In Part I of this month’s Testing the Limits series, Jonathan Kohl talked the life of the Agile methodology, his relationship with and advice about mobile app testing, and how new and season testers alike can advance their skills and feed their passion.
Today, he’ll talk about the biggest hang-ups teams have when it comes to testing, how to overcome those hurdles, how he became a fan of “gamification” in testing and a few other words of wisdom.
uTest: When speaking or consulting on mobile application testing, what’s the most common question you encounter and what’s your answer?
JK: This is the question that comes up the most after people have heard me talk about testing on mobile projects:
“Is it true that we need to test on real devices, incorporate movement, and test out in the real world, outside of the office?”
My answer: “Yes.”
Mobile technology has been developed to support movement, and it has a lot of dependencies. For example: networking (while moving you change networks, technology, and encounter lots of errors or weak signal conditions), location services (all about movement and spending time in different locations), weather and environmental conditions (temperature and light have an enormous effect on how some apps work), and movement (the devices have movement sensors, and are interacted with using touch screens and voice control. Combining inputs and sensors getting triggered from movement can be tough for apps to handle.). I know of no tool that helps us sort that out without getting physical with the devices. Hopefully we get better ones soon that focus on mobile technology, instead of treating it like a small PC/web browser.
uTest: You work a lot with startups, when there’s a shoe string budget how do you communicate the importance of testing and QA?
JK: A successful business requires execution on several dimensions, for example, understanding your customers and their needs, having a great product or service offering that solves real problems for people, having enough investment to enable you to deliver, and a strong grasp of your financials. These require different skills and focus, but there is an over-arching need to create value for your customers, and part of that is great customer service. Technology fits directly into that, especially as we view organizations through the window (screen) of a smartphone or tablet. A poor technology experience is another type of poor customer service, so there is a direct line there. If you let down your customer or provide them with a poor first experience (which we are finding is increasingly on mobile devices), you can lose them forever. So not only do we need to have great people skills and a good strategy for satisfying and impressing our customers in our human interactions, but in our technology interactions as well.
A lot of people don’t realize that we are evaluated on our ability to deliver on the technology front, and that technology is a major part of customer service. It fits into the customer experience, but also in our offering of a product or service. Does the technology help, or hinder? Do we have an awkward experience, or is it seamless. It also has an effect on investment and financials, even if it is indirect. A quality product and technology stack is vital to the success of a business over the long term, so we need to invest in ways to make sure that we meet our customer’s needs there as well. Good quality processes, development and testing are part of that, and we ignore them at our peril.
uTest: Part of your consulting work is to help teams adjust to methodology changes. What’s the biggest hurdle these teams need to overcome and how do you help them do that?
JK: Dealing with people issues – different individual people with different agendas, motivations and fears. On one hand, you have people who have bought the marketing of a methodology and think that it will cure all ills. On the other, you have people who are deeply threatened by the change the methodology represents. It is a difficult balance to reign in the exuberance and unrealistic expectations of one group, while encouraging the laggards to get on board and actually try it out. I spend a lot of time myth busting on both groups. The methodology will not make everything perfect (and it won’t work forever), but it will also not cause you to lose your job, or cause bad things to happen to you. I work with teams by doing – getting in there and demonstrating, and helping address their fears. If I can do it, anyone can do it.
It’s also important to help them be able to measure the success of their methodology adoption in real terms: better product, better customer service, saved costs, etc. Just measuring success on adopting a new process misses the point, and will lead to some difficult situations down the road, particularly if that new process isn’t helping you create value for you, for your team, for the company, and for your customers.
People issues are hard to cope with. They aren’t fun, and it means we have to confront people on difficult topics. However, healthy disagreement and healthy confrontation are good, healthy things. If we suppress conflict, it just goes underground. We reach peaceful solutions through negotiation and co-operation, not by suppressing them in a need to “be positive.” There is also nothing quite like trying something out and seeing whether it works or not. Evidence, generated by a team that is committed to getting results, not just in implementing a methodology change, is powerful, and helps build teamwork and consensus towards reaching goals. Talking is one thing, doing and getting feedback on how we are doing helps enormously.