3rd Session: Dr. Avi Ofer, Intel, on “The Battle for the Mouse: the Art of ATP“.
Accompanied by some wonderful photographs from his ATP (acceptance test plan) travels around the world, to India, Taiwan and Italy, Avi explained why getting formal acceptance from the customer is probably the most important milestone in the life cycle of a software project – duuuhhh, it’s the stage after which you get paid !!
Avi started with an example of how an inexperienced test engineer managed to insult a Chinese customer, so that Avi had to fly out to China, just after returning from California…
According to Avi, there are 3 types of customer, and any of them can turn up in any part of the world:
- The customer who understands Quality and QA, and who is very organized, and has his own SQA (Software Quality Assurance) staff or test team. When you have a customer like this, very often all you need to do is to accompany them, and answer questions – the actual work of the acceptance test is done by the customer’s quality staff. It’s generally a win/win situation. You are there to handle small issues, if they arise. You are there to channel any problems they find directly back to your company, so that they can start fixing them. And you are there so that your CEO knows about any issues before your customer’s CEO does… so that he can be ready with answers if necessary.
- The second type of customer doesn’t understand anything about QA. You need to take charge, and run the tests yourself. Make sure that your customer cannot easy get hold of your mouse – don’t let him win the battle – or he may do something to crash the system! On the other hand, you do need to exercise the system as your customer would do, and attempt to find the types of problems that your customer would find. Just make sure that YOU find them.
- The final type of customer is a novice. You have to use the opportunity of running the ATP to train him in what the system does. Just be careful not to assume that he’s an idiot just because he doesn’t understand the system. Don’t con him in any way.
Avi explained that in the Far East (especially), the customer can appear as a Fire-breathing Dragon. However, if you take a real interest in his country and culture, he doesn’t have to be.
In any case, this is NOT a task for amateurs: one needs specific skills and experience in various domains, including a deep knowledge of the software life cycle and quality, a customer-oriented approach, a broad cultural horizon for offshore missions, and high flexibility toward the changing conditions during the process.
This activity is commonly (and somewhat wrongly) known as “performing ATP”. But, more than a technical challenge, performing successful ATP is a complicated art.