"As a test coordinator, you are not always popular..."
In this blog series we talk to test managers and test coordinators from various industries. At Testersuite we like to hear the various views on testing and what keeps a test manager or test coordinator busy. In this edition we meet Rob van Gils, test coordinator at Gemeente Apeldoorn.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 were not ready yet. You will first have to map out the test process properly. It may be that not every domain in your organisation is at the same level of maturity as regards the testing process. That had to be sorted out first. When we finally got that far, 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."
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.
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.
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.
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."
The social domain suite is upgraded four times a year. We do this with a test group of 35 people. We have made many improvements in the testing process. The effect of our test process has become broader and there is more involvement. I have been working on this for six months. More insight has been gained through the use of Testersuite. For example, we now have standard periodic consultation about defects. At defects that block the test process, the team leaders now take the decisions instead of a project leader.
Yes, indeed. It was really no longer possible to manage all the data in Excel. Now we can store and unlock the results and defects in a nice way. That goes very well through Testersuite . You can inform all stakeholders directly with a link to Testersuite. That makes the process much more transparent.
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.
Sharing content is important here. Take the Social Domain as an example. This is used by around 200 municipalities. They all receive updates. So we are all doing the same thing. We can work together as municipalities by compiling and sharing test cases, but also by sharing defects . This must get off the ground. Probably also in cooperation with Testersuite. That would be good.
"My view is that I am shifting more and more towards quality improvement."
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!
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.
We are very satisfied with Testersuite. Now and then we see some possibilities for improvement. A good example is the field where testers can enter the result of a test. This is sometimes used incorrectly. We would like to see this field disappear. On the customer day, we discussed possible improvements and desired features with other Testersuite customers. 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!