Testersuite exists 10 years! A great occasion to look back on an amazing journey that began in 2011. Let's Talk About Test is therefore this time entirely dedicated to Testersuite founder Frank Paymans.
"My credo is be open to criticism but stick to your vision".
Just a heads up: Who is Frank?
As mentioned in the introduction, I am Frank Paymans (53). Grew up in Noordwijk and after a 23 year detour via The Hague and Amsterdam I am living in Noordwijk again. Back to the coast so to speak 😉 I live there with my girlfriend and our son (12). I also like special beers, good food, playing guitar, skiing and mountain biking.
Did you want to be an entrepreneur from primary school?
No, I didn't really have an image of that. As a student, I did have an above-average strong opinion and an above-average drive to get things done and to do them my way. Those are characteristics of an entrepreneur. So it was there.
How did you get into the world of software testers?
My interest lay in IT. That is why I started studying computer science at HBO.
In the 1990s, everyone who had an IT education started out as a programmer. So I started as a programmer in 1995. I only did this for a short time.
I soon started working as a SAP consultant and progressed from project manager to programme manager. Eventually, I became business line manager at Sogeti and ended up in the internal organisation. This brought me into contact with software testing within SAP. I subsequently set this up at Sogeti.
In 2008, the itch started and I made the decision to become self-employed. This is how PTWEE was born. Here the focus was on services regarding testing and test process improvement. This eventually led to the start of Testersuite in 2011.
What prompted you to start Testersuite ?
At PTWEE, we were working in the corporate-mid-market to help organisations professionalise testing.
As always when professionalising processes, you want to support this with tooling. The first reflex is often to use Excel. However, this is laborious and it does not promote cooperation in your process. Ultimately, this blocks the maturing of the testing process. My character then starts screaming that it should be easier and better.
So we dived into test management tools. Then you find out that these tools are too complex and too expensive for our customers. Many customers do their testing 'on the side' and have not yet reached test maturity. This was the reason to start developing something ourselves.
So how was it in the early years of Testersuite?
We started quickly. What should the application look like? What are the priorities?
During the same period, I was supporting the IT manager at V&D in various projects that were running there. There they had the same need as us in terms of test management tooling. This was a nice generic practical case on which we could base Testersuite but also apply it for other customers.
The knife cut several ways. We developed Testersuite as a generic tool (with the possibility for fine-tuning) based on a good practical case. On top of that, we had a great launching customer in terms of reference.
So you are taking your first steps with Testersuite. What kind of markers arise during this journey?
This journey has many moments. Even before the creation of Testersuite in September 2011, we were preparing and building. The story with V&D was then a nice marker.
Another highlight was the VNSG congress at the MECC in Maastricht in 2012. There Testersuite was launched at our booth. With iPads we walked around to show Testersuite to the public.This produced two types of reactions. Organizations that wanted to move forward with testing found it interesting. People from the testing world found it nonsensical. This included questions such as what does it add and why are you developing this?
I started from my own belief and vision. I found the tools that were available unsuitable, too complex and/or too expensive. They would not work with our target group. You can only achieve this by doing things smarter and easier. That is why we say: test management made easy!
So you saw a gap in the market!
Um, actually yes. Look, Excel may be the greatest tool in the world. But in the testing world, in my opinion, it is the biggest blind spot. Of course, I also still use Excel. That's also why it's easy to import and export Excel sheets into Testersuite. But getting a grip and control on your testing process with Excel remains difficult.
The other end of the spectrum is the existing test tools that are too expensive, too large and too complex. Within this whole spectrum, we are indeed filling the gap in the middle.
At some point you started doing the development of Testersuite in-house.
That's right! I came from a service industry background and suddenly I was into software development. Just go into it opportunistically. Then you quickly learn what is involved in software development.
We sell a SaaS tool so we want to have as much influence on the product as possible and secure knowledge. You need developers and that's what we started doing. And with good developers too.
Were there also people who looked at you shaking their heads?
Oh certainly. Many people were critical. I heard a lot of noises like 'would you do this', 'something like this already exists' and 'there is test automation'. Especially from very experienced people.
Nevertheless, we stuck to our vision. We saw that there is a large group that has to check, test and verify with many participants and at all levels in the organisation. That remains manual work and needs to be well organised.
It's funny to see that with the critical test professionals from the early days, we now collaborate a lot and they believe in Testersuite. That's a great experience.
My credo is be open to criticism but stick to your own vision. Of course we connect to test automation. We do this in a way that fits in with our vision and that works.
Do not be discouraged. I have had people around me who let themselves be led by fear. Adjust if necessary but do not let yourself go crazy.
What was the moment Testersuite broke free from the ground?
That is hard to determine and cannot be hung on one moment. You build something and little by little you grow. Clients get excited and see the benefits of Testersuite . References come in and people start passing it on.
If you remain self-critical, keep the faith, know what the customer wants and what the market demands, then you see it build up. You are in that flow and suddenly you see it fly.
Which (beginners) mistakes would you not make now?
I find this a difficult question. Everything has happened quite organically and has been well thought out. By taking baby steps, you can quickly correct things.
If there is one thing I would do differently, it would be to try to get out of the operation sooner. So work on your organisation rather than in your organisation. You mustn't want to close all the gaps yourself. That is the eternal entrepreneurial dilemma.
What are your greatest successes with Testersuite?
We were the first in the Netherlands to understand the need for test management. We were the first and now we see that our Dutch competitors are trying to follow. We do not ignore them, but we are mainly busy with our vision. The competition is mainly busy with us. Let us take the lead.
Another success is the first major tender we won in the energy market. We just stepped over the calimero complex and promptly won from much larger international competitors. That's pretty cool!
If I may mention another success. We started in the corporate-mid-market with the philosophy of the power of simplicity. Now we see many larger organisations becoming clients, including RadboudUMC, Action and NIBC bank. It does mean something to your development but it also says a lot about your successes.
What do the next 10 years look like for Testersuite?
We are working on a growth plan. The team is growing at the moment. We have a well-functioning commercial and marketing department. We are professionalising many of the components. We are professionalising a number of areas and involving the team in this. There are a number of aspects to this.
First of all, we will continue to develop the product. We are positioning Testersuite even more as a platform for collaboration within organizations.Furthermore, we are putting more effort into further versaasing, inbound marketing and sales.
And, of course, we are expanding our market share not only in the Netherlands but internationally as well.
Do you have anything to say in conclusion?
What I want to say above all is that I may have started Testersuite but obviously I am not doing this alone. The Testersuite Team I get to work with I am truly grateful. We fight together and make a difference together.
It is so cool to work together and expand. It's a journey and it just has to be a cool journey. Growing is not just about making money. It's mostly about making an impact and being relevant.
I think that is a healthy starting point. We are not a club that goes for the quick money. I am proud of that.