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Quality, per J.M. Juran, is fitness for use. The presence of attributes and features that will satisfy customers, users, and other stakeholders, as well as the absence of attributes (e.g., bugs) that will dissatisfy them.
Testing is an excellent means to build confidence in the quality of software before it’s deployed in a data center or released to customers. It’s good to have confidence before you turn an application loose on the users, but why wait until the end of the project? The most efficient form of quality assurance is building software the right way, right from the start. What can software testing, software quality, and software engineering professionals do, starting with the first day of the project, to deliver quality applications?
I suspect that, in the near future, many types of software will become commoditized, just as many types of computer hardware have. The open-source phenomenon is leading the way, with Linux and Apache ascendant on the Internet. Regardless of the motives of the partisans of open-source software, the motives of the important business users of these open-source applications are clear: They want cheap software with the same quality levels as the commercial alternatives.
Testing can be considered an investment. A software organization—whether an in-house IT shop, market-driven shrink-wrap software vendor, or Internet ASP— chooses to forego spending money on new projects or additional features to fund the test team. What’s the return on that investment (ROI)? Cost of quality analysis provides one way to quantify ROI.
Information appliances, which provide simplified, easy access to specific information such as e-mail and Web sites, promise to bring the benefits of computing to a wide customer base, including some computer-averse people who have hitherto avoided buying a computer. Internet appliances are evolving from personal computers, game stations, digital mobile phones, and server technologies. While this allows us to apply well-known quality assurance techniques, including testing techniques, the software quality professional must remember that the risks to product quality are different; the quality bar is higher, especially in terms of usability, robustness, and harmonizing the appliance with the dynamic Internet. Customers will assess the quality of information appliances by the degree to which the appliance reliably, quickly, transparently, and intuitively provides them with access to the desired information, and we expect them to be much less understanding of glitches than the current PC user. Information appliances are gaining wide acceptance—millions will hit the market in the next few years—so many of us who practice software quality professions will spend time working on projects to develop them. Indeed, we expect that information appliances will present tremendous opportunities to those who seek to bring quality to software in the new millennium. This paper presents the test team’s findings on one such project.
[How can dumb monkeys built from free tools help you? Give this article a read to see a case study. Originally published in Software Testing Professional magazine in 2008, these ideas and techniques are still relevant to SDETs, Technical Test Engineers, and Technical Test Analysts looking to build their own automation solutions using open-source components.]
Arrowhead Electronic Healthcare has been creating eDiarys on handheld devices since 1999. Arrowhead helps pharmaceutical research and marketing organizations document important information about how their products are being used in patients’ homes.
ePRO-LOG is Arrowhead’s third generation eDiary product. The primary design goal of ePRO-LOG is to be able to rapidly deploy diaries used for data collection in clinical trails and disease management programs.
A typical diary may include 100 forms translated in 15 or more languages, and used in several locales. This results in a large number of software builds and configurations. As a result, we needed an automated test tool to address potential risks and to automate common tasks.
The most important quality risks we wanted to address were:
We needed an automated test tool with the following capabilities and features:
This is a case study in how we reduced our risks and achieved our test automation objectives in just a few months on a total tools outlay of $0.
The following is a transcript of an interview with Rex Black. Rex is President of RBCS, a worldwide test consulting, training, and expert services company. He is also former President of ISTQB, and most recently served the ISTQB as Project Manager and Technical Editor for the ISTQB® Foundation 2018 syllabus release. The interview was conducted by Agustina Gay. She is a Key Account Manager at iSQI.
Agustina: Rex, thank you for being here. Would you please introduce yourself?
Rex: Yes, I am Rex Black. I am the president of a company called RBCS and we are a training, consulting, and expert services company based in Texas with clients around the world. I’ve been in software engineering since 1983 and RBCS has been around about almost 25 years, since 1994. I’m also the past president of the ISTQB, from 2005 to 2009, and most recently I was involved on the Foundation project. So I have many years involvement with the ISTQB program.
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Length: 1h 49m 0s
Software quality, for the most part, sucks. It still sucks, seventy-five years since the advent of the programmable computer. Software bugs are a constant fact of life, thanks to the ubiquity of software and the ubiquity of software bugs. Sometimes the bugs costs millions of dollars or kill people. Why is the reaction so muted? Rather than just accept software bugs as unavoidable, let’s ask the obvious question: Given that manufacturing is able to achieve six sigma levels of quality—i.e., only three defective items per million manufactured—why does software quality still suck? In this webinar, Rex will address some of the real barriers to achieving six sigma quality in software, while at the same time holding software engineering as a profession accountable for not doing nearly as much as we can.
Length: 1h 30m 0s
Let’s suppose you bought a car. Six days later, someone from the dealership let himself into your garage, removed the tires on the car, installed some “updated” tires that actually had holes in them, and then left. In the morning, your car was there in the garage, all sad and undriveable on its flat, flabby tires. That’s clearly unacceptable, in fact even criminal, but we allow the same thing to happen all the time with software. Why? In this webinar, Rex will catalog infamous automated software updates, released without sufficient testing to wreak havoc, or at least inconvenience. He’ll then give a detailed roadmap for reducing your chances of being part of the problem.
Some people use the terms “verification” and “validation” interchangeably, but there are significant differences between them. Some people disparage verification, or deny that it’s even involved in testing. However, you can’t adequately build confidence and reduce risk in the software you test without using the proper mix of both. In this webinar, Rex will clarify the meaning of these two terms, give examples, and explain why both are essential to proper software testing.
Length: 1h 20m 50s
When we do assessments, we always try to look at process metrics. In most cases, we can find millions of dollars in process improvement opportunities. In this webinar, Rex will show you how two very simple bug metrics, calculated using only two simple facts for each bug report using simple, free spreadsheets you can get from our website, can reveal millions and millions of dollars in potential process improvements. All the more reason to track those bugs! To paraphrase Timothy Leary: Tune in, download, and drop software co
Length: 1h 0m 28s
Shift left. Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD). Continuous deployment. DevOps. What is all this stuff and what does it mean for you as the tester? In this keynote, Rex Black will explain these concepts and their test implications. He’ll then describe the emerging role of the SDET (Software Development Engineering in Test, also called SET) and what SDETs do. Yes, being an SDET is about test automation, but it’s about a lot more than that, and Rex will give you some examples of things you can expect to do as an SDET in a shift left world over the coming decade. Don’t worry. Life as a tester in the SDET reality is gonna be fun and exciting, and Rex will give you some ideas how.
Length: 0h 18m 11s
Test automation is all the rage. Spinning away in Agile lifecycles or playing key roles in DevOps pipelines, automation is supposed to be everywhere, right? However, such widespread automation is a big investment. If you want to obtain management approval for the kind of automation investments all the webinar and conference talking heads are saying you simply must do right now, you better be able to talk automation ROI. In this One Key Idea session, Rex will explain the measurable business benefits of test automation and how to calculate automation ROI. In twenty minutes or less, you’ll learn how to bridge the gap between automation techno-speak and the managerial bottom-line focus.
Length: 0h 38m 0s
For nearly ten years, RBCS has run a highly successful free webinar series. In 2018, we’re adding the Two Points of View at Two series to our monthly webinar rotation. In each of these sessions, Rex Black will talk with another software luminary about topics of mutual interest, where the two have some different views, and then Rex opens the floor to questions.
In this inaugural session, Rex is happy to welcome Maaret Pyhäjärvi . Maaret’s bio describes her as feedback fairy with a day job at F-Secure, where they call her a Lead Quality Engineer. She identifies as empirical technologist, tester and programmer, catalyst for improvement, author and speaker, and community facilitator and conference organizer. You can catch her latest thoughts on her blog at http://visible-quality.blogspot.fi
In this session, Rex and Maaret will discuss tester-developer collaboration and the relationships between testers and developers. How to approach developers for collaboration? How do testers-developers ratios affect relationships? What about people who move between tester and developer roles? Join Rex and Maaret to hear their thoughts and ask your questions.
Length: 0h 30m 44s
Technical debt is bad. It’s smart to carefully manage technical debt. Defects are a form of technical debt. Do you know how to measure how well you are managing defect-related technical debt? In this One Key Idea session, Rex will demonstrate two simple defect metrics, easily extractable from any defect management tool, which can give you useful insights into what’s happening with defect-related technical debt. In twenty minutes or less, you’ll learn what these metrics can tell you and how you can use them to manage your technical debt better.
Length: 0h 30m 16s
Hiring and managing distributed, international test teams
Phil Lew, President of XBOSoft, an international software testing firm, joins Rex Black to discuss the critical topics of hiring and managing teams of testers who work around the world. How do distance, culture, and language create challenges, and how have Phil and Rex dealt with those challenges in the past? You won’t want to miss Phil and Rex’s points of view on these important topics.
Length: 0h 25m 8s
The Agile Testing Pyramid is a great metaphor, and it can be very useful when applied properly. However, it can also lead to some serious dysfunctions in organizations that misunderstand, misapply, or misinterpret it. Are you using the Agile Testing Pyramid properly? Rex will help you answer that question, and help you resolve problems if they exist. In twenty minutes or less, you’ll learn the rights and wrongs of the Agile Testing Pyramid.
Length: 0h 21m 58s
As a bonus to our June complimentary webinar, this month we shared with you an interview with Rex about the newly released ISTQB Certified Tester Foundation Level 2018 Syllabus. Listen to the session and you will learn why the changes were made, what was the process for making the changes and, finally, what are the changes!
Length: 0h 30m 54s
In this month’s “Two Points of View at Two” session, Rex is happy to welcome Nivia S. Henry. Nivia fundamentally believes that happy people, working in a healthy environment, will do great things. This philosophy has driven her to build a 15+ year career creating and supporting high-performing teams. Her career path has included agile coaching, enterprise agile transformations, product management, and people leadership. Today, Nivia applies her hard-earned experience as an Quality and Web Engineering Manager at Spotify. In this session, she'll discuss Spotify's perspective on Quality and focus on how the organization has organically grown its test automation practice.
Length: 0h 31m 57s
The ISTQB provides extensive support for the test professional’s career path. There are so many options, in fact, that some people get confused and have questions. Well, in this One Key Idea session, Rex is here to make the career path clear and answer your questions. In twenty minutes or less, you’ll understand how the ISTQB career path can support your progress throughout your professional testing life.
Length: 0h 56m 31s
All too often, people believe that they have to run all their system tests through the GUI, and that includes automated tests. However, it is possible to run automated system tests through a variety of interfaces, such as command lines, APIs, data layers, network services, and more. In this webinar, Rex will give two such examples of sophisticated automated system test platforms capable of quickly running thousands of tests with very low false positive rates, flaky test rates, and test maintenance rates. One tested a data layer interface, the other a network services interface. Each used a flexible and maintainable keyword driven architecture. Come ready to open your mind to new ways of automating system testing, and leave with ideas you can apply to automating your tests away from the GUI.
Length: 0h 27m 3s
If you are a hiring manager, you might already know that a bad hiring decision is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. One easy mistake to make is hiring someone who tells a convincing story about their abilities, but can’t actually do the work. How can you separate the glib talker from the accomplished doer? Well, in this One Key Idea session, Rex will explain how to use audition interviews, illustrating the concept with case studies. In twenty minutes or less, you’ll gain a powerful tool for making smarter hiring decisions.
Two Points of View at Two: Short High-impact Talks about Testing, with Michael Mah
In this session, Rex is happy to welcome Michael Mah. As managing partner of QSM Associates for over 20 years, Michael and his colleagues have assembled one of the largest worldwide databases containing software quality and productivity trends from over 10,000 completed projects. Michael and Rex will discuss defects, or bugs - and how in today’s competitive market, they can either make or break your company. We’ll discuss real world case studies and key findings from real world benchmarking and diagnostic engagements on what separates the leaders from has-beens. Michael and Rex have over 60 years of collective experience dealing with defects and their consequences, so they will discuss these important topics, and take your questions.
Length: 0h 10m 51s
A typical objective of testing is finding defects, but how effectively do you achieve that objective? Fortunately, there’s a way to measure that, using a metric called defect detection effectiveness. In this One Key Idea webinar, Rex will explain how to use two simple, easy-to-gather metrics to calculate defect detection effectiveness, and also share some insights into how to use that metric to set a baseline for future improvements and to benchmark yourself against other companies.
Length: 1h 3m 36s
Shifting defect discovery to earlier activities (Shift Left) reduces rework and improves quality deliveries to customers. A lot of attention is paid to this part of “Shift Left and Down”, but how do we do the Shift Down? Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is the answer. A variety of techniques can be used with varying formalities, cost, and results; ranging from informal, 5-why, Ishikawa/fishbone to Cause-Effect. Which technique is the right one to use, and when should it be applied? Is your organization ready for RCA? What do you do with the results? These questions and others will be discussed by Ed Weller, who will draw on 20 years of experience using RCA and onsite training across a wide range of businesses.
Length: 0h 20m 0s
Defects and errors prevent applications and systems from delivering the value their designers and customers intended. Moreover, defects and errors present opportunities for malicious actors to undermine the integrity, availability and confidentiality of essential business data and computational assets. Many large cyber incidents (ex. Target, Yahoo! and Equifax) have reduced the tolerance of regulators, shareholders, customers and the public for poor cyber security practices. The greatest threat is directed towards the greatest value, albeit the path of attack may be roundabout. Security testing is an essential phase in the application and systems development and operations lifecycle. Join us to learn about this valuable professional development step that will bolster your career, and assist your employer’s efforts to take substantive steps to ensure their business goals are reached and risks managed.
Length: 0h 13m 21s
Is your organization looking for growth opportunities? Do feel the status quo within your firm or your industry is ripe for disruption? Are you concerned your company will be swamped by the backwash of some else’s innovation? Your organization needs to innovate. Innovation requires a way of thinking, a reliable process and a toolset to identify the problem or challenge that you are best equipped to solve while solving it in a manner stakeholders will value. Innovation is risky, so is not adequately anticipating ever persistent change. This course discusses several approaches and tools developed to enable teams to apply designerly ways that center design on your users, and enables your users to help you help them. To learn design thinking well is to apply it. This Design Thinking course puts the evolution of a product design in your hands in collaboration with a participant design team. Join us to learn about the Design Thinking approach to solving problems, which will serve you well as an individual contributor, manager or leader.
Length: 1h 1m 51s
Exploratory testing is a name given for a technique of using knowledge, experience, and skills to test software in a non-linear, investigatory fashion. Is it a powerful and important part of each professional tester’s repertoire, or actually magic quality pixie dust? Is this the only real way of testing, or is there room for other forms of validation as well as verification? What are the origins of exploratory testing, and who actually invented the technique (as opposed to coining the current name)? Does it always degrade into an unmanageable, unaccountable, random bug hunt, or are there ways to instill order, measure coverage, and build confidence with it? In this webinar, Rex will explore and burst some of the myths of exploratory testing.
The Advanced Security Tester Boot Camp course, created by Rex Black, past President of the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB), past President of the American Software Testing Qualifications Board (ASTQB) and co-author of a number of International Software Testing Qualifications Board syllabi, is ideal for testers and test teams preparing for certification in a short timeframe with time and money constraints.
The Advanced Test Automation Engineer Boot Camp, created by Rex Black, past President of the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB), past President of the American Software Testing Qualifications Board (ASTQB) and co-author of a number of International Software Testing Qualifications Board syllabi, is ideal for testers and test teams preparing for certification in a short timeframe with time and money constraints.