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2011 Issue #4

In this issue, we learn an important lesson in picking testing tools: Without a business case, it's not a tool, it's a toy. We also offer congratulations to the 10,000th ISTQB CTFL in the U.S.

Articles in this issue:

Tara Clancey Becomes the 10,000th U.S. ISTQB CTFL
How to Pick Testing Tools
Get an Even Better ROI with ASTQB's Volume Purchase Program
Sample ISTQB CTFL Exam Available
Need a Job? Need a Tester? Start Here.
Volunteer News
Get More From Your Certification
News and Offers from ASTQB Accredited Course Providers
Certification Training/Exams Coming to an Area Near You

  

Tara Clancey Becomes the 10,000th U.S. ISTQB CTFL

Tara Clancey holding her framed "10,000th CTFL" certificate

We are pleased to announce that we have awarded the U.S.'s 10,000th ISTQB Foundation Level (CTFL) certification to Tara Clancey.

ASTQB President, Patricia McQuaid, PhD, CTFL, announced the milestone, saying, "Reaching the 10,000 mark is noteworthy not just for ISTQB, but for the entire U.S. software testing industry. First, it demonstrates our testers' professional commitment. Second, it shows that our software testers are global-ready, as ISTQB is the most recognized software tester certification not only in the U.S., but in the world. ISTQB certification is provided in nearly 50 countries and has been earned by more than 165,000 testers."

Tara Clancy was pleased to be the milestone recipient. "Thank you so much for everything. It was exciting to be the 10,000th person in the U.S. to pass the certification!"

Tara's supervisor, Steve Odart, Director - Quality Systems, offered his congratulations to Tara as well. "Excellent! I'm proud as punch that someone from my team would be #10,000 in the US! Well done Tara!"

Congratulations to Tara, and to all of the U.S. recipients of ISTQB Software Tester Certification over the years. Your commitment to professionalism in software testing continues to make the U.S. a global testing leader.

  

How to Pick Testing Tools

By Rex Black, CTAL

Many of us got into technology because we were fascinated by the prospect of using computers to build better ways to get work done. (That and the almost magical way we could command a complex machine to do something simply through the force of words coming off our fingers, into a keyboard, and onto a screen.) Ultimately, those of us who consider ourselves software engineers, like all engineers, are in the business of building useful things.

Of course, engineers need tools. Civil engineers have dump trucks, trenching machines, and graders. Mechanical engineers have CAD/CAM software. And we have integrated development environments (IDEs), configuration management tools, automated unit testing and functional regression testing tools, and more. Many great testing tools are available, and some of them are even free. But just because you can get a tool, doesn't mean that you need the tool.

When you get beyond the geek-factor on some tool, you come to the practical questions: What is the business case for using a tool? There are so many options, but how to I pick one? How should I introduce and deploy the tool? How can I measure the return on investment for the tool? This article will help you uncover answers to these questions as you contemplate tools.

Let's start with the business case. Remember: without a business case, it's not a tool, it's a toy. Often, the business case comes down to one or more of the following:

  • There's no way to perform some activity without a tool, or, if it is done without a tool, it won't be done very well. If the benefits and opportunities of performing that activity exceed the costs and the risks associated with the tool, there's a business case.
  • The tool will allow you to substantially accelerate some activity you need to perform as part of some project or operation. If that activity is on the critical path for completion of that project or operation, and the benefits and opportunities of accelerating the completion of that project or operation exceed the costs and the risks associated with the tool, there's a business case.
  • The tool will allow you to reduce the manual effort associated with carrying out some activity. If the benefits and opportunities from reducing the effort (over some period of time) exceed the costs and the risks associated with the tool (including the effort associated with acquiring, implementing, and maintaining the tool and its various enabling components), there's a business case.

There can be other business cases, but one or more of these will frequently apply. Sometimes the business case masquerades as something else, such as improving consistency of tasks or reducing repetitive work, but notice that these two are actually the first and last bullet items above, respectively, if you consider them carefully.

Once you've established a business case, you can select a tool. With the internet, it is easy to find candidate tools. Before you start that, consider the fact that you are going to live with the tool you select for a long time — if it works — and potentially spend a lot of money on it. So, I recommend that you consider tool selection as a special project, and manage it that way. Form a team to carry out a tool selection. Identify requirements, constraints, and limitations. At this point, start searching the Internet to prepare an inventory of suitable tools. If you can't find any, then perhaps you can find some open source or freeware constituent pieces that could be used to build the tool you need? Assuming you do find some candidate tools, you should perform an evaluation and, ideally, have a proof-of-concept with your actual business problem. (Remember, the vendor's demo will always work, but you don't learn much from a demo about how the tool will solve your problems.) With that information in hand, you're ready to choose a tool.

Once you've chosen the tool, it's time to pilot the tool and then deploy it. In the pilot, select a project that can absorb the risk associated with the piloting of a tool. Your goals for the pilot should include the following:

  • To learn more about the tool and how to use it.
  • To adapt the tool, and any processes associated with it, to fit your other tools and your organization.
  • To devise standard ways of using, managing, storing and maintaining the tool and its assets.
  • To assess the return on investment (more on that later).

Based on what you learned from the pilot, you'll want to make some adjustments. Once those adjustments are in place, you'll want to proceed to deployment of the tool. Here are some important ideas to remember for deployment:

  • Deploy the tool to the rest of the organization incrementally, rather than all at once, if at all possible. In some cases, as for tools required for regulatory compliance, you might not have this luxury, but be sure to manage the risks associated with a rapid roll-out if you must do so.
  • Adapt and improve the software engineering processes to fit use of the tool. The tool should effect changes in your processes; otherwise, how could you become more effective and efficient?
  • Provide training and mentoring for new users. Be sensitive to the possible learning-curve issues that a new tool can create, and manage the risks that would be created by misuse of the tool.
  • Define tool usage guidelines. Some simple explanations — say on a company wiki or in a recorded internal webinar-style lunch-and-learn — can really help people use the tool properly.
  • Learn ways to improve use of the tool continuously. Especially in early deployment, you'll find opportunities and problems the pilot didn't reveal. Be ready to address those, and to gather a repository of lessons learned (perhaps again in wikis or recorded webinars).

Finally, let's address this question of return on investment (ROI). For process improvements (including introduction of tools), we can define ROI as follows:

ROI= net benefit of improvement / cost of improvement

This question of net benefit returns us to where we started: business objectives. Any meaningful measure of return on investment has a strong relationship with the objectives initially established for the tool. Let's look at an example. Suppose you have developers who currently use manual approaches for code integration and unit testing. This consumes 5,000 person-hours per year. With the tool, one developer will spend 50% of their time as integration/test toolsmith, using Hudson and other associated tools to automate the process. By doing so, developer effort for this process will shrink to 500 person-hours (plus the 50% of the person-year for the toolsmith). So, ROI is:

ROI= net benefit from investment / cost of investment
= (5000-(500+1000)) / 1000 = 350%

Notice that, in this case, since the tools are free, I did the calculation entirely using person hours. Sometimes, with commercial tools, you have to perform this whole calculation in dollars or whatever your local currency is.

As software testers, we want to help our organization build useful software, and tools can make us more effective and efficient in doing so. Before we start to use a tool, we should understand the business objectives the tool will promote. Understanding the business case will allow us to properly select a tool. With the tool selected we can then go through one or more pilot projects with the tool, followed by a wider deployment of the tool. As we deploy — and after we deploy — we should plan to measure the return on investment, based on the business case. By following this simple process, you can not only achieve success with tools — you can prove it, using solid ROI numbers.

About the Author
Rex Black is President of RBCS. Rex is also the immediate past President of the International Software Testing Qualifications Board and the American Software Testing Qualifications Board. Rex may be reached at rex_black@rbcs-us.com.

 

Get an Even Better ROI with ASTQB's Volume Purchase Program Discount

When utilized by one tester, ISTQB software tester certification can help that individual to understand and execute proven, practical software testing techniques. When used broadly throughout your organization, ISTQB software tester certification can be even more effective because your testers utilize a common set of terms, concepts and test planning approaches, improving communication and building team efficiency.

The ASTQB Volume Purchase Program (VPP) allows you to build that efficiency across your company while earning up to 25% off the cost of an ISTQB certification exam. Learn more by visiting the ASTQB Volume Purchase Program area at www.astqb.org/vpp or contact a VPP-eligible ASTQB Accredited Training Provider today.

 

Sample ISTQB CTFL Exam Available

If you know someone who is preparing for the ISTQB Foundation Level (CTFL) exam, let them know that a sample CTFL exam is now available on the ASTQB website. This replaces the sample question sets previously available on that page. As always, we encourage you to use this as a study tool, focusing on learning the concepts, not the questions.

 

Need a Job? Need a Tester?
Start Here.

Are you seeking ISTQB certified software testers for your company? Post your job openings and search resumes at no cost in the new ASTQB Career Center.

Looking for a job? If you have been certified through ASTQB, you may search job postings and post your own career and job history information, also at no charge. Learn more at the ASTQB Certified Tester Resource Area.

 

Volunteer News

Editor's Note: ISTQB Certification is trusted because it is led by volunteers. Each issue, we try to give you a feel for the expert software testers who are volunteering their time for ASTQB, the U.S. country board for ISTQB. Thank you to all of our volunteers that help make ISTQB Certification the most popular software tester certification in the world!

Judy McKay, CTAL, a member of the ASTQB Board of Directors, is now also an IREB Certified Professional for Requirements Engineering.

 

Get More From Your Certification

The more others learn about your certification, the more valuable it will become. So when you achieve ISTQB Certification, help others understand its importance by adding a link to the ASTQB website from your Twitter posts, Google+ page, personal website, company websites, blog, Facebook page, LinkedIn information, and email signature. You've worked hard to achieve your certification — let everyone knows what it means to be ISTQB Certified!

 

News and Offers from ASTQB Accredited Course Providers

ALP International (ALPI): There's still time to become trained and certified before 2012 with ALPI's expert instructors at our state-of-the-art training facility! ASTQB Newsletter subscribers, save 10% on your class registration with code AST11. Courses include: ASTQB Foundation Software Tester Certificate 12/19-12/21, Ultimate Testing with Quality Center 11/28-12/1, Ultimate Testing with LoadRunner 12/5-12/9, and Ultimate Testing with QuickTest Pro 12/12-12/16. To register, or for more details, contact Stephanie at 301-654-9200 x403.

ProtoTest: ASTQB Exam included FREE! For course dates and details go to www.prototest.com/training. Mention this ad when you register. Offer ends February 10, 2012.

RBCS: It's hard to believe that we are nearing the end of 2011! Looking back, one of most significant additions to our ISTQB Certified Tester Training courses was the addition of our third Advanced Level course, Technical Test Analyst, offered in live and e-learning delivery format. Through 1/1/12, receive a 15% discount on the e-learning course, including the exam voucher! Enter ASTQBTTA in the promo code field at checkout. Your discount will be reflected on the final receipt.

SQE: Let SQE Training Stuff Your Stocking with a Free Exam! Attend our Software Tester Certification–Foundation Level course and earn the world's leading certification in software testing through either convenient eLearning or traditional classroom instruction. Register for any Foundation Level Software Tester Certification course (Public or eLearning) and complete payment by December 31, 2011 and the certification exam ($250 value) is on us! Use promo code STGIFT.

 

Certification Training/Exams Coming to an Area Near You

If you would like to receive notification when ISTQB Certification training and exams are in your area, simply enter your request at: http://www.astqb.org/general/newsletter.php

Below is a list of scheduled public ISTQB certification exams. Details are available at the ASQTB website at http://www.astqb.org or by contacting the ASTQB office at info@astqb.org.

December 1, 2011
Hilton Garden Inn Old Town Scottsdale
7324 East Indian School Rd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

December 9, 2011
TBA
Atlanta, GA

 

What Would You Like to Learn About?
As always, we welcome your feedback and criticism. Let us know what we can do to help make you and your company better at software testing at info@astqb.org.

About ISTQB Certification News
ISTQB Certification News is a free software testing newsletter from ASTQB providing news, analysis, and interviews for the software tester community. Feel free to forward to colleagues or ask them to subscribe at: <http://www.astqb.org/general/newsletter.php>

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