Letter from the Editor – April 2012

Big and complex testing. What do these terms conjure up in your mind?

When we added this topic to the editorial calendar, I had the notion that we might illustrate some large or complex systems and explore some of the test and quality challenges they present. We might have an article on: building and testing the software for a rocket to Mars, and discuss the complex infrastructure behind it. (This, by the way, has been done many times, primarily to highlight the large scale system failures and huge sums of money wasted when projects of a massive scale are shortchanged on adequate planning, communication and testing).

We could do the same for the air traffic control system’s infrastructure, and a dozen other big software development projects that instantly come to mind. But big and complex are different to different people.

Big and complex software systems have been woven into our daily lives, and in many cases, those lives literally depend on them. It certainly, and justifiably, might give us pause when we consider that it’s people like you and me who test these systems. Medical devices, online banking, missile guidance systems, prescription drug systems – it is a big list, and you and I hope they are tested well!

When I visit companies for consulting or training, I very often hear: “We have a really complex system! It’s too difficult to diagram or describe.” After one minute of hearing their explanations, I understand it to be a database with a web front end. Simple enough. But after five minutes, it’s an inventory control system with tax and shipping integration with three varieties of credit card processing, all tied into reporting and accounting systems, accommodating three languages that all must work on five browsers and a variety of mobile devices. Indeed, what seemed simple enough at first, mushroomed in complexity very quickly. How do they test it? It has too many moving parts belonging to too many different groups. Each group has its own schedule, headaches and problems, and integrations of third party software.

I worked at Palm Computing during its early days. Palm was a pioneer in the handheld devices, smart phones and mobile computing systems that we all take for granted today. We thought we were complicated (at the time, we certainly were): changing hardware, changing OS, changing apps, hotsynching (synchronizing) to a wide variety of PCs, all in eight languages. Very ambitious indeed – and very complex testing. And yet, in retrospect, the complexity of what we were dealing with then at Palm pales in comparison to so many of the systems I see today.

How is big or complex testing different than testing other-sized products? Maybe not so different after all: good test design, for example, is important no matter what size system you test! In this issue, we look at big testing from many perspectives, to examine both the differences as well as the fundamental constants of testing. LogiGear CTO Hans Buwalda provides us with a “big picture” look at complex systems; we see examples of complex system failures; Marcin Zręda reviews Project Management of Complex and Embedded Systems; Ginny Redish describes how thinking outside the box can lead to better testing; John Brøndum says the science of testing complex systems is constantly changing; I interview some Salesforce.com quality engineering directors about their approach in testing complex systems and I examine the professional characteristics of our global survey respondents. Finally, Robert Japenga shows us how to write a great software testing plan.

When I find myself in a distant country, late at night, hard up for cash, confronted with the ATM of a bank I’ve never heard of, my plastic lifeline somewhere deep inside its bowels while it awaits my bank’s confirmation that I have funds available, my only thought is, “This had better work!” Who tests that and how well do they do it? Well, it may not always be possible to know who, but if you test big and complex bank or financial transaction systems, I hope we will give you some insight into how!

Michael Hackett
Senior Vice President
Editor in Chief

LogiGear Corporation

LogiGear Corporation provides global solutions for software testing, and offers public and corporate software-testing training programs worldwide through LogiGear University. LogiGear is a leader in the integration of test automation, offshore resources and US project management for fast and cost-effective results. Since 1994, LogiGear has worked with hundreds of companies from the Fortune 500 to early-stage startups, creating unique solutions to exactly meet their needs. With facilities in the US and Vietnam, LogiGear helps companies double their test coverage and improve software quality while reducing testing time and cutting costs.

For more information, contact Joe Hughes + 01 650.572.1400

LogiGear Corporation
LogiGear Corporation provides global solutions for software testing, and offers public and corporate software testing training programs worldwide through LogiGear University. LogiGear is a leader in the integration of test automation, offshore resources and US project management for fast, cost-effective results. Since 1994, LogiGear has worked with Fortune 500 companies to early-stage start-ups in, creating unique solutions to meet their clients’ needs. With facilities in the US and Viet Nam, LogiGear helps companies double their test coverage and improve software quality while reducing testing time and cutting costs.

The Related Post

I once consulted for a company to give a week-long course on testing and QA. It was a survey course covering a wide range of topics. I was setting up and chatting with students in the room. One man came over to me and said: “I have been testing for 6 months and I am completely ...
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 500 BCE) is credited with saying, “The only constant is change.”   This is a statement that, more than 2,000 years later, still holds true. Today, we are in a time of great change. Everything is in flux. The fact is, we are always in a state of change even if ...
Automation is a mantra in testing. Anyone associated with software development wants more test automation, but it’s often misunderstood. People who do test automation know how difficult it can be. But some people do not understand that automation is code, and that it needs to have architecture and design just like production code. They do ...
API testing– an old school technology gets way cool again. APIs and testing them is nothing new; the technology has been around for decades. The most basic definition of an API is an exposed function— a producer (person or company) writes a function and exposes it so that others, consumers, can use it. We copy ...
I remember the times when test teams sat in their own area and we were not allowed to “bother” developers.
As fast as Mobile is growing, the platform is still immature and is evolving at a very rapid pace. While there are whole countries that have migrated large government services to mobile, countries ranging from Estonia to Turkey to Kenya have many longtime mobile users have yet to use mPay or other mobile payment systems. ...
For everyone still celebrating holidays: Happy Lunar New Year! At this time of the year many teams and companies are starting new projects, new initiatives, and hiring new staff. LogiGear Magazine will continue to be the resource for you for better testing with much less stress! We are excited about the focus of this month’s ...
“Why do we need to understand a bunch of test methods? I write test cases from user stories or requirements, automate what I can and execute the rest manually, and its fine.” If this is your situation: good for you. If you are time crunched, if your automated tests have lost relevance, are hard to ...
I have been excited about this issue since I included it in the 2011 editorial calendar. This issue of LogiGear Magazine dives into an exploration of agile automation—from the most efficient methods for test automation, to skill sets and better preparation for test teams, and even to understanding the variety of tools in question. We ...
I led the Editor’s Note in our very first mobile issue with “Everything is mobile”, but it is now way beyond what we thought. Mobile has come to mean only the smart phone, mobility is the word that describes everything a smart phone enables you to do. Mobility is more than a device! Mobility is ...
Test automation is a big topic. There are so many different areas to talk about: tool choice, jumpstart, cross platform, services, cloud… Each of these areas have changed so much in the recent past that they could each be worth their own magazine issue.
I have been training testers for about 15 years in universities, corporations, online, and individually – in both a training, managing and coaching capacity. So far, I have executed these various training efforts in 16 countries, under good and rough conditions – from simultaneous translation, to video broadcast to multiple sites, to group games with ...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay in the loop with the lastest
software testing news