“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bus.” “The grass is always greener on the other side”.
Whether you agree with the origins of the saying, the meaning is clear. Something worth having is going to take you some time to get. Your first thought is probably “How in the world does this relate to a Testing Center”? Let’s “get down to brass tacks” and talk about why you need a Testing Center in the first place.
Some people consider TEST a “4-letter word” and it is sometimes not until late in the development phase that the Project Manager (PM) starts to line up resources for their testing cycles, whether it is System Integration Testing(SIT) or User Acceptance Testing (UAT). Those resources probably include, but are definitely not limited to, a room big enough for the testers; getting any specific hardware/software they might need, getting that hardware/software installed on the network, insuring there is a printer close by, etc. Individually, these tasks should not be considered hard in the “brain surgery” realm, but they are definitely time-consuming. The PM basically must put all other aspects of the project getting ready to be tested and all other projects they might be working on, on the “back-burner” as they don their Administrator’s hat to coordinate the logistics of their upcoming testing cycle. Now, if your organization has 100 projects in-flight at the same time, there are probably 5-10 in SIT or UAT at any given time. So, there are between 1 and 10 PMs running around “like chickens with their heads cut-off” trying to coordinate the testing resources they need when they need to be “riding roughshod” over the development team to keep the project on track.
A Testing Center would sure make those PM’s lives easier. “Easy as pie”, some might say. You know you need it and you know you want it, so you use all the formulas you’ve learned at seminars, webinars, networking events, and conferences, to come up with the optimal size of your Testing Center to handle those 5-10 projects current getting ready for testing. You enter that into a spreadsheet, design some pretty graphs and that is what you ask for. But, you hear one or more of the several hundreds of perfectly valid reasons that it cannot be done “at this juncture”; there is no budget for equipment, there is no budget for furniture, there is “no room at the inn”, that the size of area you requested cannot be located, etc. You now have two options to consider. You can withdraw your request and “wait until next year” to re-submit or adjust your tactics.
Now we get to my particular Testing Center Story.
As the adage behind “How do you eat an elephant?… one bite at a time” implies, don’t ask for everything you can use to satisfy the entire world of testing, but ask for just enough space to build “your Rome” to help out 1 or 2 of your projects right away. I remembered that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, so I adjusted my thought process. Instead of asking for enough space to handle all the projects currently in testing (SIT or UAT), I first wanted to find out what space was available BEFORE asking. Like all my attorney friends say “Don’t ask a question if you don’t already know the answerto it.”
With that in mind, I took a stroll around my company’s buildings. As a matter of fact, I took several strolls. Floor by floor. Section by section. I roamed the halls on different days of the week and at different times of the day. My goal was to find a space that no one appeared to be using and come up with a plan to convert it to my own use. Something that minimizes its effect on anyone else, but would still give me enough space to help one or two projects with their testing needs simultaneously. I also decided to draw down my work area requirements. Instead of asking for “workstations” for each tester, my only requirement was that each tester had a place to fit a laptop and an 8 ½” x 11″ stack of test scripts (we will talk about paperless/automated testing another time). I quickly involved our facilities services team who offered up their printouts of a few eligible areas. In addition, to minimize the expense of buying new furniture, they were able to suggest materials and furniture available from other company offices and distribution centers located nearby. Then, taking a page from our marketing compatriots, my boss suggested getting “2 for the price of 1”. We decided to combine another function of our group, Disaster Recovery (DR). Software and Disaster Recovery Testing have so much in common that combining them “fit like a glove”.
With all the modified, or should I say minimalized, requirements in place, I found an area of filing cabinets and a “stand-up” bar that was only intermittently being used for ad-hoc meetings in “my own backyard”. Once the area was selected, facility services were able to offer up ten 2’x5′ four-legged pod tables, eleven 3′ x 8′ partitions, and fifteen auditorium chairs, which I graciously accepted. Over one weekend, I placed masking tape on the floor (like Les Nessman of WKRP fame) where I believed the “walls” would fit and construction began one beautiful Monday morning in October. Over a period of 2 weeks, the Testing/ DR Center began to take shape. When the partitions and desktops were put in place, the power and network teams incorporated another time/cost savings device by running the cables in molding strips along the walls, instead of having to snake them through the walls and constructing new outlets. With some plotted signage, a whiteboard, some sundry decorations, and a small metal bookshelf thrown in for supplies, the Testing/DR Center evolved into a quaint area where you could fit up to 15 testers (20 if they really liked each other). For good measure, I was able to add a projection screen to one of the walls and roll-around table that could fit under a pod table to hold a pc-projector for testing demos/ discussions.
By taking the “you have to walk before you can run” approach, a Testing/DR Center is now available for the masses. Although it is not the grand 75-seat, fully-equipped Testing Center that can house 5-10 concurrent projects with video-enabled conference rooms and all the trimmings I envisioned when taking over the QA/Testing group, it does have the ability to house 1-2 projects with network connections, available laptops, and a refrigerator. Because, as you know, once you get the testers in the area, you don’t want them to have to leave for any reason.
As was said when a baseball field was carved out of a cornfield in Iowa, “if you build it, they will come”. And that is what they did. A week before construction was complete; I became aware of a project that was starting their UAT. That project, with their 3 UAT testers, business analyst, and the project manager, participated in the Grand Opening ceremony and cut the ribbon of our new Testing/DR Center with the “Be a ZERO hero” theme (but that’s for another article).
This is not the end of my Testing Center Story. It is only the end of the first chapter of it. As QA/ Testing permeates the corporate culture, I see a time when this Testing/DR Center will overflow its banks. At that time, I anticipate the opportunity of expanding it or creating satellite Testing Centers throughout our campus.
My advice to everyone who is still in need of their own Testing Center is be persistent, be ingenious, be flexible, take what you can get, and “never give up, never surrender”…
Manager, Quality Assurance and Testing Group - Hanesbrands, Inc.
I am currently the manager of the newly formed Quality Assurance and Testing Group here at Hanesbrands, Inc. I have been with HBI for 17 years and started out writing the manufacturing cost accounting systems for Playtex. I was promoted through the ranks of developer, systems analyst, business analyst, project lead, and program manager until I found my niche as a Test Manager. I have been working for the last 4 years to spread QA/Testing principals both inside and outside of IT.
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