STANZ 2012 – From behind the keynotes

17 September

It was amazing!! Taking this year’s STANZ conference on the road added some spice to give it a slightly different flavour. The first stop was Christchurch where fancy dress was optional in the medieval setting of The Chateau (with moat included). Even the toilets were labelled ‘Lords’ and ‘Ladies’, there were huge cauldrons filled with wood just begging to be lit (but were not) and knights scattered throughout the building for ambience.

Like chalk and cheese, the second stop was in Auckland’s Crowne Plaza which is about as modern as you can get. In a very traditional conference room, Julie Gardiner had the task of warming up the Auckland test professionals with her 2012 Survival Guide: Lessons for Every Tester. She distilled 5 important things, based on her own experience, that every tester should do. It’s not just about surviving but thriving as a tester:-
1. Stand out by estimating quality
2. Stand out by having passion (enjoy testing & have fun)
3. Stand out by taking ownership of your career
4. Stand out by demonstrating & reporting the value of testing
5. Stand out by retaining integrity

I loved the testing survival kit Julie provided to STANZ delegates! Included in the kit was a chocolate ladybug and once you’ve eaten the chocolate it looked just like a squashed bug. How appropriate I thought since testers find bugs and squash them (so to speak)!

In both locations, after a morning tea break to allow for networking and catching up with old colleagues, Alan Page presented his “Testing Upside Down: Customer Focused Test Design”. In many organisations, we execute the various levels of testing and it is only towards the end that we tend to do performance, security, and reliability testing. Alan postulated that perhaps we should be doing the ‘-ility’ testing (non-functional testing) at the beginning rather than at the end, especially if this is what matters most to our customers – thereby turning testing upside down. From their marketing research, it was discovered that Microsoft users value the following 6 attributes more than any other: security, privacy, reliability, performance, usability, and globalisation. So perhaps the focus of testing should be on these attributes first? Alan clearly stated that this did not mean we neglect functional testing. In fact, in doing performance testing if a particular functionality was not working, these functional defects are clearly highlighted. For example, being unable to check out a library book online is a functional defect and as a result, we cannot measure its performance.

Alan spoke about using scenario testing, shifts & sparks, as well as live testing to help generate customer-focused tests. My takeaway from Alan’s presentation was the possibility of using live testing as long as there are very good release management processes in place and the ability to roll back from a release becomes a non-event.

As the closing act on the morning presentations, Elisabeth Hendrickson looked at the changing role of testing in her presentation “Testing Reframed”. Traditional views of testing as gatekeepers of quality, as insurance for the product, or as an independent assessment of product quality are no longer valid (not that they ever have been in Elisabeth’s view). Times are changing, context in which testing occurs is changing, technology and platforms are changing as well as development cycles changing from a traditional waterfall to a more Agile approach. As a result, test-driven development (TDD) and acceptance test-driven development (ATDD) have become more popular. With the help of continuous integration tools, the shift is to have feedback about quality in seconds, minutes, hours as opposed to days, weeks, months. Team structures are also changing with less emphasis on roles and more on skill sets.

One of my many takeaways from Elisabeth Hendrickson’s talk was that testing is composed of both checking and exploring. I think of it as two sides of the same coin. For testing to be complete, the product needs to be both checked and explored.

There were also workshops in the afternoon after a very filling lunch but that’s for another day and another blog post.

Ultimately, I thought it was great how STANZ provided the opportunity for local NZ test professionals to hear from international speakers and to give us with an insight on what the test professionals from other parts of the world are talking about and experiencing.

 

Posted by Donna Chin

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