West London Lean Coffee – November

West London Lean Coffee – November. Here’s a write up of the event.

Lean Coffee

We had a group of 9 people and some great discussions.

Things We Discussed

Experiences of Beyond Budgeting

We talked about experiences of Beyond Budgeting and how working incrementally can help finance teams support agile technology teams. We thought that this would work best in non listed companies, and the key point was enabling buy-in from finance teams to the approach. Wondering what Beyond Budgeting is – look at this post.

How Do You Demonstrate Savings Of Scrum Before You Start?

How can you convince a team to try scrum, or any other agile methodology? How can you demonstrate the savings that could be possible? We discussed how focusing on the outcome was important and how selling a change as a low risk experiment could help you get approval to try something new out. It’s well worth looking at the information that Government Digital Services make available for hints and tips – if it works in government then it must be do-able elsewhere, right? 🙂

The Differences Between Startup Lean and Large Company Lean

Some great discussions about the differences between small and large companies and their cultures. We agreed that behaviour was very important and how the requirement for more structure comes as companies grow. There was a great example of sizes and one scales; making a business unit max 80 people, a squad no more than 12 and teams of 6-8. Once one reaches these limits then it’s most likely time to start thinking about an alternate organisational setup in order to keep a company able to effectively employ agile methodologies

It’s worth checking out Management 3.0 for more details on ways in which you can help build great teams.

If You Were Joining a Team Without a Specific  Remit To Implement Agile Then How Would You Approach It?

We talked about how joining a new team is a challenge and how one might initiate change, despite being the new person on the team. The key point were to not focus on agile as such, look at the culture and pain points and lead by example. Use the opportunity of being new to ask simple questions and highlight what might appear obvious. And make sure that the team can see what the improvement could be by using some agile approaches.

It’s also worth establishing if you have a remit to change things and if so, then understand what the change appetite of the company is.

Things We Didn’t Talk About

  • Differences between software and physical product lean and development.
  • Agile reporting beyond burn down.
  • Sizing bugs and estimations. This post from Johanna Rothman could be useful.
  • Tactics for handling sprint disruption.
  • Multiple mobile teams using the same codebase.
  • Agile and lean for the old and corporate.

The next Lean Coffee is on December 15th, 8:30am in Carluccio’s Westfield, Shepherds Bush. Hope to see you there.

West London Lean Coffee – October

Last week saw the latest edition of West London Lean Coffee, slightly delayed from October into early November. We had a group of 8 people and some great discussions.

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Things We Discussed

Does Agile Need Updating

A detailed discussion about whether the agile principles are still valid and if they are not then does the manifesto need updating. Is the language right? Is it just a matter of applying general principles to the correct context?

It’s worth reading this article from Ben Linders on the same subject.

Transitioning Teams From Waterfall

How can you transition teams from waterfall methodologies? We talked about the complexities when fixed deadlines are involved and how negotiation with Product Owners is key. We then discussed about the importance of focusing on outcomes and not outputs from a team and avoiding falling into a trap of merely doing mini waterfalls. Identifying where the value is and tying everything to measurable business goals can help. I’ve found a lot of what Johanna Rothman has written to be very useful in the past so it’s worth checking her website out.

Impact mapping is also great at ensuring that the team are focused on outcomes from the start.

Alternate Benefits To Contracting For Developers and Testers

We spoke about the difficulties of retaining employees when the contracting market is so strong and what could be done to help. Focusing on team culture is key and ensuring that there are strong, personal bonds between team members. Treating people like adults and helping them adapt to change, while protecting a team from a lot of outside influence can also help. The focus on autonomy, mastery and purpose in a role can mean that the money aspect becomes far less important.

It’s worth checking out Management 3.0 for more details on ways in which you can help build great teams.

How Best To Organise and Delineate Different Workstreams Across Kanban Boards

We talked about whether it was best to have one large Kanban board that covered a number of different workstreams, or let teams have their own. It was agreed that team ownership of boards was the clear winner and something like a portfolio board could be used to bring the results together if needed. We then talked about how using a tool like JIRA could also help and could be used for reporting as much as tracking.

It’s worth checking out some of the presentations from LeanKit as a starter to learn more and this blog post about Portfolio Kanban.

Integrating UX/UI Into Agile Delivery

What’s the best way to integrate UX and UI design into agile? Do you just have the designers work a sprint ahead? But what happens if there are problems with the designs?

We spoke about how putting regular checkpoints or design reviews into the process can help and getting the ‘QA’ aspects of the design process as early as possible can de-risk having design ahead of development.

Things We Didn’t Talk About

  • How do you know what are genuine (non vanity) metrics for MVP? This article could help.
  • Any experience about sizing addressable markets?

The next Lean Coffee is on November 24th, 8:30am in Carluccio’s Westfield, Shepherds Bush. Hope to see you there.

 

My Experiences of WeTest 2016

tl:dr;

I really loved being a part of WeTest 2016. I gave the opening keynote at both conferences, as well as a couple of other talks at sponsor events. If you came to any of them then this post contains some useful links you may want to read. It was great to meet so many engaged and knowledgeable testers in New Zealand.

The Opening

I was thrilled when I was offered the opportunity to travel over to New Zealand and talk at the WeTest 2016 conferences in Auckland and Wellington. I mentioned my conference speaking goal as part of my presentation at both events – this was that one day someone would invite me to speak in New Zealand. And Katrina Clokie, on behalf of WeTest did just that earlier in the year. It didn’t take long for me to agree to be a part of the conference and being offered the opening keynote was a real privilege.

Now there is one thing that’s clear and that is that it is a long way to New Zealand (28 hours to be precise from the UK). So I wanted to ensure that I made the most out of my short time there and to give a presentation that fitted in with the conference theme of “Influence and Inspire”. Given that I have made a move out of a pure test role over the last few years then this seemed like a logical theme for the presentation, and an opportunity for me to give my views, gained from outside of testing, on how testing is perceived. I also wanted to show the audiences that there’s important leadership roles within testing to be taken and made the most of.

Preparation and Arrival For WeTest

I can say without a doubt that WeTest was the best organised conference that I have spoken at and it’s testament to the effort put in by Katrina, Aaron, Shirley and Dan. All too often presenters at conferences aren’t treated brilliantly by organisers – either by having a lack of support leading up to the event, being expected to pay their own way or by needing to foot the bill for travel and accommodation then claim back. WeTest was different – they organised and paid for all travel up front and sent detailed itineraries for each speaker, plans on how the conference rooms were to be setup, as well as ensuring that the simple things like a taxi to pick you up off a long haul flight was pre-arranged. It made the whole experience easy and it made us speakers feel valued. Other conferences should take note.

A really appreciated gift at checkin. WeTest was a great example of how to run a conference
A really appreciated gift from the organisers, handed out at hotel check in. WeTest was a great example of how to run a conference.

Up and Away?

My presentation focused on my views of testing from outside of just testing and how I made a move into software management and why. It was part of a clearly well thought out programme and the other presentations, whether focused on more technical aspects such as mobile testing, or other leadership presentation, fitted together really well. You can see the programme here to get a feel.

Great sketch notes of my presentation from Yvonne Tse
Great sketch notes of my presentation from Yvonne Tse

Highlights

People arriving for WeTest in Auckland
People arriving for WeTest in Auckland

I thought all the presentations were good but a particular highlight for me was Adam Howard’s “Exploratory Testing Live” where Adam took the really brave step of doing live exploratory testing on the Trade Me website in front of a conference audience. Fair to say it went a bit better in Wellington than Auckland, where he found a bug early on that blocked a lot of the rest of the session but he coped really well and there was value in both sessions. We don’t see enough live testing at testing conferences, it’s common to get live coding at development ones but hasn’t seemed to catch on. Based upon Adam’s session then it should.

Also I really enjoyed Joshua Raine’s really personal story about “Conservation of Spoons” which he did as a noslides presentation. Deeply personal at times and spell binding. I won’t give you the details because I’m sure he’ll do this one again and to know the story would spoil it.

A New Approach to Q&A

As part of my presentation I thought I’d try out the new Q&A feature in Google Slides. It turned out that this was a good move because it enabled me to get questions from the audience as I talked and also to keep a record of all of them for later. If you speak at conferences I’d really recommend it.

For those of you who attended then here’s the questions asked, my responses, and a little more information.

What do you most miss about your testing focused roles?

I guess I miss being the expert with the safety of many years of experience of testing. I also make sure I keep connected to the testing community because it’s great and if I didn’t then that would be the biggest thing that I’d miss.

It’s hard to find a balance between adapting and burning out when trying keep up with new trends and technologies. Do you have suggestions on how to manage that balance?

I make sure I do one thing well; that together with Jerry Weinberg’s Lump Law – “If we want to learn anything, we mustn’t try to learn everything” help me to maintain a balance. Trying to find the one thing to focus on is sometimes hard, but by discussing with your stakeholders and your team then you can usually come to find out what is the most important.

Do you have any resources/suggestions for learning to speak ‘Dev’?

There’s not one clear answer to this – it depends on your context, languages and architecture that you are dealing with. When I started then I tended to use google a lot and base my searches on discussions I’d had with the dev’s in my team. I’d also ask them what they thought I should be learning and why. I’ve also found sites like Hacker News and Stack Overflow to be great for keeping up with what’s happening. Talking Code also comes recommended.

Was your career path in the same company or different? Would you suggest to change companies or progress in one?

It was in the same company and I think it’s much easier to make a change from one path to another when you are in the same company. You have that reputation to use and you are a known quantity. It’s also likely that you’d been working towards such a change as part of your personal development anyway so the company will be confident in your plans.

Since we are talking about change, at any given point during those career changes did you resist the change? How did you over come that? Were you specifically looking for change?

I talked about how it can be scary to make changes but trying something new for 6 months is key. You need to understand that you will go through a change curve just like anyone else and things will feel extremely uncertain as a result at the beginning. I knew what to expect since I’ve been through other changes.

In this case I wasn’t specifically looking for change, more for an opportunity.

Thank you for the nice talk If you had to recommend doing ONE PRACTICAL exercise to raise awareness with the team that WE ALL own quality – what would it be?

I like the idea of whole team testing and bug bashes are a great way of starting.

What do you think testing will be like in 10 years time?

I think we’ll see less traditional testing roles and the focus on automated checking will become more of a development activity. This may mean that there are less testing roles in total but good, exploratory, coaching testers will always have a place in teams. I think the biggest change will affect Test Managers, with far less of a need for them and a transition to coaching roles.

How do you avoid being typecast as just being a tester and overlooked for other career opportunities?

Show that you have an interest to others in your company. Work with your manager to map out your path to a new role and start to show that you are learning the skills that will be required in order to be successful at it.

In short – you own the responsibility for your own career.

A lot of people in this company are transitioning from Waterfall to Agile. Some of the people in the room might gain from you talking to how you see that transition working from the experience you bring, especially if they’re concerned about career development and management.

It does depend a lot on how the management structure adapts. In agile transitions that I have been a part of we’ve changed to autonomous, cross-functional teams with single managers, who have been supported by coaches for both agile, testing and development. This support network is key, as is the establishment of discipline based communities. A strong testing community for example, allows testers whose roles are changing to adapt.

I’ve spoken before about the effect of removing Test Managers from an organisation and the biggest takeaway for me was the need for a strong support network for testers afterwards.

Support from coaches allows not only testers to be supported but also means that someone with testing experience becomes responsible for establishing career paths, competency expectations, etc that can then be used by other managers who are not experienced in managing testers. It also helps maintain a ‘voice of testing’ towards senior management and to enable activities that help testers grow within an organisation.

And Repeat…

Parimala Hariprasad is full flow!
Parimala Hariprasad in full flow!

The first conference was in Auckland and we repeated the experience again in Wellington three days afterwards. This meant that the whole WeTest circus upped sticks and set off for Wellington for a repeat performance. I also did an “Understand Your Mobile Users” presentation at a sponsor the night before, plus the same WeTest presentation at a sponsors internal conference the day afterwards. Four presentations in one week was something new to me and actually pretty interesting to do as I got into the speed of things. It almost felt like being in a band on tour 🙂

Closing Thoughts

WeTest was great. I met some great people and learnt some new things. It was extremely well run by a passionate bunch of volunteers who knew how to treat their speakers well and how to organise a great programme for the conferences. The testing community in New Zealand is really engaged and it’s clear that there’s some really forward looking testers pushing the boundaries here. If you get yourself over to New Zealand then I’d certainly recommend it. It’s not that far. Really 🙂

West London Lean Coffee – 15th September

West London lean coffee runs every month in Carluccios in Westfield Shepherds Bush. Here’s a brief writeup of this morning’s session.

The next session will be on 27th October. Hope to see you there.

Topics We Discussed

‘All Work and No Play’…But How Much Work?’

How much are activities like 10% time and hackathons of benefit to the team and the business? What works for one team may not work for the others. We had some good discussion on context and why giving room for innovation is important.

Agile and Lean For Management Teams

Some great discussion on whether adopting agile and lean works for management teams, a.k.a. the scrum of scrum masters. The idea of quick, focused meetings, transparency and team involvement is important no matter whether it’s a team of developers and testers or a team of managers. Some great tips including ‘make the focus of meetings on how to improve’.

False Agile Promises

What happens when you join a company and you find out that they are not as agile as they implied during the interview? Should you try and change the company from within or cut your losses and move on. The questions that you ask in the interview are important and need to be detailed enough to ensure that you really get a feel for the company culture. We talked about how successful agile transformations are not technology focused and how working with HR and finance first can be the secret to a transformation that works and becomes embedded in company culture.

How Much Are Personas Important When Looking At Market Segments?

We talked about persona’s and how those seeking to validate product ideas can use them. There was some previous experience in the group with the use of persona’s in technology and software development, including testing, in order to understand the customer better. We discussed how segmentation is important but need to be detailed enough to be useful.

Topics We Didn’t Get To

  • Working with sales partners and how much to involve them in the design of a product canvas.
  • London – high turnover of staff.
  • Managing people through change
  • Remote teams and tips on how to run them
  • Capacity management with stakeholders
  • Continuous delivery – how to implement in a new team
  • Embracing new tech internally
  • Is lean for tech users clients or can we convince business to go with it?

West London Lean Coffee – 28th July

I’m the organiser of the West London Lean Coffee meet-up – here’s a write-up of the July event.

(If you are wondering what a Lean Coffee is then take a look at the Lean Coffee website to find out more).

Topics We Discussed At Lean Coffee

Which Is Better – Move Fast and Break Things Or Test Thoroughly?

A great discussion about whether it’s better to release rapidly and test more in production vs testing and then making a release to production. It’s key in this situation to understand how any changes will be monitored in production, how quickly deployed changes can be rolled back or patched, and how released work is supported. Books like Continuous Delivery and also Lean Startup are good places to start to lean more.

I gave the example of Pokemon Go, where a worldwide phenomenon has occurred and been very successful despite the quality being actually very poor.

Product Manager vs Project Manager

We talked about the differences between product managers and project managers. Is there a difference or is it just semantics? Does the widespread adoption of agile and the product owner role mean that we now see more Product Managers? My take on this is more about permanence – a project is essentially transient in nature and therefore a project manager will manage many different projects over time, whereas a product manager becomes the expert at something more permanent, i.e. a product. But, as was brought up in the discussion, how does one define a product anyway, and since products change so rapidly then is there really a difference between product and project management anyway?

Keeping Teams Engaged

How do you keep a team engaged between projects? Is 20% time, hack days, shipit days and learning enough, when the gap is long and the team’s vision isn’t clear enough? We talked about how you could focus teams, including involving them in project definition decisions as well as the other options mentioned above.

Lean – With a Working Prototype, How Far Back To MVP Should You Go?

We talked about the importance of MVP and how far back towards MVP should you go, particularly when you are a lone inventor of a hardware solution rather than something purely in software. Topics included defining your measurable business goals, how to measure these and how to ensure that you produce a true minimum feature set for validation. And how this is difficult when you have such as emotional attachment to a particular idea.

Topics We Didn’t Get To Talk About

  • People management while trying to be agile
  • How to work with or manage someone who doesn’t like to document their work in detail
  • Experience using lean with physical products (as an aside – if you are reading this and you do have experience then please get in touch)
  • Working in an agile manner with consultants

Hope to see everyone next time, which will be in September. If you haven’t been before and fancy coming along then join the meetup group.

Agile In The City 2016

I’ve just got back from Agile In The City, which is a relatively new agile conference held in London. It’s in its second year and this was the first time it had been extended to two days. I had a great time; there was a good mix of talks, tutorials and workshops, a decent venue and even some good food as well.

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As usual I did some mind maps of the sessions I attended. My favourite session was Managing For Happiness from Jurgen Appelo, a really inspiring keynote about how to manage better, with some great tips.

My mind maps from all the sessions I attended are below.

Keynotes

Managing For Happiness by Jurgen Appelo
Managing For Happiness by Jurgen Appelo
How To Derail Agile Rollouts - Katherine Kirk
How To Derail Agile Rollouts – Katherine Kirk

Track Sessions

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Scaling agile development at the Government Digital Service by Adam Maddison

 

IMG_20160618_140338606
Punishment driven development by Louise Elliott

 

Develop The Product Not The Software - David Leach

Develop The Product Not The Software – David Leach (with free water pistol 🙂

 

Value by Andrea Provaglio
Value by Andrea Provaglio

 

From Oil Tankers To Speedboats - Jonathan Smart
From Oil Tankers To Speedboats – Jonathan Smart

 

#NoProjects - beyond projects - why projects are wrong and what to do instead - Allan Kelly
#NoProjects – beyond projects – why projects are wrong and what to do instead – Allan Kelly

West London Lean Coffee – 9th June

I’m the organiser of the West London Lean Coffee meetup and I thought it would be good to do some short write-ups of the events and an overview of what was discussed. Useful for those who attended and hopefully also for those who didn’t.

lc(If you are wondering what a Lean Coffee is then take a look at the Lean Coffee website to find out more).

 

Topics We Discussed At Lean Coffee

Applying Agile To Non-Software Tasks

A good discussion about how you could apply agile to HR, finance, change management, etc. It got me thinking about this TED talk about how you could use agile to plan your families tasks.

What Is The Easiest Way To Transition To Cross Functional Teams

We got talking about how you could transition teams from being discipline focused, i.e. development team, test team, etc to cross functional agile teams. There’s some good examples in this blog post and also it’s worth thinking about skills mapping as part of the exercise.

Sizing In Points Vs Time

Is it best to size in points or time? Or both? Or neither? We talked about how you might bring two teams together who size differently, why the most important thing about sizing is not the method you use, but the fact that it gets the team to think about the tasks, and how that can help drive commitment.

Topics We Didn’t Get To Talk About

  • PO = Business?
  • Does agile estimation bring value?
  • Idea to bring a good but impersonal team together.

Hope to see everyone next time. If you haven’t been before and fancy coming along then join the meetup group.

Technical Mobile Testing At The Test Masters Academy Masterclasses

Technical Mobile Testing

I’m really excited to be partnering with Richard Bradshaw, a.k.a. Friendly Tester for some Technical Mobile Testing tutorials this year. The first one will be in New York as part of the Test Masters Academy Masterclasses on 25th and 26th April.

Technical Mobile Testing

Technical Mobile Testing builds on the Mobile Testing tutorial I’ve taught over the last couple of years, and is aimed at those who want to go deeper into mobile testing and get more technically focused.

If you have found yourself testing on mobile recently, you have probably considered or tried introducing some automation or tools into your testing efforts. You are probably thinking along the lines of, how can I make this easier? But it can appear a daunting task; there are so many frameworks and so many tools out there, so where do you start? In the tutorial we will try and help you answer that question.

What The Tutorial Covers

In this tutorial you will pick up useful hints and tips, learnt from within the industry. We plan to cover the following areas over the two days.

  • The Mobile Market and How It Affects Testing.
  • Why Get More Technical and How To Start.
  • Using Chrome Developer Tools and Safari Web Inspector to test mobile websites
  • Utilising XCode / iOS Simulator.
  • Android Virtual Devices, Emulators and Genymotion.
  • Getting the most out of Android Debug Bridge (ADB).
  • How to utilise proxying when testing mobile.
  • Recording your testing from the device.
  • Using GUI automation frameworks available.
  • Creating some GUI automated checks using Appium.

We’ll look at how to use simulators and emulators, simulate networks, fake locations and a whole lot more. You’ll pick-up tips on how to use the developer tools and SDKs, build apps, deploy apps to devices and view and change the network requests that apps make.

If you come along then you’ll leave with the knowledge needed to get far more technical with mobile and a great toolbox of hints and tips and hand-ons experience.

Coming Along? – What To Bring

We’ll be using the common SDK’s for iOS and Android so you’ll need to install XCode and Android Studio, and have Chrome and Safari installed. We’ll help you with the setup and get you started.

And bring devices. Lots of devices 🙂

Stay For The Conference

Test Masters Academy have a great line-up of both tutorials but they  also have a one day conference on 27th April. Have a look at the line-up – there’s some really interesting stuff on the program.

Hope to see you there.

State Of Testing Survey 2016

Update: The survey is now live. I’ve just completed it, hope you will too.

The guys over at QA Intelligence and Tea Time with Testers are running The State of Testing Survey 2016 again this year.

A survey which allows us to get a wider view of our profession and our community can only be a good thing in my book. It can help us understand our joint challenges far better, and to set the future direction. I’ll be a part of the survey and I hope you will be too.

The survey is not currently open but it will be soon. You can find out more information at the QA Intelligence blog.

Note: I’m not affiliated with the survey or those running it, I think the survey is a good idea so I’m supporting it.

Talking About Testing

Have you ever said “I’ll just have a play with the software….”?

As testers we are generally really bad at explaining what we do and the value it brings. In fact we are usually pretty rubbish.

This makes stakeholders take us less seriously, and can affect career prospects, position within the team, or even a job itself. Outsourcing what is perceived to be low skilled work is tempting, especially when times get tough.

We then complain that we are not being taken seriously, and we feel ignored, undervalued and sad.

And so we retreat into our bubbles and the whole thing repeats itself.

So How Can We Change This?

We can get better at explaining what we do and the value we bring as testers.

Keith Klain sums it up nicely here

What is Testing?

“Testing is the infinite process of comparing the invisible to the ambiguous so as to avoid the unthinkable happening to the anonymous”

James Bach

A great definition but not one that lands well with non-testers in my experience. It’s like when myself and Dan Ashby tried to get a company to stop saying ‘manual testing’ and instead say ‘sapient testing’. It made perfect sense but it just didn’t land. People didn’t see it as important. They didn’t see a need to change because we were trying to take a leap that was too large, from what they thought was correct language to what we thought was correct language.

When I’m explaining testing I prefer to start by asking “Do you care about quality?” The usual answer is “of course”, in which case I can then use the Weinberg/ Bach/ Bolton definition:

“Quality is value, to some person who matters”

“So what’s testing then?” they will ask.

Well.  “Testing helps us uncover risks to product quality. It’s about investigating software, in order to discover those risks, enabling others to make decisions about whether it’s suitable for release”.

We Need to Talk More Technically

But that is hard. Just see how complicated it is to explain the Heuristic Test Strategy Model in two minutes for example.

(OK – I know the whole point with this video is that it is impossible, which proves a point I think :))

What Value Do We Bring?

When explaining value, it’s all about the words we use, and the angle we take. It’s about the audience – don’t explain testing to a developer in the same way as you would to the CTO.

Again, Keith Klain nails it with this talk.

So, think very carefully about how you explain your testing. Perhaps, just perhaps, ‘playing with the software’ isn’t what you mean.

So – how do you talk about testing?

Mobile and e-commerce technical leadership, coaching, training and presenting