Tag Archives: Quality

Book review: A practical guide to Testing in DevOps (Katrina Clokie) – get it, read it!

Headline: get this book! read this book! Link: https://leanpub.com/testingindevops

Katrina Clokie’s book “A practical guide to Testing in DevOps” is a “must read”, and not just if you are a tester encountering DevOps. As Katrina says in the preface: “This book is for testers who want to understand DevOps and what it means for their role. It’s also for people in other roles who want to know more about how testing fits into a DevOps model.” It is engaging, informative, full of useful examples, case studies and evidence, and gives pragmatic, thoughtful guidance that encourages us – the readers – to use the information provided to craft our own approach based on our own circumstances.

I’m particularly pleased with three of Katrina’s themes:

  • this is about people as well as technology – how people engage, communicate, cooperate, solve problems, achieve goals – together;
  • separating the activity of testing from the role “tester” – the activity is needed, the role may change;
  • the purpose of testing is to contributing to our shared understanding of, and delivery of, what our stakeholders, customers, users, colleagues require from IT: a subtle and changing mix of speed, predictability, quality and a great user experience.

I kept finding points in the book that are applicable for any project, any organisation. There are useful ideas in this book if you are working in a DevOps environment, of course, but I believe you will also find it a source of useful ideas and techniques what ever your project methodology. Katrina provides chances for all of us to review our current position, and just shake it up a little, to see if we can improve. For each of us, for each organisation, team, what we need to do is different. Katrina is rightly emphatic that there is not one right answer, instead she provides aides to thinking, communicating, problem solving.

I really like the way Katrina references and quotes so many colleagues across the industry – this really helps build the feeling of a community working together, sharing ideas, not always agreeing, but debating openly and constructively.

She encourages us to try ideas and propose changes on a small, experimental scale if we or our colleagues are nervous “…spend an hour to give something new a try…”

After an introduction to the concept of DevOps, the book is divided into six main sections:

  • Testing in a DevOps Culture;
  • Testing in Development;
  • Testing in Production;
  • Testing in DevOps Environments;
  • Industry Examples;
  • Test Strategy in DevOps.

I was pulled into the book straight away. Highlights for me in the first section are:

  • visualising the test strategy – what we think we are doing, what we are actually doing… and what we should be doing. Newsflash: get the people without “tester” in their job title to do the discussions, and as the “tester” listen, facilitate… and allow the others to challenge your assumptions!
  • blazing a trail – really good ideas, hints and tips for building meaningful multi-way conversations where we listen as well as speaking… Forging the pathways between groups, teams and individuals, and reinforcing those pathways by rich rather than fast communication.

I have made so many notes and comments, just on that first section – it sparked many useful ideas, reinforced some thoughts, and provided me with new tricks, tips and tools that I shall try out.

In the second, third and fourth sections, Katrina provides examples and evidence for how testing – the activity – takes place successfully outside Testing – the team or Testing – the life cycle phase. This is such a refreshing read; my own experience since I started in IT is that good, productive, thoughtful testing can be done by people other than testers, and during activities not called testing. Developers, Ops folk, Support teams, Sales, Marketing – many people in an organisation can do good testing, often with a focus that the “Tester” may miss.  She discusses the advantages and risks of testing in development, production and DevOps environments, showing options for how risks can be mitigated, whether by use of tools, experimentation, exploration, group activities, process changes, shifting left and/or shifting right.. I’m not going to share too much here, just encourage you to buy and read the book!

The fifth section, the industry examples, is useful because it provides a wide range of approaches. Not all of us will find the same approach appropriate; something essential to success in one organisation may be damaging in another. There is a good mix of methods, tools, approaches, and types of testing covered, in this section and in the others, so you should find something to use as a starting point for making your own model.

By the time I reached the last section of the book, I had a mass of ideas, notes, and things to follow up, and I would be surprised if you did not feel the same way.

In the final section, Katrina brings everything together to help you define your own strategy for testing DevOps. Your’s will be different. It will be the strategy that is right for your team, your organisation. In this section she helps us to think about our organisation’s appetite for risk: I also have found this to be extremely useful point to consider and discuss. Are my stakeholders risk averse, or risk takers? Am I aligned with them? At this point, should I challenge or support their stance? Katrina provides useful examples of the type of question to ask in order to understand appetite for risk, identify which risks are of importance, and from that decide what activities will mitigate the risk. Those activities might include testing – the activity – but there will very likely be other activities that will mitigate the risks just as well.  From this we can draw up a strategy for testing, acknowledging that it is part of but not all of the activity required to provide our stakeholders with the quality, speed, predictability, risk mitigation and so on that is right for their circumstances.

Whether you are working waterfall, V-model, W-model, Iterative, agile or DevOps – you’ll find some useful ideas in this book.

A good ending to an excellent book, which I have no hesitation in recommending. Thank you Katrina!

 

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Nokia Test Dive 2017 – audience questions

I had a great time at the Nokia Test Dive in Krakow – a lovely conference, responsive delegates, and hosted beautifully by Nokia.

After both my sessions, there were audience questions on Sligo that we did not get time to discuss, so I have taken those questions, grouped them, and made some responses. They were great questions!

Some quick answers to start…

What is your UX of Kraków / Poland

  • Lovely question!
  • Great UX, I loved the city, so beautiful. I’d like to visit again. The historic centre is really interesting, the different architecture, especially the art nouveau.
  • I lost my hat – but that was my fault!

Is there a universal solution to prevent “shelfwareness”?

  • Such a wonderful question! If I knew the answer I probably would not need to be researching! Maybe there is… I suspect if the answer was easy someone would have found it already. I’m going to borrow this question and use it when I interview experts and tools suppliers… Thank you!

The billions of annual loss due to wrong automation – is it for one company? Did they do something with that?

  • This is from a report about the cost of poor test infrastructure in the USA – across the country. The report reference is in the slides, in the reference pages at the back of the slide set, but here it is:

Tassey, G. (2003) The economic impacts of inadequate infrastructure for software testing: Final report. Diane Pub Co.

Available at http://bit.ly/2kT52OP

Is there an App, Website or Program that you think has excellent UX?

  • It’s hard to think of one – this was one of the questions asked at the conference – and I still cannot think of a piece of software that does not irritate me… in some way.

Questions about the role of testers

There were a couple of questions about the role of testers and the nature of testing:

How would you describe testing? Art? Engineering? Craft?

How to engage testers to report more idea to improve automation tools base on their knowledge/experience other than bugs only.

  • These are questions that I have pondered over the years. Testing for me engages many skills, personal attribute, styles, approaches – and we need that. In an individual, In a team. So, testing is an art, a craft, it can be a science, it can be engineering, it can be detective work, it can be sociology, it can be ethnographic, it can be research. It can be technical or domain focused. Qualitative and quantitative approaches – both are needed.
  • This is interesting: I do believe that testers have a wider role than just reporting bugs – that my role is not just about bugs. Bugs are just one aspect of quality, and just one. I have always taken a wide view – that it is not just the software that is under test, it is also the whole product, the whole service, all the activities of the organisation, everything that contributes to the success of what we are trying to do. So, for me, to engage in critiquing and improving methodology, tools, skills – including automation – anything that needs to improve, to facilitate overall success of the project, the team. Do it imaginatively, think widely.
  • To engage testers to do this – to engage anyone to take this view – we need to be open to constructive criticism and improvement ideas.

Questions about introducing UX practices into projects

From your experience what % of a project budget should be spend on making UX right?

  • I am not sure there is a right answer to this! It depends on the project, the risks. A more useful approach than having a set percentage could be to have a “start of project” workshop where the purpose of the project / product is discussed, along with the user personas, quality attributes, UX, project goals and so on. And, constraints like budget and timescale. From that you’d get an idea of the UX work needed / possible for that project. One thing is certain – earlier effort is more cost effective than testing post coding.
  • If you are part way through the project, sometimes it can be worth halting for a few hours to ask “are we on track? Do we agree on direction and UX goals?” so if you are part way through – you can still address this.

Mostly customer is happy when software helps him even if the UX is not perfect.

How to convince management to invest in better UX?

Is UX something that user really expects from software, isn’t it enough that software Just does its job?

  • Three in one! I like your style…!
  • Let’s start with your first statement – the customer is happy even if the UX is not right. Now this is sometimes true: if this is brand new software, and if the customer is someone who enjoys innovation and is therefore forgiving of problems in new technology. And if they don’t mind the struggle. But often, customers can be just resigned to the experience rather than enjoying it… they’ll be grumbling. So even if people are using our products, they might not continue to use them if a better experience is offered elsewhere. People’s expectations of what they can reasonably expect change over time. In the past in IT we’ve delivered functionality – that’s not enough now, because software is ubiquitous, and people’s expectations have changed.
  • Follow the money. Senior stakeholders want the organisation to be successful – and often have KPIs (Key Process Indicators) to help them measure what they find important. If poor UX is going to lose the organisation money, reputation, or market share, for example, the senior stakeholders will look for ways to halt those losses. If you can show evidence of poor UX, not just in the software but in the whole user experience, and you can show that better UX will lead to an improved reputation, market share, etc., then you’ll be listened to. You won’t always win – and if you think you are not going to win, sometimes, you have to have the conversation, again, more uncomfortably, after a failure. Also, get senior stakeholders, developers, etc to look at recording of people using the software, or to observe usability tests. Sometime the marketing department or support team can be allies.
  • See answer 1… I remember my grandfather disapproved of car heaters. He thought they were an unnecessary luxury. So as children we travelled with car blankets… uncomfortable, functional, and not what I would tolerate nowadays.

How to convince customer that their vision of UX is a disaster?

  • Look for points where they will lose money, status, market share, reputation. Use examples from other products, talk with them about what they like and dislike about software. Video record and play back to them real users engaging with the product, or better still ask them to be observers during usability testing and UX assessments. Engage with the marketing department – who are often very interested in the UX.

Is It our responsibility as SW testers to test software to serve users as much as possibility even if software is written user-unfriendly but written according to requirements provided by customers / specifications / project managers?

  • Yes – I think we need to keep a bigger picture. Requirements can be – are often – wrong, incomplete, out of date, misunderstood. We won’t always get the result we want, it won’t be our decision, but we should put forward ideas for improvement.

Two questions that are related:

Is it plausible for testers to perform usability tests? Aren’t they biased and “cursed with knowledge” about the product? Shouldn’t we rather try to gather feedback from real users?

Is it possible to perform good quality UX tests by QA team only? Or should those always involve real users?

  • Let’s look at usability tests. Testers can perform usability tests – they are not necessarily the test subject. If you are executing a usability test, you are observing someone else using the software, so as a tester you observe, record, analyse what is happening, but you are not driving the software – you are watching someone else. You are looking at the face, eye movements, hand movements, how the mouse and keyboard are being used, how confident the person seems to be. Hands off. Observe and think.

Sometimes you don’t have access to real users. So your options are:

  • You know who the real users are, you can talk with them, they can come and test the system, give comments on functional attributes and other quality attributes, and also you can observe them when you perform usability tests with your real users as the subjects.
  • You may only know the users by persona descriptions – for example for a website, the general public. You could ask people to come in and run usability tests, or you could take a usability or UX “road show” out to the public. Or you could ask a UX or Usability specialist test lab to do the assessment for you.
  • You could ask the marketing team for their market research about the product and you could ask Marketing, Sales and Support team people to proxy for the customers – you could ask them to review the interfaces, prototypes and the software specifically considering the UX. They should have contact with and understand the users.
  • You could ask people from your user group – if you have one – to come in to take part in UX assessments.
  • You could ask users to beta test the software and specifically ask for UX and usability issues.
  • You could monitor the use of the software in production and see how it is being used, when people drop out, and you can do online user surveys.
  • If you cannot do any of those – if you have no contact with end users – as testers use empathy and thought experiments to put yourself in the shoes of the users. For example, there is technique called cognitive walkthrough. In a group, you work through the product at each point asking “what would a user be thinking now?” Not what you are thinking – what the user is thinking.
  • The more new people you get looking at the software, the more you’ll keep hold of first reactions.

What is, in your opinion, the best way to combine these two different points of view – users who are feeling connected to the old version of product and users who really want new features and waiting for the change?

  • You have a number of options that you can design into the product. For example:
  • Design in “backwards compatibility” – make sure that older versions of companion software still work with the new version of your product;
  • Give a choice about whether users upgrade or not;
  • Give a choice about whether new features are switched on or not
  • Make the new features learnable;
  • Make the upgrade and first use help/encourage users to the new version;
  • Do focused marketing to the customers who want the change.

Two more questions that belong together:

At which state of the project should we start to test UX solutions?

Do you think that UX should be done before a line of code is written or should it be done alongside it?

  • Quality is built in throughout the project, and that’s true of UX as well. At every point, every stage, testing should be happening – by questioning, reviewing, thought experiments, what if questions, monitoring what people are actually doing with a product, as well as by running executable tests.
  • Do it at the start. Build it in. But also, once the product is in use, monitor it and monitor responses to it, to get ideas for where else to improve. In fact, many of the activities that sustain, facilitate and support quality for the customer and end user are best started early. Get involved at concept stage, when your job as a tester is to question, suggest improvements, analyse risks, work out what will best serve the customer, user, your organisation, society… in this project.

What should we do if we make product designed by marketing team, before we know or understand who our customers are going to be?

  • The marketing team should have done some market research, and may have drawn up personas and run focus groups as part of that research. So, your first step is to find out what the marketing team have done so far to understand the market and who the product is for. They should know the customers. Have a meeting or workshop with them to find out what is in their vision.

How can you tell when you should stop improving the UX not to go too far to avoid making the interface too unfamiliar for the user?

  • “Too much” indicates that the UX is poor. Doing things to make the interface look prettier are not necessarily good UX -sometimes the pretty interface prevents the user from having a good experience… Good UX is about understanding the user, not about what the engineers want.

What’s your opinion on the role of documentation in UX? Should documentation be tested as part of product testing to ensure excellent UX?

  • Yes absolutely – it is part of the product, and part of the experience that the user has. It needs to be tested to make sure it is functional, suitable, provides a good experience, is easy to navigate by someone who does not know the product. It could have errors, omissions, ambiguities – in other words bugs. And – don’t forget the buying process, the install process, the set up… they all add to or detract from UX.

Questions about the UX of test tools

These questions asked do we need skills or do we need UX? They are exciting questions…Ones I am asking myself too…

Imagine you have a labour with a hammer, he pins nails in wooden surface. If he never uses the second side of hammer to pull out wrongly pinned nails and instead pins another correctly – should we redesign hammers or teach him how to use it?

Increased demand on plane pilots didn’t resulted with decreasing requirements for wannabes.

Don’t you think that for most of tools we should demand more knowledge from new users than spend a lot of time on changing whole tool for better UX?

  • These questions are really good – it is central to what I am looking at – do we make sure the testers have the skills to use the tools, or do we change the tools so the testers can use them? I don’t know the answer – I know what I am inclined to think, but the purpose of the research is to challenge that thinking… am I right or wrong? Is there a problem? If there is a problem how can it be solved? It depends…Do the tools need to change or the testers need to change? I hear lots of opinion, but I don’t know…
    • If we want someone to be a carpenter, and to learn those skills, and they are working on small, slow projects, or an occasional project where a small number of nails are needed, then teaching them to use the hammer well is good.
    • If someone comes up with a better design for a hammer, we’ll welcome that. And – for small home projects – maybe we’d encourage them to use a different approach – like “no more nails” [http://www.unibond.co.uk/en/diy-adhesives/no-more-nails.html]
    • If we are working on a big construction project where 1000’s of nails are needed, a hammer won’t be the right tool; we need to get them a nail gun, or some other machine, and teach them to use that. And, we’ll want the nail gun to be easy to use…
  • Thanks! Your question is really good one!
  • If we turn to pilots, UX and usability for pilots is really important: plane crashes were happening because of human factors, usability and UX reasons [just search “usability plane crashes” to see examples]. So much work has been done in the avionics industry to make piloting a plane easier. Still, pilots need knowledge so that they can take over from the automatic pilot if something goes wrong. There has been some interesting discussion about this – how much the use of automation de-skills pilots? [see Nicholas Carr’s writing for example] That’s for a whole other blog.
  • Piloting a plane – like driving a car – has changed with automation, and the usability of the automation has been key.
  • This pair of questions – I love them – this is what we need to debate, research and find out the answer to.

Do you have any suggestions how to make regression tests more reliable e.g. writing unit tests for automated test cases, keep part of regression manual, etc.?

  • It depends! Automating unit testing, and getting important regression tests into the unit test automation is useful. Find and fix regressions quickly. I think also understanding the content of the regression tests is useful – which parts of the system do you always want to exercise after change? Which parts of system need exercising after a specific change? Which regression tests address those questions? Which ones don’t we need to run this time? You may well find that some tests are not usefully automated at all. Understand what you are trying to achieve with the regression testing and then decide what and how to automate. Work to have smaller, focused regression testing.

What would be your recommendation with regard to configuration/maintenance costs: Compose workflow consisting of atomic tools suitable for particular activities or use ready prepared ecosystems of tools and plug-ins.

  • It depends on your project and circumstances – there is not a set answer to this question. It’s an area to explore in the research – thanks!

In your opinion what is the future perspective of ‘automating the automation’ with AI, ML, deep learning, etc – how big will be the share of tasks overtaken by those mechanisms (like test design, fault reporting, test results analysis)…

  • Next big thing – we’re on the brink. There will still be a place for testers, but it will change – we’ll need to be adaptable. Tariq King gave an excellent keynote about this at STARWest 2017 – it is worth listening to him…

What do you expect to achieve at the end of your research? How do you see a day when it is over?

  • I hope to have answers (at least provisional answers) to some of these questions. I hope to have engaged people who provide tools into thinking about UX. And I hope to have learnt a lot and rejuvenated my thinking -challenged myself, learnt new things, fed back ideas into the industry. It’s going to take 6-8 years, and I hope to feedback results during that time.

How can each of us help with your research?

  • Send me your stories – what works for you, what does not work, why you think that might be, what you would like your tools to be like. DO that via the contact page on my website isabelevans.uk – that link will take you to the contact page.

If “Should I stay or should I go” is already mentioned – what is your favourite song describing software testing?

  • At the conference, I was tongue tied, here are some thoughts – you can decide what the message is for you…
    • Paranoid
    • Follow the Yellow Brick Road
    • These foolish things
    • I can’t turn you loose
    • Sweet dreams are made of this
    • Right by your side
    • Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
    • Wow
    • The gambler
    • All of the day and all of the night
    • Tired of waiting
    • It’s nobody’s fault but mine…
    • Funny how time slips by
    • Five o’clock somewhere

Thanks for all the questions!

 

4/11/2017

Book recommendation: “Creating great teams” by Mamoli and Mole

Here is a new, interesting, informative and easy to read book on forming teams. “Creating Great Teams: how self selection lets people excel” by Sandy Mamoli and David Mole takes the reader step by step through the process of building teams by enabling them to self-select.

This book is based on the “belief that people are at their happiest and most productive if they can choose what they work on and who they work with” – an appealing theory, but does it work in practice? The authors do not just present a theoretical construct, they describe a case study of an organisation where they were successful in implementing the self-selected teams method, and they discuss their fears, problems and blockers honestly, showing how they overcame obstacles. The refer to other organisations that have used the method, and provide qualitative and quantitative evidence in terms of anecdotes, results of staff surveys and company results.

The book is divided into short chapters, starting with an explanation of the ideas, then step by step through planning and preparing for self selection, the self-selection workshop, and importantly, the followup required to implement, launch and support the new teams. Each chapter provides checklists, guidelines, hints and tips, and practical experiences.

So – what is self-selection? When teams self select, instead of managers assigning people to teams, the teams choose themselves. Given the projects that are required, the people within the organisation choose which project they want to work on.

I was lucky enough to meet Sandy at Agile India 2017, and when she described the method to me I was excited by the concept, but at first sceptical. I could see problems: what if there were project no-one wanted to do? What if everyone wanted to work on the same project? What if there were people no-one wanted in their team – wouldn’t it all be a bit like sports lessons at school (where I was always chosen last…)? Sandy & David show in this book that they faced the same doubts, and they show how to overcome them. Happily, rational, intelligent adults react well to responsibility and choice.

In this review, I will not go into detail about the methods they use and the checklists they provide. I urge you to buy the book! It is really good value and will make you think anew about how you build teams.

ISBN 978 1 68050 128 5

https://pragprog.com/book/mmteams/creating-great-teams

Get it, read it, think about it, notice the effectiveness of the working method.

Why we need a better tool set for building software

At the end of my last blog, I asked, “So – why is technology flawed? Why not build it well in the first place?” There could be several reasons, today I want to discuss just two of many:

  • Limited types of people in the industry: The software engineers do not always understand what is needed because they may not understand the people who will use the technology. Because of this they may deliver software that is the product they themselves want to use. This means technology can be biased towards the type of people who are already software engineers.
  • Automation bias and poor decision making: The software engineers and the non-engineers on the project team may have a toolset that does not enable them to make good decisions. Yes, all the flaws in technology that I talked about in the previous blog are also true for the tool set that software engineers use. The tools are intended to help decision making in the project. Is the software ready? Has it been tested? Does it work? Are there any risks in delivering it now? But if the tools are flawed, and hard to use, people are more likely to make poor decisions with poor outcomes. That will lead to flawed software and potentially an ugly UX for everyone else. Note that technologists and software engineers also suffer from software with flaws in it, software that is hard to understand, and tools that prompt them into automation bias.

Two sayings that come to mind here “a fool with a tool is still a fool” and “a poor workman blames his tools” and it would be easy to stop at that. But the industry has spent too long building up some traditions around old mind sets and old tool sets that favour old ways of doing things. If technology and software is to serve and reflect the widest population, to everyone’s benefit, then the teams need to reflect society. If the teams reflect society, then the tool set needs to be easily used by a wider range of people, not just the obvious technologists.

As Seth Godin remarks in [Demand Guardrails] “If peer pressure and short-term urgencies set us up to do things we regret, we come out ahead when we support cultural changes that remove that peer pressure and lessen those short-term urgencies.” This blog is a call for a change to the tool sets used by software engineers, to make them easier to use, easier to understand, and supportive of good decision making that tends to a beautiful UX for everyone. We need to support cultural changes in the world of software engineering that remove the peer pressure of being the same as we’ve always been. We need to support cultural changes that remove short term urgencies that stop us mending out tool set. We are the cobblers, and we are the cobblers’ children with no shoes.

Old tools sets are hard to use. Early sewing machines required skills with the machines that are not needed by modern machines; a sewer today can concentrate much more on the project, and less on the tools. Early cars were hard to drive, with starting handles and double de-clutching to master. Modern cars are easy to start, easy to drive, automatic gears and power steering. The driver can concentrate on the journey and the destination. More people can use a sewing machine now, and make their own clothes. More people can drive, and have the independence to make journeys. [Rise of the female petrolhead, Car electric starter, Treadle sewing machine difficulty]

I would like to move software engineering tool sets to beyond the treadle machine and the car with a crank handle starter to a modern, smooth system where automation and tools serve the project team rather than being a hindrance. This will address both the problems above:

it is like working with something designed to be used by a 12-year-old boy in his bedroom in the 1980’s”.

“Why would I want to use a tool called Github?

But this is not just a problem about gender or culture; the tools are themselves flawed and old-fashioned.

  • Tool flaws: IT teams are themselves beset with the same problems and frustrations with the tool set they have to use, and this leads to the release of highly flawed software. Many IT tool sets are almost deliberately arcane and are gender biased. Many become “shelfware” – purchased but hardly ever used. Others are used with automation bias – the results are wrong but are treated as correct. Here are some more quotes from developers, testers, and researchers about flaws in tools

Developer: “I spend 50% of my time wrestling with the technology instead of solving the problem I am working on” Quote from WII meeting

Software tester finding decision making not supported by IT toolset: “The test tool marked all the tests as passed except 1, but in fact none of the tests marked “passed” had actually run” Quote from Fewster and Graham “Experiences of Test Automation”

Problems with customer support tools: “Ethnographic research paints a sad picture of the current state of the ITSM market.   …vision is to build a solution designed for humans, not processes” [http://blogs.ca.com/2016/01/27/moving-itservice-management-to-the-21st-century/]

Evidence that developers do not find tools easy to use: “…so now I wanna know why raising a string exception is bad. Like what should I be doing instead? Since it thinks it’s a problem. And so none of these really help me…” (Why Don’t Software Developers Use Static Analysis Tools to Find Bugs? By Johnson, Song, and Murphy-Hill).

Evidence that tools do not work for IT people “…a lack of consideration for how people work and think … basically it’s still the mindset that the human adapts to the computer, not vice-versa.” (A Taxonomy of Tool-Related Issues Affecting the Adoption of Model-Driven Engineering by Whittle, Hutchinson, Rouncefield, Burden and Heldal)

In the previous blog I said: The reasons that technology and software may prompt poor decision making include defects in the software […or that it…] may function correctly, but in a way that does not aid people in making good decisions. … dealing with frustrations, defects and consequences of poor engineering is a bad experience for the people using the technology; a flawed, ugly UX. That is true for tools used by the teams delivering software, and is a key root cause for the problems we all experience with delivered software.

What I will propose in my next blog is a solution to these problems.

Why everyone needs a better experience of software

If someone makes the wrong decision what might be the impact? It could be frustrating, or dangerous, or even fatal. We all make decisions all the time – what to eat, what to wear, what to read or watch. And frequently we make very important decisions – financial decisions, life changing decisions. We also rely on experts and professionals (nurses, doctors, pilots, financiers, politicians) to make decisions for us.

Apart from our own knowledge and brains, the tools we have to help us are technology, and software. Technology is cheap, and has become the basis for much of people’s decision making.

Software as part of that technology is now ubiquitous, but often fails to delight us. It fails to support good decision making. When the technology goes wrong, when the software is flawed, what is the impact? For example, a satnav that is out of date may give us directions that take us into a road that is no longer driveable. As humans we then need to engage our own brains and override the suggestions of the satnav. But often when automated decision making is provided, people will over-rely on it and fail to over-ride flawed decisions – the [automation bias].

This is important because of the breadth and scope of the decision making that technology supports. Many people are using a wide range of different systems to make many types of decisions:

  • The impact of our decisions may be personal (shopping, dating, entertainment, directions for travel) and important to us, an individual.
  • The impact may be organisational (financial forecasting, data analytics for marketing) where the outcome of the decisions is important to a board and shareholders.
  • It may be geographical, political and global (weather forecasting, border controls, international policing) and important to citizens of many countries.
  • One country’s politicians may use decision making systems local to one country (medical/health population trends, voting systems) and the impact will be on the politicians and the general public.
  • The people using technology may be experts / professionals (doctors, nurses, pilots, farmers) or lay people (patients, travellers, shoppers).

The reasons that technology and software may prompt poor decision making include defects in the software that mean it does not function correctly. If we are lucky, the defect will be sufficiently bad that it is obvious the output is wrong, and so people will correct the software, or ignore/override it. Sometimes, the software is wrong, but it is difficult to see that it is wrong. In that case, people are misled into trusting it, and so may make poor decisions based on flawed advice. More subtly, the software may function correctly, but in a way that does not aid people in making good decisions. The software may be slow, insecure, hard to use. The “user experience” (UX) that a person has when using technology and software should be beautiful, that is what is intended. But dealing with frustrations, defects and consequences of poor engineering is a bad experience for the people using the technology; a flawed, ugly UX.

So – why is technology flawed? Why not build it well in the first place? I will discuss  a couple of the reasons for that in my next blog.

Quilting and hacking

Two blogs to which I subscribe had new posts this week, and they just fitted together:

Now I know sometimes I can be a little obsessive about the analogy between sewing and IT; the need for a workbox, the need for new ways of using old methods, the way the projects are similar… but I urge you to read them both and compare.

A project works when you understand the materials you are working with, how they fit together, and how you can modify them. Repurposing happens with fabric and with code. Hacking can be a good thing – with code and with fabric. But you need to understand the pillars for success. The Googletesting blog suggests to me:

  • refactoring old code so you can reuse it
  • consistent formatting giving patterns that you can follow and
  • use of structure and architecture to hold everything together

Knitnkwilt suggests to me

  • working with what you have got by reusing/repurposing old things
  • using a consistent pattern framework to hold the design together and
  • enhancing the old with new structure/fabric.

 

 

 

Quality in Use tutorial: SEETEST Bucharest

Quality in use is a really important concept for IT teams to understand. We get very focused on building, testing and delivering functionality. We also put some emphasis on what testers call “non functional testing” in other words testing quality attributes other than functionality. In particular, performance and security testing are a focus for many teams. However, customers choosing a product will be looking at whether it is usable, flexible and safe – they assume it’ll work functionally. They will also be drawn to products that provide the right experiences – we use words like excitement, flow and trust to describe how someone experiences a product or service. Attributes like functionality, security and performance are important because they are the foundations that underpin great quality in use, and a beautiful user experience.

I’m really happy to be going to Bucharest in September for SEETEST, where I will present a half day tutorial on Quality in Use and the user experience. It’s my first time in Romania, so I’m taking a few extra days to look around Bucharest. Looking forward to that, and to the conference. The tutorial summary is below.

Quality in use

… the beating heart of the user experience

Public presentation

  • Half day tutorial for SEETEST 15 September 2016
  • Also available as an in-house 1 day tutorial on request

Audience

The class is principally aimed at practicing testers and test managers who want to improve the alignment of their testing to the business and user needs.  This includes people in roles such as system testers, test analysts, test engineers, test consultants, test managers, user acceptance testers and software developers. No prior knowledge is assumed and attendees do NOT need a PC for this course.

Concepts

As testers, should we focus on details or on the big picture? Our skill set and comfort zone is often in the detail; we find excitingly obscure bugs and report these problems in detail. But does our zeal sometimes cause us to miss the big picture of what the customer and the business really needs? Do we focus on software defects at the expense of human and commercial factors? In today’s business environment, the user experience and the commercial imperatives have become overwhelmingly important. As testers it is vital that we understand quality in use and the user experience, in order that we focus our tests correctly.

“Quality in use” measures products and services looking at human, business and societal impacts; this includes usability, accessibility, and flexibility for the customer and business, as well as commercial, human and environmental safety. These are underpinned by technical and engineering attributes of a product, and build together into a “User Experience”. For the people selling, supporting or using the products, this is the beating heart of the customer experience. How well are people supported to effectively and efficiently carry out their tasks? Is the product accessible to all the people who want to use it? Does the experience of using the product generate human reactions of trust, excitement or other reactions that will encourage users to continue using and to recommend the product? Do we reach the customers’ hearts as well as their purses?

Without these “big picture” attributes, delivered software will not be acceptable, will not keep our organizations in profit, and may not be legal. The benefits of designing in and testing these attributes will make the users more effective, more efficient, and increase the marketplace for our products and services.

In the tutorial, Isabel will use examples from ISO25000/ISO25022 and from real projects to discuss how testers design tests derived from the user personas, contexts of use, and acceptance criteria.  This requires testing during early testing of concepts and designs and later testing on built products.

Standard ISO25000/ISO25022 defines a group of attributes and metrics that build from the internal engineering qualities and attributes, such as the functional attributes, performance measures and security, to the Quality in Use attributes of usability, context coverage and freedom from risk, with the user experience attributes such as trust, excitement and flow are at the top of the pyramid. Trust, excitement and flow in a task all affect the human heartbeat – user experience is the beating heart of the user experience.

Participants will learn:

  • To distinguish the layers of quality that must be designed and built into products, and tested;
  • How to understand and meet the context of use for each customer persona, from the internal quality through quality in use, to the user experience;
  • How to focus testing on customers, end users and the business;
  • How to select attributes from each layer of the user experience pyramid to track and measure during testing;
  • How to agree acceptance criteria for testing internal quality, quality in use and the user experience.