It provides them with the inspiration for the fundraising, and the work with children that many of them do. It's quite something to see.

As an observer I was given a brown ticket. This was important because if you have a green ticket - a member of the council - you can vote on stuff. As an observer I could speak if I wanted to - pose questions to the top team etc, but not vote. A weird experience for me - not having the ability to make a decision in the room!

The day was well structured. It had a clear agenda. It's production value and organisation was a little questionable at time - note to TCL team : we do a better job of organising our parties :). It had a diverse group of people presenting including the NSPCC Top Team, The Talk to Trustees group (young people from around the country who are directly engaged at the top level to provide insights) and guest speakers such as Floella Benjamin.

So, here's the top 5 things I learnt on the day:
  • Purpose - the common purpose that binds the NSPCC is quite something. The behaviours it brings out in people are amazing. The passion and compassion that binds such a large group together is remarkable and quite inspiring to experience. While a great many people are paid to work as part of the NSPCC a lot also do things for free and happily donate of their time and energies to further a cause in which they strongly believe.
  • There's not enough money - £160million is what the NSPCC raised last year. A lot of cash. The UK government spend >£6BN on child services each year though, and that shows how little the NSPCC can do with their £160million. Most importantly both lots added together, along with all the money spent by other childrens charities, is still not getting the job done, and everyone agrees they don't know what it would take to do it all. All they do know is that they can make a difference for some people and some children with what they do, and so they get on with it.
  • Charity vs Business - The NSPCC seems to be very well run, and a high percentage of its money goes directly into work that helps children. They run it like a business and have a high calibre top team to keep it under control. Interestingly, the top team are all equally passionate about the work of the charity.
  • Floella Benjamin is a legend - Giving the closing address Floella was an absolute legend. Employing all her skills and training as an actress she commanded a room of 400+ people with emotion and energy. No notes for the talk that lasted about 20 mins. It was told as all good presentations should be, in the format of a story - with a begining, a middle and an end. But Wow! what impact! Everyone left the room engaged and inspired and amazed. I was lucky enough to meet up with her a few days ago here at the University and was able to tell her how cool I thought the presentation was.
  • We can do more - there's a lot we can't do for the NSPCC here at TCL. We aren't trained counsellors for instance, and indeed some of us couldn't or wouldn't enjoy that kind of task. We can do more though. We can donate some time to help them with IT issues. We can go to more events and raise more money. We can volunteer to help at different things and we can, as they encourage us to do, take personal accountability and if and when we see things like cruelty to children we can report it and we can help stop it.

The most difficult part of the day for me was in listening to the new strategy for the NSPCC for the year. They said it like any business would....they said ' we recognise that we can't do everything and that we have a cause we believe in. We therefore want to do the most with what we have available to us, and to that end we recognise that some of our services and operations are not efficient enough, and by changing what we do, removing some services and re-organising the way we operate we can have more impact. So, next year we are closing or relocating some centres, phasing out some services and diverting our resources to several key campaigns. We are going to concentrate on awareness and education, and removing the root causes of child cruelty.'

So, I'm sitting there and I hear this, and I am split. One part of me - the businessman - thinks this is all very reasonable and the right thing to do. It will achieve greater results and that is very valuable. The other part - let's call him the human being - thinks this is not good enough.

If there is one place you should be able to do everything it should be when it comes to protecting children. Removing services leaves kids at risk and can lead to disasters. Closing down centres takes vital volunteers out of the loop and asking people to do more than they are already doing is probably going to prove to be difficult. I want them to seek out the wrong, and to shed light into the darkness for children who can't stop what is affecting them, and to do so with infinite vigilance and infinite capacity. But it just can't be that way.

So, I am left with a dilema. I finally see a charity running itself very professionally, but it doesnt make me feel good to see what it has to do to achieve that!

Then comes the engagement. The open panel of the top team. The open debate. The voicing of concerns. You start to appreciate that these decisions have genuinely been hard. That people feel the same anxiety that I had done. That the top team had felt the same anxiety too. But they could see that to do more with what they had was better than doing the same, or in believing that it would get better without them changing. They knew how far they could stretch £160million and they knew how much of a gap it left. They had found what was realistic for them to achieve. It was a very good session. I still didnt 100% feel comfortable with it all, but I did clearly recognise the value they were trying to create and that their intentions were good.

And so where does this leave me? I've come from the annual council meeting inspired to help them more. In understanding their needs and vision for the NSPCC I have seen ways in which I, TCL and indeed everyone can help them and I intend that we do so.

I've already engaged with someone to join our team to specifically own and drive new initiatives with the NSPCC and St Michaels Small School and I've stepped up my committments in 2010 to helping them raise funds. Part of the new Charities Officer role that Cheree O'Melia will be taking on will be to engage more with both the charities and everyone in TCL and to facilitate more endeavours across the organisation that support the works of the charities. She'll also be getting more information out to everyone and publicising more of what we do, and the benefits it brings. I hope too that by the start of next year we will also have updated our policy on Corporate Social Responsibility.

I hope that when reading this you recognise some ways in which you too can help, and look forward to speaking with you about those. I'd like to thank those of you that have already signed up for events like the Great West Run, and also to those who have expressed interest in getting involved next year. It is much appreciated.

GTAC 2009 - Brilliant!

So, I've just got back into the office from a week in Switzerland and I wanted to take a moment to share some of the experiences I had while away at GTAC 2009, the annual Google conference on test automation. It was an incredibly enjoyable, dare I say it almost inspirational event!

To start to get some understanding for the richness of content at this conference, take a look at the site and the agenda. An opening talk by Prof. Niklaus Wirth, one of the founding fathers of modern computing, and talks by people like Simon Stewart (of webdriver fame) and Jason Huggins (of Selenium fame). This wasn't a conference just about experiences of using tools and doing automation, it was where you got to meet the people that designed and wrote the tools themselves. Very geeky, but very cool! Lets call it 'GeekChic' ;)

So, what else is different about an experience at GTAC compared to other conferences? Here are some top moments for me:
  • Engagement - everyone I met there was smart, engaged and engaging. They had a passion for their profession and the work they do. They openly shared their knowledge and experience without hesitation or resistance. Everyone seemed very open to learn from each other too. This could be seen really clearly in the open forum session at the end of day 2 which ran from 5pm to 6pm. Open mic. Rotating panel of four people at the front, with people joining randomly from the main audience as they had something to say. Could have gone on for days - in a good way!
  • The Google experience - these people love to solve problems, and they do it for kicks. The whole place just makes you think differently. It could be the sugar rush from all the free choccies. It could be the slides or the fireman's poles between floors. It could even just be that they have a free bar, and a geekfest of a library to hang out in. It could be a lot of things....
  • The way you get in - Google had too many applicants to the conference, and they wanted to restrict it to 100 - so that everyone got a good experience, and they could keep it to a single track over two days. So they set up an automated voting system and the Googlers around the world voted for who should be there. Over 50% of the people attending were from various google offices around the globe. The rest of us were the lucky ones that got the highest % of the 2200 votes cast around the company. Knowing that makes you feel different about a conference.
  • The international and diverse nature of things - we're in Zurich, which is pretty international anyways, but the conference wasn't Eurocentric. A great many people from australia, USA, israel, etc etc. Very diverse. Very interesting. Great collective experience and perceptions.
  • No cliques - The one big turn off for me at the big conferences is the vested interests that strangle the sharing of knowledge and information. You see groups of independent contractors holding onto the 'power' and creating revenue streams for themselves over many years of talking about the same old stuff. It stifles our industry and it frustrates me. At GTAC they don't allow that in the door and they don't let it happen. As a result you see people from all companies - from Microsoft to the BBC, attending and also giving talks. It's about sharing knowledge and experience and helping people to do stuff. To get what I mean take a look at the videos-and-slides

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't think that the world starts and stops at the beat of a Google drum, but I do think that they are cool, and that the people I have met there are quite impressive to say the least. I think that they have some interesting ideas and approaches to testing of web and mobile applications and I think it is clear that a great amount of the future for TCL and for the industry as a whole is in these fields so we can do well to keep a listening ear out to what Google do and say. With that in mind, take a look at:

The conference was not cheap. Well, it was free to attend, but the costs to go there were high. Flights and hotels and subsistence quite a bit, but the time - that's the big thing. I spent 4 days out there, including the travel. That is a lot. Nothing else would get that amount of time except going on holiday!

So what did we get for our investment:

  • Knowledge - a lot of things to share, and I'll be getting on with that soon enough. This article is the start of that work.
  • Ideas - I've had some inspiration to do some things differently and to introduce some new things over the next quarter that we should all find very interesting and exciting. Some are testing related. Some are cultural and organisational
  • Network - I've met 5 or 6 new, important, and interesting people that I have now connected with. With networks its not just about them knowing you, but how they know you. The GTAC conference is a great context in which to meet people and to grow a network. You get to know them, and they you, in the context of a mutual passion. That can't be any better!

Despite being a seasoned pro at conference attendance, I didn't do all that I should to make the most of it. I got on the Google Wave, I Tweeted and I shared, but I didn't manage to:

  • Get a presentation slot - only 10 people did. My submission didn't make the cut :(
  • Take loads of pictures - helpful with the sharing and bringing things to life for people
  • Set up specific meetings before I got there - this is something I would normally do for a big conference and helps to build the network faster.

I hope that we get more opportunities to go to, and present at, conferences like GTAC in the future. If you get the chance, then grab it with both hands and make the most of it. It will most likely be something very special.

Huge thanks go to Dr W for his guidance and inspiration to attend the GTAC. It's not something I would have made time for had he not made such a convincing case and indeed, as always, he was very right!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Crowdsourcing hits the headlines

Crowdsourcing slashes software testing time. That's what the title of the article says on Computer Weekly :) Fantastic!

It's good to see the concept getting the sort of press that it deserves. Case studies like those for IWOOT.COM really show what can be achieved.

Testing has a reputation for being slow, process driven, expensive stuff - particularly at a corporate or enterprise level, but if its a web, mobile or desktop app then this crowdsourcing stuff really shows us a total oppositve approach.

Doron, Roy and the team at uTest have received a huge number of accolades for their adoption of crowdsourcing into the testing space, and for the company that they have set up. I can see why, with such an incredible experience for the Clients and the testers this really is a win-win for everyone.

I'm in Boston soon, and we're running a PEST event with uTest out of the Kinsales bar. Roy is going to include some crowdsourcing as part of the evening, so if you are in the area and arent sure about this stuff yet then come along and see what its all about. Should be a lot of fun.
Here's the flyer for the event: Flyer.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Crowdsourcing Success stories in the UK

There's a growing trend of crowdsourcing, in all sorts of creative and productive spaces such as translation, design, development and software testing. We've brought this crowdsourcing into the PEST events with some 'software smackdown' sessions using the utest portal as the focus and it's been great fun.

Two websites have been very open minded and introduced their latest releases to a software smackdown session at PEST, and received a very intense and focussed three hour crowdsource experience as a result. They've interacted with the team in real time, and signed off the defects as we go. This gives great feedback (both ways) during the testing, and enables the pace of things to be quite amazing.

Huge kudos and thanks go to and for taking part and providing the opportunity for us to see the power of crowdsourcing. Of particular note was that the sessions not only found lots of great defects which needed fixing but also some real consumer style feedback which helps the companies to improve the customer experience on the sites.

Don't take my word for it! Here's what had to say..........

"After a year of successful operation with our launch site, we carried out a major refresh and wanted to test this. We carried out traditional systematic User Acceptance Testing, however decided to incorporate the techniques of PEST as part of the testing. We found the process very valuable as a means of getting a significant number of very capable people to interact with the site.

We received excellent feedback that not only covered design and technology issues, but also gave us some great ideas in how to develop the commercial and business aspects of the site."

Charles Peak-Smylie,

Monday, July 13, 2009

PEST Bangalore - Thursday 6th August 2009

I have great pleasure in annoucing that our next international PEST event will be:

• Event: Peer Sharing event on Software Testing

• Date: Thursday 6th August 2009
• Location: Central Park Hotel, Bangalore ->
• Start time: 6pm
• Expected end time: 9pm
• Cost: Free to attend
• Forum: Mixture of discussion groups and experience share alongside practical testing via the uTest platform.
• Who should attend: Anyone with an interest in software testing.
• Hosts: Stewart Noakes, Manoj Chandrappa and Andrew Coggins from TCL
• To book your place: Send an email to

More information can be found at:

This is the first event that we have run in India, so I'm very much looking forward to seeing how things compare and contrast. Learnt some great lessons last time in Boston, and the format is developing and 'internationalising' into something very exciting.

If you are in Bangalore and fancy joining us then please register your interest. The venue booking will limit the number of people we can host, so it's important we know that you are coming along!

Look forward to seeing you there.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Holidays are good!

Well, I'm nearing the end of my first week back, after a lovely two week vacation in Cyprus. All I can say is: Holidays are good!

At Xmas, I made some reflections on the year and recognised that there hadn't been enough breaks last year, and that when they arrived they weren't when I needed them e.g. they were reactive rather than proactive. When the holiday started I was very tired, and the entire trip was about recovery rather than relaxation and recharging and fun!

So this year the plan is different. Three vacations were booked before January had even started -> one every three months. March saw a trip to Portugal. June a trip to Cyprus and September sees a trip to Spain. The benefits are already showing. The trip to Cyprus came at the right time for me. I was able to enjoy it all the more because I was less tired, and even in returning to work I know the next break is only 12 weeks away.

Malcolm is very fond of saying: "breaks help you go faster", and he's right. (How fast would you drive a car without brakes???) I feel that I've achieved a lot more in the first quarter of the business year, and have greater clarity of mind and purpose. I do hope that it continues into the next quarter too!

Holidays are good!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Exeter University hits top 10 in UK

It was fantastic to read this week that Exeter University has just been ranked as a top 10 university in the UK.

Take a look at some of the stuff the TIMES has to say about it.

This is great news for the University, who have been working hard over the last few years to update the research, approach and culture here at Exeter. The place has always had high student satisfaction, but some of the academic and research achievements have lacked behind other universities such as Durham, Oxford and Cambridge.

One of the big differences I've noticed is how the University engages with business. They see it as important now, both as a way to create research revenues and also a way to ensure employment and employability for students. An increasingly international focus from the University is also good to see, as this brings a much more cosmopolitan feel to the campus, the courses and the city.

The business school has seen significant changes in the last few years, and the recent makeover has shown the students and the campus that the school is taking itself much more seriously. It attracts a much more diverse set of students now, and has some real talent in the teaching ranks - particularly for Entrepreneurship (but then I guess I would say that!).

We've worked closely with the University since 2001 when we established an office on campus at the Innovation centre. I also did my undergraduate degree here, and my MBA (still in progress). Several members of the TCL team have, are or will be studying here too. It's therefore great to see the University as a whole reach this point of success and I hope that the goal of top 5 in the country is only a few years away.

TCL work with Exeter, along with Bristol University, Boston University and now UCL to bring the world of software testing into the minds of computer scientists and to ensure that our commitments to the areas in which TCL does the majority of its business see reciprocal benefits and investments from us.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Back in the USA

It's time for another trip to the US, and this week I'm in Burlington, MA.

We've got a PEST event happening on Thursday 28th May, in Marlborough. Thanks to the kind efforts of Nancy O'Leary, the event will be held at the HP Campus. Huge thanks go to Nancy for sorting this out.

Of course, this means the event wont be in a pub, but hey! There'll be Pizza :)

It's always interesting being back in the US. Business is done differently here. Its an approach I like. Direct, but open. Honest, but with messages that are shaped for the customer. It's good stuff.

I'm also very excited this week to be meeting up with various people from uTest. We've got some thinking and planning to do about the work we do together. I'm hoping to see the uTest involvement in the PEST events take us to new places over the next year. Who knows where it could all end!

More to follow later in the week......

Monday, April 20, 2009

Donating Time to the Innovation Centre in Exeter

Since 2001 TCL has had a presence at the Innovation Centre at the University of Exeter. Great place for us to work. Amazing campus and of course fantastic links and relationships with the University.

Exeter was the place that we started our scholarship programmes from, and where we have worked the most in terms of join ups with any institution. In addition to our academic scholarship programmes we are also involved in a sports scholarship programme. We have several members of our team on MBA courses with the University and we are active participants in student projects, placements and knowledge transfer exercises.

Today, I will start my first of a series of engagements with the Innovation Centre. I've 'donated' a 1/2 day session every month for the centre to use as they wish. For mentoring and support of young entrepreneurs, for presentations, for business planning, for bringing together different groups or just as a sounding board. I'm very much looking forward to it, and the new challenges it may bring.

The dreams and aspirations I have for my future are around entrepreneurship and helping people to start, and bring, businesses to the South West. This feels like another step on that journey.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

uTest and TCL

Crowd sourcing anyone? Not sure what I mean?
Well it was new to me, but when I tried it I thought it was fab!

There's a very interesting company out there. It's called uTest, and if you are a tester then you should really go and have a look at them. Take a look at: utest

So what's so cool about them? Well firstly it's speed. When I retained utest to test our website we went from talking about it in a conference call to fully complete within 24 hours. Now that's cool.

Secondly -> you can make money!
The crowd source community of testers at utest is over 14000 people, and its global. As a tester you get paid by utest for the defects that you raise, which are subsequently accepted by the Client. What does this mean to you and to me? Come home from work, want to make some spare cash, pop on and do some testing from utest. 30 mins, 5 hours, its all up to you. You only get paid for the defects!

Now, why would TCL and uTest form a partnership, I hear you ask (uTest press release) (tcl press release). Community was our first common theme. uTest love testers and the testing community, and of course so do TCL. So, we've been working with uTest to make a special portal that can be used at our peer sharing events. That means that from April onwards when you come to a TCL peer sharing event the products under test will include stuff from utest. You'll therefore be able to earn some money while at the event! Free beer, Pizzas, have some fun, learn something and earn some money!! I don't think that these events can get much better ;)

The next thing we joined up on was speed. High speed. Diverse testing teams. Quick to ramp up. Quick to do the testing. Quick to get the defects into a form that we can work with. Quick to respond to issues. With so many deals done already uTest are showing the way forward for a whole new style of testing. It doesn't work for every app. It doesn't work for every situation, but when it is the right thing to do wow! does it work.

So, uTest and TCL are bringing on demand testing to a peer sharing event and a project near you. Come and ask us about it. (peer sharing events in 2009)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Like Minded People V Event 17th April 2009

In May 2008 I took a couple of people to lunch with a view of networking them with each other.  They were (and indeed still are) entrepreneurs, they all worked in or near Exeter and none of them knew each other before the lunch.  I thought it would be beneficial to each of them that they met.  It was a bit of an inspiration to bring them together, but it seemed like the right thing to do and so I gave it a shot.

The session went well.  The 6 of us had lunch together, and then after a couple of hours I left them to it.  Several stayed on for another couple of hours and some new contacts and even friendships were formed.  I named the event 'Like Minded People' and we agreed to meet up again in a few months and where possible to bring a buddy, with a similarly entrepreneurial mind, along.

Our 6 became 14, and the lunch went on for quite some time.  I left them to it again after a couple of hours, and I think several people stayed for another 3+ hours.  The dialogue was quite far reaching, as you might expect from such a diverse and interesting bunch of people.

So, feeling that something was really starting to develop, we agreed to give it another try and this time we used the Bristol Golf club, and invited some people from different walks of life, and different markets, all with that entrepreneurial spirit.  The original 6 became 25 and when Simon Fox did his (shortish) presentation on TBI Connect we found that the group openly had ideas and inspiration for him, along with contacts and help.  Not only did this help TBI but it gave Simon some personal inspiration and it gave me a big lift that these people, these entrepreneurs, were in it to help each other too.  Rare in such a 'dog eat dog' world and rare amongst people who had all achieved so much.

Like Minded People IV was different again, with a much large contingent wanting to get involved, a donation of venue from the Innovation Centre at the University of Exeter and some sponsorship and contributions from members of the network to help pay for everything.  Our 'show and tell' session had someone looking for funding, an announcement of a joint venture from two of the members and a very interesting 'apprentice' idea from Henry at Circle Recruitment.  Some 35 people came along, and it all seemed very different to the 6 people out for a quiet lunch that happened at LMP I.  We pulled in some group activities at the end of the lunch for those that wanted to stay, and had some external hosting for some Action Learning Sets.  Many people got a great deal from the adventure, and indeed it is now something that I have incorporated into the Management Development of our Senior Team at TCL.

And now to 17 April 2009, when we will be holding our fifth event, in Exeter at the Innovation Centre.  Robin Jackson has kindly provided the venue for us in his sponsorship of entrepreneurs in the south west.  The event is being organised by Vicky Sheppard, out of our Exeter office, and so if you are interested in coming along please book your place with her on +44 (0) 845 869 6070.  Numbers are limited this time, so its first come first served.  Ideally all attendees will have come through by referral, and the key prerequisite is that each person is entrepreneurial by nature e.g. started a company or running a division or venture in a way that requires entrepreneurialism.

The agenda for the session will be simpler this time.  Networking, Lunch, 'Show and Tell' and exit.  Starting around 11:30am and going on formally until about 2.30, informally for as long as people want.

So far the event has proven to be fun, useful, stimulating and a learning experience.  I had never expected it to take on such a life of its own, but it is great to see how it has.  The network will continue as long as people get so much from it, and it supports itself as it has been doing.  So, if you want to be part of it in April, please give Vicky a call ASAP.  I look forward to seeing you there. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

PEST on Tour - the SIGiST experience March 2009

Following on from our inaugeral SIGiST experience in December, we were very excited to be asked back for a further session in March - where we took the PEST experience on tour!! We got great feedback from the attendees - either 4/5 or 5/5 responses from everyone. I guess that means we did the right kinda stuff in the right kinda way.......

The February PEST event had a bond theme, so we brought some of the trimmings with us to give the SIGiST event a bit of a lift. Richard wore his Dinner Jacket for the occassion to add a certain something, and of course we had the bond cut outs, movies and a little casino going on too.

In the session we had three teams who each tested the same bug ridden Bugzilla instance against the clock, and at the same time.

The first team had nothing to support their work -> they just got stuck in and did some prime exploratory testing.

The second team had a specification for the application which gave them something to test against.

The third team had a business analyst who sat with them and gave them guidance.

Over a forty minute period the teams battled it out, and the results were very interesting.

The most defects were found by the team with the BA present. They also found the most 'out there' stuff, including testing in French.

The most impactful and technical defects were found by the team that was purely focused on exploratory testing. This included a security defect and a field truncation issue.

The team with the spec found a lot of defects with the spec itself, as well as with the application and while the spec had helped them it also created problems for them in that they had to try to understand the spec before they could really test anything and there wasn't anyone to ask when things didn't make total sense.

Our mission was to demonstrate how different techniques yielded different results, and indeed this was true on the day. In a world where we are feeling quite a squeeze to budgets, time available, staffing available, we need to pick the right approach for the context of the project and the system under test and indeed as our SIGiST session showed one approach does not fit all.

I really enjoy the SIGiST events, there are some great people there, and some real names are coming along quite regularly now so it is not as dry as it has been in the past. That they are open to our test offs and activities like PEST is also very encouraging. Stephen Allott seems to have his head screwed on right, and he's brought a great deal of innovation to the forum already.

Hopefully things will continue in this vein, and more sessions will become practical and show you how to do stuff, rather than just talk about it. I know the talking has its place, and some of the heavyweight stuff just wont get done if we all spend our time 'playing', but I like the fact that testers do stuff, and it seems unlikely that we can share our knowledge all that effectively without showing people what we do and doing more of it in environments where the collective community can get involved too.

In my opinion there are too many process experts around and not enough test experts. To get more of these, we need forums where we practice our craft and get shown by real experts how to do stuff. We also need places where we can try stuff out (in a micro fashion) to see how it might work when we used it on a project. A day spent at somewhere like a SIGiST, experimenting and learning from others could save us weeks on a big project, maybe even longer. Now that has to be good investment.

To see more about the SIGiST go to:

Come along to the next one. Hopefully we'll be doing test off stuff again -> that is if the BCS still think its a good idea.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

TCL Scholarship Students 2009

Over the last few years we have evolved a scholarship programme, which now has take up at three different universities.  This year I am very pleased to see that we have three scholars at each of the universities, in addition to our involvement with the sports scholarship programme at Exeter.  This makes a total of ten students at the Universities of Exeter (UK), Bristol (UK) and Boston (USA) who are benefiting from the programme this year.

From the University of Bristol TCL have awarded scholarships to three Computer Science students, they are:

· Aleksej Stolicyn (1st year)

· Bridget McErlean (2nd year)

· Adam James Marable (3rd year).

At Boston University TCL have selected three scholars majoring in Computer Science:

· Shailendra Khemka (freshman)

· Yasmin Akbari (junior)

· Justin Williamson (senior).

At the University of Exeter TCL have awarded scholarships to four students.  Three of the students are studying Computer Science:

· Ronan Hannigan (1st year)

· Sam East (1st year)

· Mingjie Leong (2nd year).

A fourth scholar from Exeter is Lucy Boulton - who is on the sports scholarship programme.  Lucy is a volleyball star who is aiming to compete for Britain in London 2012.

For TCL the investments we are making into the scholarship programmes are all about the future of our industry.  Rather than be the 'poor cousin' of the IT world, we want Testing to become the choice of great people who bring real value to the industry.  We pick our scholars for their academic excellence and also their ability to contribute to the future.

I really enjoy the programmes, and meeting the people that get involved.  It's particularly cool when they come along to our PEST events and also take part in the internship programmes over the summer.  That is where things really start to get going. 

Friday, February 06, 2009

UK Peer Sharing Events in 2009

As a reader of this blog, you are most likely aware of the peer sharing events that we run at TCL.

You can get a lot of the info you need on these at our linkedin group via

For 2009, we have expanded the number of events that are are running. Here are the dates:
  • 12/02/09 Bristol
  • 17/03/09 London: beingrun as part
  • 30/04/09 Bristol
  • 14/05/09 London
  • 25/06/09 Leeds
  • 16/07/09 Bristol
  • 13/08/09 Leeds
  • 15/10/09 Bristol
  • 12/11/09 Leeds
  • 03/12/09 London

If you would like more information about the events TCL are running during 2009 please contact Clare Batten on: +44 (0)845 869 6070

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I love Boston

I really like Boston.  I can't quite work out what it is, but it ha
s some magic to it, and the more I get to know the place the more I like it.

Our trip this time had many special elements.  The snow being one of them!!  My My is it cold in Boston in January??!!@!

A second element that made the trip special this time was running a PEST event at BU.  This
 was not our first PEST USA, but it was the first for a while and it was the first in conjunction with BU themselves.  I hope that we are able to continue their involvement goi
ng forward.

Attending the event were several members of faculty, 
including Prof. Sclaroff who had set up
 the venue for us and got the others along.   Huge thanks to Stan :)  Also there were scholars from the TCL programme of 2008 and 2009.  Great to see these groups interacting and sharing the experiences that they have had.  There were also some people from local companies such a and Security Innovation.  Overall, an excellent blend.

Our event was hosted at the BU Bar, the official bar of the Boston University.  Great little place, ticked away from the main street, in the castle building.  Well worth a visit if you can get someone from BU to let you frequent the place.  Check out
if you want to know more about BU.

What I was stunned about, really pleased and amazed about, was the way the faculty speak with, interact with and generally work with the students.  It is so very cool.  They nurture the learning experience.  They treat the students as equals and with respect.  They ask them questions and they listen, really listen to the minds at work.  It's very cool.

I hope that we will get many more chances to go to Boston, to work with BU and our scholars and to build the business of TCL USA with its home and heart in MA.  I want to do this for many reasons, and at least one of them is because I love the place :)

Monday, January 26, 2009

James Whittaker - 19th & 20th March 2009

We're just putting some of the finishing touches to the plans, but I am able to confirm that James Whittaker will be visiting TCL on the week of 19th March, 2009.

As part of his trip, James will be doing two events with TCL:
  • Thursday 19th March 2009, Harrison Building, University of Exeter -> public forum, all welcome
  • Friday 20th March 2009, Hotel du Vin, Bristol -> Private function. Invitation only.
These are both great opportunities to hear James speak, and I believe his topic will be a Testers view on the future of software.

I personally find James to be a very inspiring speaker, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing him again.

I'm particularly passionate about what we are trying to do with the Thursday event at the University. We've invited some local schools as well as the University and of course local businesses and people we know that will be interested. This should hopefully give a great spectrum of perspectives.

If you want to be involved in either of these events then please drop me a note, or speak with our lead organiser: Clare Batter on +44 (0) 845 869 6070.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Is Citizenship dead?

From the business world I have read a number of articles about corporations being the 'new religion'. These articles propose that for a large portion of the western world religion is no longer what keeps the fabric of our society together. They surmise that corporations now take this space and that corporate & social responsibility is all about companies being active participants in the community and bringing benefits and taking responsibility for what they do.

Jack Welch, the former GE Chairman and CEO states a very clear case for the benefits that successful companies bring to society - and in his drive and ambition there seems to be a great deal of personal commitment to this, even when making redundancies and closing factories. His belief is that to be successful brings more benefits than perhaps a more 'European socialist model' that might favour 100% unemployment regardless of productivity. (Jack Welch)

Plastered across the news though are plenty of examples of bribery, corruption and fraud. People and corporations exploiting opportunities for individual gain and significant cost to others.

Weak enforcement of regulation and controls around these sorts of activities have enabled things like the Parmalat scandal, ENRON, the
recent issues with a fund managed as a kind of pyramid scheme with hundreds of millions being plundered. Articles like: bbc news really bring it home.

So what would it mean to be more of a citizen? Our friend wikipedia gives us some insights: Citizenship and of course also a bit of a role model.
"Active citizenship" is the philosophy that citizens should work towards the betterment of their community through economic participation, public service, volunteer work, and other such efforts to improve life for all citizens.

I think that the key thing to emphasise there is to improve life for all citzens.

I take a look around TCL and I see some great citizens of the company and I see people that are great citizens in general (usually the same people). But I look further afield and I see a lot that doesn't look like citizenship, a lot that isn't helping everyone, a lot that isn't giving back and a lot that is just plundering.

If corporations are the 'new religion', this doesn't look so great. It makes me wonder: is citizenship dead, dying or maybe just not getting all the press it deserves?

***** Post comment Video *****

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Off to the US of A - 28, 29, 30 Jan 2009

Well, its official! I'm off to the USA on 28th, 29th and 30th of Jan 2009.
While I am there, I am hoping to do a number of things, of which I am most excited about going to Boston University and running a PEST event there on campus :)

There are a new set of scholarship students to meet - and I am hoping that these people will also be part of the internship programme in the summer. There is also a chance to meet Prof. Scolaroff for the first time (face to face), who has been so supportive of the TCL initiatives in the US.

TCL USA is a personal ambition of mine - something that I hope to see restarted in the next couple of years. We've maintained our commitment to the Mass. region and to BU in particular, because its part of our overall vision to be part of the tech community in the US. I'm not sure that the economy is going to allow us the opportunities to restart things this year - but who knows.

One things for sure, I spent an entire year without visiting the US - even for holidays - and it felt a bit weird, so I am very pleased to be heading back there so early in the New Year.

If you are around the Boston area on the 29th Jan and want to come along to the PEST event, then you can read more at:

Things went very well at the last event we ran in Bristol and also the event at the SIGIST (thanks very much for coming along and introducing yourself Phil). I hope we can do everything as well this time!!

Sessions like PEST are brilliant in my opinion because they help bring software testing into a new phase. One where people share information and knowledge without boundaries and commit to the solving of problems and the development of all involved. We need this kind of participation in the software testing community and we need to see people move the industry forward.

Take a look at what James Bach has to say on such stuff:

We need to see software testers testing software - not just sitting around taling about it. It always seems weird to me that as testers we do stuff, we break things, we play with software, we get involved in designs and architecture and code and gubbins of all sorts and we help solve problems and we find new ways of doing things and we are part of the creative cycle that is software development but when we go to conferences there is a lot of sitting and talking and listening and slides and well where is all the doing????

Anyways, enough ranting, except to say that PEST combines a lot of stuff (practical)(theory)(coaching)(mentoring)(experience)(doing) - into one big bundle behind this motto: none of us is as smart as all of us.

Boston! Here we come!

Happy New Year & Welcome to 2009

Happy New Year to everyone :)
Hope that you have had a super Xmas vacation and have enjoyed yourselves.

With our New Year first days back came a chance to pull together a short movie/introduction to TCL.

Take a look at:

Well done to Clare for pulling this together.


Google PageRank

Blogpatrol Traffic Statistics