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Let's talk about test... Robert van Hooff

February 19, 2020
Robert van Hooff, Test Manager at NIBC
Robert van Hooff, Test Manager

"A system that people work with must also be workable for people."

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 keeps a test manager or test coordinator busy. In this edition of Let's Talk About Test, meet Robert van Hooff, PTWEE test manager at NIBC.

Heads up: Who is Robert?

My name is Robert and I am 50. Together with my wife and three children, I live in Bleiswijk, near the small river Rotte, where we often take the dog for a walk. My daughters are 13 and 18. My son is 20 and will probably study IT.

Bleiswijk? So then you are probably a Feyenoord supporter?


Did you want to become a test coordinator as a child?

No, no, no. When I was a child, I wanted to be a pilot. Then, during adolescence, the idea of becoming a chef came up. My interest in cooking started to grow. It became a hobby of mine.

After the vwo, I went to study at the University of Applied Sciences. I could choose between the HES Rotterdam and the HES Amsterdam. As a resident of The Hague, you naturally choose quality and therefore Rotterdam. Because of my great love for languages (English, German and French) I chose International Management. In addition to the economic and financial subjects, this programme also included languages. I completed my internship in Ludwigshafen.

From PTWEE I recently did an assignment for which I ended up in Frankfurt. There, I tested a new digital workplace with German colleagues. At the Dutch branch the language is English. So there too, I get my money's worth in terms of languages.

"Before this I used Wordperfect 5.1 and Lotus 123."

How did you get into IT?

After my studies, I had to enlist. We were the last batch (93-3) of conscripts. The period of service lasted 10 months because conscription was abolished on 1 January. The cold war had ended and the Directorate of Materiel had a lot of surplus ammunition. This had to be dismantled. It was my job to conduct an international (i.e. languages again) procurement study. The objective was to select a party that could professionally dispose of the ammunition at a lower cost. I made use of the applications available at the time.

During my period at COA in Rijswijk, I started as a staff member for information provision. My task was to collect all the management information needed by the central management. For this, I used Wordperfect 5.1, Lotus 123 and Harvard Graphics, which was the standard at the time. I optimised that and soon became known as the information supply brain. People saw that I liked it and had an aptitude for it.

Support for an existing customised system in which all the information about the reception centres and the residents was stored was soon requested. I was allowed to coordinate this as Functional Management Coordinator. Once a month, I organised a meeting with superusers. Functional wishes were expressed, we determined the priorities and looked at the impact on IT. We then carried out the first tests with the release.

The system must do what it promises."

Ah, so that's where testing came in?

Yes, indeed. I strongly believe that a system that people work with must also be workable for people. The system must do what it promises. Efficient, user-friendly and simple. People should be happy with the tool they are working with. IT is an enabler for the business. New technological developments are interesting but too often there is a big gap between the functionalities on offer and what people really need. End users often have difficulty articulating what functionality they need. The IT used must above all be usable and support end users for optimum results. Closing that gap is what I constantly strive for in my career.

What are your challenges as Test Manager?

Be ready on time! You cannot be involved early enough as a test manager (from a quality assurance point of view) in projects. Make objectives as smart as possible. Determine your requirements as early as possible in the process. Ask yourself the question: can I test this with administrators and users? I want to be able to see it for myself how it will be used later on. If I cannot, I will ask questions and challenge people. The bank I currently work for has made the quality of its IT a priority. Fortunately, they see the need to involve test managers early on in important IT developments.

We have recently started a new Salesforce project for which the contract has just been signed. The first question is then what exactly has been contracted? What are we going to do with that party and in what order? How do you keep things intact? You are never in a greenfield situation because the shop has to stay open. You cannot release something in splendid isolation without taking into account the landscape in which it has to land. You have to take into account the processes to be supported, migrations, integrations, security, compliance, etc. You name it. More and more demands are being placed on this.

What are the most important milestones you have achieved at the bank?

The most important is that we have implemented a new digital workplace concept with hardly any incidents during the roll-out. Management of the various branches has expressed their compliments for the smooth roll-out. The management of the IT supplier has indicated that it has never done a roll-out to a customer with so few incidents. That was a nice compliment to get. That's what you do it for.

Also important to mention is the use of quality gates. The user acceptance test is the ultimate test. I sometimes had to advise to postpone live runs because the quality criteria were not met. Those advices were adopted by management. Testersuite helped me well to provide factual substantiation based on defects, defects and acceptance criteria.

"I'm glad we did this with Testersuite because I was able to demonstrate everything."

So what role did Testersuite play in that?

The project involved about 140 client applications a similar number of business applications , various peripherals, new networks, server environments, you name it. Testersuite helped create a product/risk analysis. We tested with end users, some of whom had not done structured testing before. Having these people work in Testersuite went very smoothly. It made it very easy for us to justify what we had tested and what the results were.

A nice benefit of Testersuite is that in addition to being simple and complete, it also has a good audit trail. I just did a project where we were audited. I'm glad we did this with Testersuite because I was able to prove everything.

What does the future look like for the test manager?

I think the next step is test automation. You have to be ready for that as an organisation. This makes the work for testers and the test organisation easier with repetitive test cases. The work of the test manager will shift more to analysing. Why do I keep getting the same defects in the same corner and how are we going to solve this structurally?

Isn't test automation automation within testing?

That is true. I was also triggered by that statement earlier. Analysis also means that you have to initially test manually to see if your analysis is correct and how can you transform that into a regression test set. Besides, you can't test everything automatically.

A critical question from the Testersuite Team, what could be better?

The reporting capability in Testersuite has been greatly improved. It would be nice if we could also capture a release recommendation in Testersuite. Then your entire test reporting, decision making on it for quality gates and the audit trail on this is captured in Testersuite.

What would you like to give to starting young test managers?

Be yourself and always question things in a way that is not threatening. Prevent yourself from being sidelined. Prepare things well with people so that what you advise is not a surprise.

Anything else you want to say?

When I look back on my career, I see a clear red thread, always making good quality solutions for the customer, no matter what position.

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