Impressions from SIGiST 2008, Tutorial days I and II

Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the tutorial days at SIGiST 2008 – I had to polish up my own presentation for the conference itself!

So, I had a chat with 2 of the tutorial lecturers, and one of the attendees, to get their impressions of the tutorial days. Thanks to all of you for giving me the time.

Logistics and Stuff

The tutorials were given at the Sela offices in Bnei Berak, but to make it into a more conference-like atmosphere, all the classrooms on the ground floor had been closed off for the tutorials, and there was regular conference-style registration, t-shirts and refreshments. I heard that all the logistics were taken care of very well. On the other hand, it sounds like each tutorial took place at its own pace, and the attendees went out to lunch at restaurants in the area. I’m guessing that it was really worthwhile to use the offices, rather than the Sheraton Moriah Hotel, which is the venue for the next 2 days of conference, otherwise it’s possible that the tutorials wouldn’t have take place at all.

Nancy Clayman’s TPI Tutorial

My first chat was with Nancy Clayman, who’s tutorial on TPI (Test Process Improvement) seems to have had one of the largest attendance, at 18 people. People were interested in TPI, in checking it out, looking for budget, some talking about outsourcing. Nancy felt that it was pretty much like a regular TPI class that she’s given in the past.

Michael Stahl’s “Test Documents” Tutorial

Next I spoke to Michael Stahl, from Intel. He was very impressed with the logistics and organization. Michael’s tutorial on “Writing Test Documents – from requirements review to test procedures” attracted 11 people (plus a few that escaped from other sessions in the middle!). Michael has given this tutorial a number of times in Intel, whenever there is a group of new test engineers. He was quite surprised that people came who have already written test plans and procedures before.

Test Plans – Who needs them?

There was quite a discussion on the need for test plan. Do you need it and if so why? There seems to be a lot of difference between companies. There were quite a few people who don’t think that it’s necessary to break the test plan into small pieces that you need to do before you actually test, in order to see whether you are covering the requirements, to plan what the tests out in advance, etc. They would go straight into testing.

What do you think? It would be interesting to open up a discussion on the subject of Test Plans. ISTQB/ITCB is quite clear on the point, and I know where I stand on it (not telling – you can try to guess!). But what is done in your company? And do you agree with it? Would you use a Test Plan if you had the choice? And what would you use if for?

Requirements Reviews – still in the Dark Age

Another issue came up in the discussion on requirements review, which takes up about 1/3 of the tutorial. I thought that we had finished with the “dark ages” when testing staff were not invited to requirements reviews. Evidently I was wrong. Quite a few of the attendees stated that if there is a requirements review, they are not invited. So what happens if they need answers on ambiguous requirements later? Well, they try going to the developers, but somehow (tongue in cheek) it seems to be easy to develop code without good requirements…

On a good day, a developer will say “hang on a minute, let me look in the code and see how I implemented that” – they just don’t ask the same questions !!!  On a bad day, the developer might say “I don’t know”. The answer to that is something like “in that case, whatever happens it will be a bug” – that does light a bit of fire under their backsides.

So, another interesting subject for discussion – are test engineers invited to requirements reviews in your company? Do you even do requirements reviews? And how do you resolve ambiguities when they are found later on by the testers? Do the developers ask the same questions to understand the requirements that they are developing to?

At the end of the day, Michael was pleased with the outcome: no-one fell asleep, no-one escaped at lunch time, there was a lot of discussion, and they all said “thank you” at the end 🙂

Anne Mette’s 2-day Configuration Management Tutorial

Last but not least, I had a chat with Michal Ohayon from NDS, who attended the 2-day Configuration Management tutorial. Michal had only praise for Anne Mette, who gave the class – she really knows her stuff, and she is an excellent lecturer. That’s good, because we all know people who really know their stuff, but  can’t explain well it to anyone…

The tutorial was good for people with little or no background. Unfortunately, the 5 attendees all came with much more than a working knowledge of CM, and as such felt that they didn’t get enough out of it to warrant a 2-day course.  The 2nd day was more relevant, and they did learn things about how to improve.  Sounds like SIGiST need to take an action item here on expectation management with regards to the tutorials, especially when there are so few attendees registered.  

Well, that’s it for today (or rather tonight). Tomorrow (today) is a really busy day – I will be chairing the Test Manager’s track at the conference, so I hope to have lots to talk about…

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