Henk Egberink, Test Manager.
Inthis blog series, we speak with testing professionals from various industries. At Testersuite we like to hear the various views on testing and what keeps a test professional busy. In this edition of Let's Talk About Test, meet Henk Egberink, test manager at Maastricht UMC+
"Every company is now an IT company"
Heads up: Who is Henk?
I was born and raised in Limburg. I recently passed the age of fifty. However, it feels like I am at the beginning of my career.
After secondary school, I went to study at the Utrecht Conservatoire. As a trombonist, I played in various orchestras. My ambition was a permanent position in a symphony orchestra but that did not work out. My wife was in the Gelderland Orchestra for many years. She now fulfils a coordinating function at the conservatoire. I still play the piano. I also have a son of 20 and a daughter of 18, who are both studying.
Did you want to become a test manager in primary school?
From the above, you can see that the answer is no. I had never heard of test management. Becoming a farmer seemed like fun. Nice to be busy outside. Actually, I did not know what I wanted. My parents were musicians so that path was obvious.
How did you get into the testing business?
I started as a trainee at VX Company in the late nineties. During the basic training, all facets of IT were covered. My first job was with the NS in Utrecht as a functional maintenance programmer on Pascal. You look at the business and listen to their wishes and what they want to change. Then you make the functional design, build it yourself and test it. I did this for a few years. In this way, you learn all facets of system development.
During those years, awareness of the importance of structured testing grew. It was still in its infancy. In the department where I was working at the time, nobody had ever made a test plan before. VX-Company then set up a test unit with people who had affinity with this. Because I was already a bit older (30) and not really a hardcore programmer, I started reading the T-Map book. Then I was one of the first to join the test unit. That was an exciting time.
"In those years, the realisation grew that structured testing is important".
My first test job was for the UWV in Amsterdam on the project Wet Walvis. We had a very strict deadline there. I was a tester in a team with a test manager, three test coordinators and twenty testers. Very hierarchical. Everyone was allocated a piece of work, fully worked out. A special period in a kind of pressure cooker. On 1 January it went live and then it was ready. It was also my last time as a tester.
Then I was seconded as test coordinator/manager. This was more substantive and focused on people. These were usually environments where people were not yet really involved with testing. After VX Company, I ended up at ATOS and then Ordina. I also worked for a short time in permanent employment during that period. But I missed the escape which you have in secondment work. Now I have found my niche completely in permanent employment at MUMC+. I really enjoy it here.
What do you think the challenges of a test manager are?
Let me start by saying that titles like test manager or test coordinator do not mean much to me. These are terms from the early days of T-Map. I feel like a test leader of a team of test consultants. The test manager is a T-Map role. My coordinators and I are sometimes test manager within a project. Apart from that, we are mainly busy with coaching and advice. Just give the beast a name.
OK, now that that has been put right, the question remains
We are sometimes seen as a necessary evil. Everyone thinks testing is super important. Software has become extremely business-critical, so the need for testing is no longer an issue. But testing costs time, manpower and money. You have to get people on board in a good way and in a pleasant atmosphere. On the one hand, you guarantee quality and, on the other hand, you have to make testing easily accessible so that people can participate.
The same applies at management level. It sometimes helps when things are not going well. For example, if there is a disruption or loss of grip on quality. Then you can step in to show your added value. Convincing management is not difficult in itself. Getting manpower is more difficult, because then it starts to cost money.
"We are still sometimes seen as a necessary evil".
Fortunately, during acceptance tests, we see that many key users are happy to cooperate, but only as efficiently as possible. That creates an area of tension from time to time. On the other hand, they sometimes want to test everything to get a good feeling. Managing that kind of thing is a nice challenge.
How do you deal with this in practice?
By taking small steps. Start by zooming in on teams where they are already doing structured testing. You create an oil slick from there. I cannot impose things on people in other departments. By showing what the advantages are, more departments will become interested.
My general impression is that there is a growing awareness in health care of the importance of structured testing. I do notice that there is a big difference in test maturity between our departments. That makes it challenging. We have organised theme sessions and invited departments to show what testing is all about. That it is a discipline and important for quality improvement.
What milestones have you achieved at MUMC+?
More visibility in hospital. We have done a lot for that. The team has been expanded with a number of good people with a testing background. We now have test professionals who come from organisations where testing is more advanced. They stand out in projects and therefore increase visibility.
"Testing is now part of the policy plan"
Another milestone is that we have drawn up a broad testing policy for MUMC+. This was done in consultation with the IT management. Testing is now part of the policy plan. We have also created templates for test execution and reporting. The deliverables for the testers are now there.
What problem does Testersuite solve for you?
We started in January and are rolling out Testersuite this year. We had HP ALM before this. Ten years ago, that was introduced when the SPD was implemented. Here it was mainly an IT tool and was not used by the rest of the organization. It received little support in the rest of the organization. The approachability and ease of use of Testersuite is the way to include non-IT people in the testing process. The first signs of this are already noticeable.
What are the next test challenges for MUMC+?
The automation of the testing process. Many organisations struggle with that, so do we. We are now first taking steps in terms of test maturity. Once we have that in order, we will look at where automation can offer added value.
Because of covid-19, there is also a need for fast projects, which makes us less of a waterfall as IT. This means that we are moving more towards agile, multidisciplinary and risk-based working.
Do you agree that you cannot test everything automatically?
"Things don't go well more often than they do".
In my career, I have seen many half-hearted automated processes. People do not realise (even at management level) that managing these costs time and money. More often, things do not go well than they do. So far, I have not seen it go well very often. It can have added value if it is put in place properly.
A critical question from the Testersuite team. Where do you see opportunity for improvement?
We find Testersuite 's interface intuitive and approachable. Here and there it could be a little better or a click away. I like that you listen to your customers.
What does the future look like for the test manager?
Structured testing and testing as a profession will only become more important. Every company is now an IT company. Dependence on IT is increasing. Testing will increase. Also in agile and devops environments. There is no single type of test manager but the role in whatever form it takes will continue to exist.
What is your advice to other test professionals?
Whether you are permanently employed or seconded, look carefully within your organisation at what the need and the level is. Don't just roll out your own story, but work situationally. That way you can achieve the most.
Anything else you want to say?
We are quite critical in our team. With four people with a lot of experience but we like the convenience of Testersuite . In addition, it is a Dutch company and it is easy to make contact with you.
Let's talk about test!
Do you have interesting experiences in the testing profession that you would like to share? Let's talk!