"As a test coordinator, you are not always popular..."
In this blog series, we speak with test managers and test coordinators from various industries. At Testersuite we like to hear the various views on testing and what occupies a test manager or test coordinator. In this edition, meet Rob van Gils, test coordinator at Gemeente Apeldoorn.
Heads up: Who is Rob?
My name is Rob van Gils. I am 43 years old, married and have two boys aged 10 and 12. At the moment, we are in an exciting phase because we have made an offer for a house here in the centre of Apeldoorn. In my spare time, I am quite fanatically involved in the triathlon.
Triathlon? Respect! Don't you have to be in peak physical condition to do that?
You have to train for that but there is also a quarter triathlon and even an eighth and a sixteenth. I once did a half triathlon when I came across The Iron Man. Originally this is from Hawaii but nowadays they are everywhere. When I first saw the video of The Iron Man on YouTube I thought "this is not possible!" With what I had to do for the half triathlon, I couldn't believe that you have such stamina that you can sustain The Iron Man. It's crazy. But yes, the seed was planted. I then made a training schedule with a professional and spent a year on it. It was like a project. In the end, I completed 4km of swimming, 180km of cycling and 42km of running in 11:59:02.
Did you want to become a test coordinator as a child?
But of course hahaha.... No, as a child I never knew. What I do remember is that when I was 11 years old, I had to make a booklet at school. In the booklet, the question 'what do you want to be when you grow up? I filled in 'something with computers'. Eventually, I went on to do secondary vocational education in land surveying and I also worked as a land surveyor and CAD operator. But I didn't see myself doing this until my retirement. So, in the evenings, I followed a course in technical business administration.
How did you get into IT?
An old classmate called me. He had stayed on after his internship at the municipality of Apeldoorn. They were working on a geo project that was indirectly related to surveying. They were looking for a project leader and it could be a junior one. In the end, it turned out to be more of an ICT project.
What did that project entail?
It was about the WKPB. That was a law about how a municipality should organise its information management. That had a considerable impact. Excel lists were used for everything and the data had to be stored according to a data model. This was then linked to a national information system. In the end, I was project manager for various IT projects at the municipality of Apeldoorn for eight years.
"Actually, I was a test coordinator without realising it.
What made you decide to be a test coordinator now?
Actually, I was a test coordinator without realising it. Within the IT projects, testing had to be done, but we were not so consciously working on that. At a certain point, I started making a list of test cases. Then I made a list of who should carry out the test cases. Because the projects and risks were getting bigger and bigger, we started hiring test coordinators. As project leader I had a lot of contact with the test coordinators. I had a click with those people.
Eventually, as a project leader, I wanted to be less managerial and more concerned with content. Via a career path and with the help of a coach, I came to the conclusion that the role of test coordinator suited me well. When the position of test coordinator became available at the Municipality of Apeldoorn, I stepped in.
Why did you choose a test management tool at the time
I think Excel is a wonderful tool, but it does not work for work processes. A good tool is important to be able to manage and control the processes. Within Municipality of Apeldoorn, for example, we work with a suite for the social domain. This is very complex, partly due to the many users. Eventually, functional management threw more and more complex spreadsheets at me. That was really no longer feasible. Just imagine, 25 testers with their own test cases, different tabs with sub-tabs for defects, bi-daily meetings etc. That was just not possible anymore.
Functional management had already knocked on my door a few times with a test management tool. We weren't ready yet. You will have to map out the test process properly first. For example, it may be that not every domain in your organization is at the same maturity level in terms of the testing process. That had to be sorted out first. When we finally got to that point, we chose a tool. However, it turned out that this tool could not deliver. For example, we could not register defects . We then continued our search and ended up at Testersuite.
"If you take big steps, you will be seen as a nuisance."
What are your challenges as a test coordinator?
Making a contribution to the quality of our services in small steps. That really is the way to go, otherwise you will not achieve the goals you have set. Certainly if you have to get a lot of people on board. If you take big steps, you are seen as a nuisance. You run the risk of project leaders bypassing you. It is important that the change management process is followed, so that you can do your job well. But do it in small steps.
So you have some souls to win?
Well, as a test coordinator you are not always popular. You sometimes bring things to the surface. A project leader wants to finish things off and move on to the next project. If, as a test coordinator, you then present a report with problems that need to be solved, people are not always happy about it. This also applies to the preliminary phase. A test plan will have to be drawn up, which also takes time. That puts pressure on a project manager's schedule. You are not the most popular person at that moment.
But Boehm's law seems to be quite clear in this regard, doesn't it?
That is true. Boehm is scientifically based, yet strangely enough, we are sometimes seen as a nuisance. I understand that developers like to be at the controls and project managers like to get on with their planning. But you have to think about limiting risks and mistakes throughout the process. At management level, it is not always clear that risk reduction is the consequence of a good testing process. This sometimes surprises me. Then it is nice to have a colleague with whom I can spar and express myself.
You work with several test coordinators?
There are two of us now. A trainee and myself. There is too much work for one person to do. I discussed this with my team manager and a trainee was appointed. In time, this will become a full-time employee. In the end, people recognise the importance of testing and the quality improvement that goes with it. It also has a strengthening effect because we are now more visible in the organisation. We can achieve more. In this case, 1 plus 1 is not 2 but 4.
"We have made many improvements in the testing process."
What are the most important milestones you have achieved at Municipality of Apeldoorn?
The Suite for the social domain is upgraded 4 times a year. We do this with a test group of 35 people. We have made a lot of improvement in the testing process. The impact of our testing process has become broader and there has been more involvement. I spent six months on that. More insight has emerged through the use of Testersuite. For example, we now have standard periodic consultations on defects. At defects that block the testing process, team leaders now make the decisions instead of a project leader.
So Testersuite solves issues for you?
Yes definitely. It was really out of control to manage the many data from Excel. Now we can store and access the results and defects in a nice way. That goes very well via Testersuite . You can inform all stakeholders directly with a link to Testersuite. That makes the process much more transparent.
What is the biggest problem of the test manager in local government?
I regularly speak with other municipalities. I often see that we have made more progress. Support for testing is growing in other municipalities too, but a lot still needs to be done to get the point and necessity of testing across.
Here, sharing content is important. Take The Social Domain as an example. This is used by about 200 municipalities. They are all getting updates. So we are all doing the same thing. Here we can work together as municipalities by compiling and sharing test cases and also by sharing defects . This needs to get off the ground. Probably also in collaboration with Testersuite. That would be nice.
"My view is that I am shifting more and more towards quality improvement."
What does the future look like for the test manager?
I can only speak from my own experience and my work here. My opinion is that we are shifting more and more towards quality improvement. We think more and more at the front end about quality and risks. Testing is a measure to secure this. That is the direction we are heading in. We need to pay attention to this. So it should be at the front end and not just at the back end!
And automated testing?
Automated testing also means management and maintenance. That has a big impact in terms of people and money. You will always have to keep doing things manually. That is still too big a project for us.
A critical question from the Testersuite Team, what could be better?
We are very satisfied with Testersuite. Occasionally we do see some improvement possibilities. A good example is the field where testers can enter the result of a test. This is sometimes misused. We would like to see this field disappear. At the customer day we discussed with other Testersuite customers about possible improvements and desired features. Unfortunately, we had to conclude that other Testersuite customers did not agree with the removal of the result field. But it is nice that we can have the discussion with Testersuite and the other customers.
Do you have interesting experiences in the testing profession that you would like to share? Let's talk!