Sunday, July 10, 2005

Software Testing New Mantra : BPET

Business Process Execution Testing (BPET) is the new matra for software testing. Actually it has been slowly rattling in my mind for some time. Now I am finally acknowledging it in light of the challenges with one of my recent implementations. However, I was struggling to put those thoughts together and consolidate them in a framework. Finally this new acronym came to my mind and I said lets just express it. I just hope no one has used this acronym before!
But anyway, I think one of the fundamental reasons for high customer dissatisfaction with software systems is the lack of coherence with the operational processes. The reason being that the traditional software testing approach is bottom up starting with unit testing and graduating to integration testing and system testing. As a result the software is tested and verified for the way it was built and/or designed to built.Howevever when put to use, there are signficant operational gaps which make the system of little use and reduces its acceptance by the end user community. This has to change!! The wave is of business processes driven application and system design and testing needs to take on this paradigm shift heads on. This paradigm shift can be absorbed and addressed by imbibing and adopting the BPET philosophy!
First of all this philisophy is geared towards testing the software the way it is going to be used. How? You guessed it by mimicing business processes. So this approach starts with understanding the key business processes that support the organization and map them to the system identifying the ownership and roles of the system and its various components that support it. The rest of the plan is to define and develop test cases that verify these processes execution and the success and failure of the system to support the actions.
But two fundemental changes do exist with the traditional approach to testing. One is that the actors in this case (testers) are not traditional software testers but subject matter experts, operational staff who understand the business and have significant domain knowledge. The second but higly controversial, I assume since it causes radical mindset change is the defect priortization in this philosophy. A bug that crashes the application shall get a medium rating if it has minor operational risk.The situation that resulted in a bug is an exception and it is unlikely to occur or there is a reasonable workaround or avoidance strategy. At the same time a result that is not even technically an error – say, a degradation in performance during regular hours may be a showstopper since it means lack of customer response by customer help desk which means the 1000 calls being addressed every hour are not getting addressed. I think this is paradigm shift for both the business stakeholders and the software developers but it is the right way to execute the test strategy. After all it doesn’t matter whether the software is perfect or not as long as it meets the business process needs. BPET is the new mantra Amen!!!
I shall be further elaborating this area in my future blog updates!!!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Genius Babies

On 4th of July, when I had nothing else do but wait for the fireworks to start, I wandered into the Borders Store and hit this interesting book by David Plotz
The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank
Well, Twenty fours ago, millionaire Robert K. Graham began a most remarkable project: the Repository for Germinal Choice, a sperm bank for Nobel Prize winners. I guess more driven by the need to help preserve the genetic geniuses in the next generation than altruism or social engineering. This was to help reverse the genetic decay Graham saw all around him by preserving and multiplying the best genes of his generation. By the time Graham's repository closed in 1999, his genius sperm had been responsible for more than 200 children.
Want to know who these 200 children are? What are they doing? Interesting!!! Think about it ...
Here we are on the verge of what are called designer babies with modified genes this story puts insight into what happened when using Genetic Engineering 101 :"Using the most advanced technology of the time a sperm bank with top minds"
Go Figure!!!!

Friday, July 01, 2005

To Bid or Not to Bid

No different than the movie 'To Be or Not to Be' in terms of the comical twists and turns is the decision to bid or not to bid for a project. I guess every organization goes through the rigorous process of evaluating pros and cons of the bid or no bid decision. Rigorous in terms of time lost, energy spent... Definitely! A signficant time is spend in exchanging emails ( infact sometimes the email trail looks like a chapter of Adam Smith 'Wealth of Nations'. The book has just 1200 pages) expressing benefits or pitfalls of going after an opportunity. There are participants who are flip flops and justify every new decision based on a new insight into the context of the decision. There are participants who think it is important to be on the other side of the table to make the process more challenging, more prolonged, more fun. And I guess that is where the rigor of the process is!!!. There are players in this process who sit on the periphery and wait for a decision! Ahh smart people !!! And Alas a decision is made which appears final But Wait.. there is new information, new perspective..Hold On ..Here we go again. In Indian mythology a cat has 9 lives but the bid-no-bid.. beats it hands down. Till the next To Bid-or No Bid saga, I just smile