Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Stay Technical – 3 ways to be technically inclined in manual testing projects

Spending years in software testing brings me to write this. One of the most common aspirations in a team which is involved in manual testing is, “When do I get a chance to do Automation or Performance Testing”? It also has a most common response, “We will see if there is a chance, we will let you know, meanwhile why don’t you get trained on some tools from the training department”. I do not have a count of it, but I have seen this kind of conversation in almost every catch all meeting with senior management. I also do not have statistics but I cannot be a million miles away if I say that its back to normal after the session is over and figuratively it would not exceed 5 – 10% of the instances would turn out to be that the person has met aspiration.
It is a good sign that thought of getting technically inclined has passed thru the mind but what is the effort put in to materialise that thought into action. Well, the most common excuse would be I have attended the trainings and repeated asked for change in the project but I was not allowed to pursue my aspiration due to project pressures. Given the fact that there are not many slots open for automation and performance even to these days (agreed, we are making progress in improving automation; but I would bet all my money on we are not where we wanted to be on automation front. Blame it on timeline pressures, cost pressures where management thinks any spending on testing is mere waste and testing is just done for the sake of it without any real purpose or objective. I would prefer to stay away from that discussion for now).
I believe that is enough said on the problem statement. Let us now move on to the section that matters the most. What are the alternatives? How can we stay technical even if the project does not have much to offer?
1)       Excelling in Excel: No matter what type of project we are working on, testing has something always to do with excel sheets. It offers great features if you can explore with VBA. For example, working on a project which has a lot of permutations and combinations of test data to be used and you need to write optimum number of test cases, generate them using a macro.
2)      Make your own reports: No matter how much of flexibility is provided by the Test Management Tools, there is a definite need of tweaking required in your daily reports, weekly reports or the test summary report. Often it is quite laborious and by the time you finish your report editing, there is a strong likelihood that facts would have changed in the tool, which makes the reconciliation task before sending the report quite daunting and often ends up in a night mare. Have you ever tried customising the reports with a single click using the querying features of tools? (This seems more relevant if you are using HP ALM or its predecessors, not to mention MS MTM which many test managers consider ghost in the nightmare for its reporting capabilities). All you need for doing this is basic programming skills and decent querying skills. Give it some fancy name and logo; add it to the organization’s assets. You are celebrity!
3)      Proof of Concepts: If you have spare time in projects (don’t bother if you are bragging about how difficult it is to manage with your “strict” deadlines), ever tried doing a small proof of concept using a freeware tool (please ensure you get appropriate permissions) to automate some of your daily tasks. Management wouldn’t see that as a big crime (as long as you get right approvals to proceed) if you can deliver them some time-off from the testing schedules. Moreover, you can always boast about the effort savings by extrapolating the figures. Win-win deal and you have some coding to do as well.

Well I guess enough of options for who actually want to give it a shot. For those who look for more, would never do it even with 1000 other options.  Better not bother about them. Apologies if that sounds to be sarcastic and pessimistic. I am paid to be pessimistic :) 

[Also shared on LinkedIn]

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