This section describes lessons learned on the agile testing project in the following areas:
We had enthusiastic buy-in from all parties when we started the project;in principle the approach was well received,though there was some initial skepticism about whether it would work in practice,and some surprise when the results promised were delivered. However, in one particular area we experienced significant pushback; our relationship with the developers started to break down when the bugs began to be found!
As is the case in many parts of the finance sector, staff are paid bonuses based on their ability to deliver high-quality solutions into production.There was an expectation that we would not find much wrong with the system and that our efforts were going to be a bit of a sideshow. However, we found so many bugs that the first release was two months late going into production.
In some organizations there is a significant “blame culture. ” The testing process shone a spotlight on individuals when they were developing their code.So from the developers’perspective, the test team became “the enemy.”
The situation became worse; as the developers gained an understanding of how the testing process worked,and by introducing subtle changes to the code each time the system changed, they were able to make the test scripts fail.We did not realise at he time but subsequently learned that there was a deliberate initiative to make changes to the solution user interfaces in order to disrupt the testing process so that the testers would be perceived as the obstruction in the development process.
In order to address the issue of poor developer relations,in all future projects of this nature we followed the following approach:
A Project Is a Project
A fundamental aspect of our approach in managing the testing was to view testing activities as “just another project,” and as such,to ensure we followed good project management best practice,such as that presented in PRINCE2.This approach included
How to Decide When to Release
It was expected that our approach would find problems;the challenge we faced was how to report them and how to prepare senior management to deal with them.
In our case,many problems once discovered were considered to be so serious that they had to be fixed immediately,and the new release they were associated with could not be delivered until they were resolved.
This was the single most significant factor in delaying the releases.In retrospect,we should have worked harder to create a regime where if the release was at a state where it was an improvement and there were no new known problems being introduced,then we should have proceeded with the release anyway on the basis that we were at least improving the quality of the code.
An alternate approach,and one that would have managed the expectations of the stakeholders more effectively,would have involved us making it clear that there was a significant probability that we would find so many issues,that the overall testing effort was likely to take at least three months,and perhaps up to six months.This would also have allowed the stakeholders to change their overall approach to the project–perhaps taking a different view on how to proceed.
As a result,even though the agile test approach was finding defects,getting them fixed,and improving the quality of the software,we were seen as the cause of the late release,rather than as the agents of improvement.
It was found that using software tools allowed the creation of highly valuable reports.Experience showed that when the situation is extremely serious you can nevertheless create hope by performing analysis using heat-maps3 and other categorization reports to identify where the trouble areas are and what the trend lines are.
These types of reports provide definitive evidence to enable senior managers to get involved in solving the problem by allowing them to determine where the problem is,and to take action based on hard evidence created from metrics.Producing trend graphs shows that,even in a dire situation,once the trend line starts to improve,the management action taken can be demonstrated to be having a positive effect.
Using the lessons learned from this project,we undertook a number of similar projects for other major financial institutions. The benefits of implementing this successful agile approach for these other customers include
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