Software Quality Insights

January 30, 2012  9:26 PM

High performing teams: Agile coach offers fun team building activities

Melanie Luna Melanie Luna Profile: Melanie Luna

High performing teams are able to balance creative conflict and safe communication, according to Agile Coach Ryan Polk of Rally Software, whom the Atlanta Scrum Users Group hosted at their January 25 meetup. Polk illustrated the variations between teams with a continuum featuring “Conflict” on one end and “Harmony” on the other. At some point between “Creative Conflict” and “Fun/Play,” towards the center of this continuum, is where high-performing teams can be found.

He explained, “If you don’t have people working together, no amount of process or tools or framework will result in a high-performing Agile team.” Then he reviewed the typical Agile ceremonies, discussing how the standard practices break down when a team isn’t working together effectively.

The Agile practice that Polk highlighted most was retrospectives. He said that they may be the most important activity, though many practitioners may avoid retrospectives because team members lose interest in them. He offered several fun approaches to get started with retrospectives, including activities such a “Draw me a picture,” “Futurespectives” and “Break-up letter.” He also recommended the book Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen.

In addition, he offered some suggestions about the estimation process, which he said should not be overly time-consuming, but rather an off-the-cuff activity, and he offered examples of estimation games that can take some of the pain out of this process, such as “Planning Poker” and “High-Low Showdown.” He emphasized that these activities “feel like games, and they enable estimation in a safe environment. They are also very accurate.”

More information from this presentation is coming soon on Ryan Polk’s blog.  

Recent articles on SSQ related to Agile team work include:

Scrum vs. Kanban: Comparing new approaches in software development

Collaboration, discipline and software quality: Wisdom from Uncle Bob Martin

Agile testing quadrants: Guiding managers and teams in test strategies

January 11, 2012  3:43 PM

Application Resource Optimizer diagnostic tool enhances mobile device performance

Melanie Luna Melanie Luna Profile: Melanie Luna

Recently Keynote DeviceAnywhere™, who specializes in mobile monitoring and testing, announced its support for the Application Resource Optimizer (ARO) diagnostic tool from AT&T, which collects data and analyzes mobile application performance. Developers, those in telecommunications and enterprises seeking to upgrade applications, as well as mobile device consumers, will be happy to learn that this very timely tool is now available.


Leila Modarres, Senior Director of Marketing at Keynote DeviceAnywhere, explained how they are participating in this effort by offering access to ARO, which is pre-loaded on actual mobile devices, such as Samsung Captivate, HTC Inspire 4G, HTC Aria, Samsung Infuse 4G, LG Thrill 4G 3D and Motorola Atrix 2, enabling developers to download apps in their testing environment and test directly on the device. Developers can have on-demand, remote access to this service, which expedites app testing and benefits developers by increasing app ratings.


In a recent release, Faraz Syed, President of Keynote DeviceAnywhere said, “The creation of AT&T ARO represents a win for everybody involved from consumers, developers and the carrier. Consumers will have a better experience, developers will have better-rated apps, and AT&T will have more efficient apps running over its network.”


Many companies are already using ARO, including Pandora and Zynga. Chief executives from each of these organizations made appearances at the AT&T Developer Summit held January 8 and 9, 2012, in Las Vegas and gave testimonials on how this tool is helping them improve their app performance.


One of the greatest advantages to this unique tool is that it enables optimization of hardware performance, specifically battery life and data usage.


Leila Modarres said: 

As applications become richer and more convenient, it’s also going to mean that they are going to become more high maintenance. They are going to need a lot of memory usage; they are going to require a lot of battery. So initiatives such as this, which we intend to support, will help ensure that innovation is not limited because of a constraint on the hardware of a device.


Read about the Keynote DeviceAnywhere partnership with TomTom in our previous post: Keynote DeviceAnywhere provides customized performance monitoring to GPS vendor TomTom.

December 21, 2011  5:09 PM

Top Agile stories of 2011

Yvette Francino Yvette Francino Profile: Yvette Francino

As we end 2011, we at SSQ are taking a look at our most popular stories of the year. Melanie Webb reported on our top ALM stories  and today I’m going to fill you in on our top six Agile tips and stories.

You’ll see that four out of the six deal with questioning the popular methodology, specifically comparing it to the traditional Waterfall approach of developing software.  Some people love Agile; others hate it. Though recent surveys show Scrum as the most popular Agile framework, more and more organizations are pulling together a number of Agile techniques, creating a customized methodology that works best for their organization. Wherever you fall on the Waterfall vs. Agile debate, it would be worth your while to check out these top articles and read about the varied opinions and perspectives.

Coming in at number six in our lineup is: Waterfall vs. Agile development: A case study. Though many people claim that Agile development provides better results than using the Waterfall methodology, it’s hard to prove. In this case study, one development team worked on two similar projects, but with one project using Waterfall, and with the second project using Agile. Though the development team was new to Agile development and had a shaky start, in the end, they were convinced of the benefits.

Though Agile development worked best in that instance, Consultant Nari Kannan makes a case for a hybrid approach in our number five story: Why hybrid Waterfall/Agile process lessens distributed software development problems. In this tip, Kannan describes mixing Waterfall and Agile techniques, claiming that the hybrid approach benefits distributed teams, by combining some of the discipline found in Waterfall with the flexibility found in Agile.

Kannan is also the author of our fourth most popular Agile story, Scaling Agile software development: Challenges and solutions. In this tip, Kannan addresses some of the difficulties with executing Agile development on large projects, and again, addresses the issue of distributed teams and offshore development. He talks about ways to organize projects and improve communication when working on large-scale projects.

SSQ contributor David W. Johnson takes a very logical look at the differences between Waterfall and Agile in his tip: Waterfall or Agile? – Differences between predictive and adaptive software methodologies. Johnson describes relative strengths and weaknesses to both approaches and discusses how and when to leverage each, depending on the needs o f your business. Johnson recognizes the heated debates over the merits of predictive vs. adaptive methodologies and recommends using the best aspects of both when deciding upon a methodology.

We certainly hear a lot from those singing the praises of Agile development, but is it really all it claims to be? The Web is full of blog posts from people who hate Agile. In Agile development: What’s behind the backlash against Agile?, SSQ’s Jan Stafford takes a hard look at the dark side of Agile. What are the nay-sayers reasons for speaking out against the methodology?

Finally, our number one Agile story for 2011 is Agile requirements: A conversation with author Dean Leffingwell. In this interview, I talk to Leffingwell about his book, Agile Software Requirements – Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Enterprise and about some of the challenges with the requirements management process in Agile development. Leffingwell describes the differences between requirements processes in traditional and Agile environments and gives some advice on what teams should be looking for in Agile requirements tools.

December 20, 2011  6:32 PM

Application lifecycle management: Top five stories of 2011

Melanie Luna Melanie Luna Profile: Melanie Luna

As 2011 comes to a close, we are reflecting on our most popular stories of the year. One of our key topics, application lifecycle management, has drawn much interest, particularly in the areas of Agile development and choosing appropriate ALM tools. Here, we count down the top five stories on ALM this year.


You’ll find that two of the five stories focus on requirements management, which is not surprising given that SSQ surveys from 2009 and 2010 both showed requirements management as the number one challenge in ALM. In 2011, requirements management moved down to the number three spot, topped by project management and process improvement as bigger challenges. Perhaps the improvements in requirements management tools described in these tips are helping?


Automation is another area getting a lot of attention in ALM as organizations work towards an environment that gives continuous integration, and, in some cases, continuous delivery. Most of our top five touch upon this growing industry trend, highlighting tools that will facilitate automation throughout the life cycle.


Coming in at number five is How to select your ALM requirements management tool by Mike Jones. Choosing an appropriate ALM requirements management tool comes with many challenges. Fortunately, this article offers several helpful insights into how to choose a requirements tool that best suits the needs of your organization.


In August, Site Editor Yvette Francino examined ALM trends, referring to findings of industry analysts and experts. In Trends in ALM: Extending the lifecycle, increased support of Kanban, she explores how ALM is expanding to areas beyond the traditional software development lifecycle, how practitioners are diversifying tools to include Kanban and how they are also mixing Agile methodologies.


All stories involving author Michael Hüttermann were popular on SSQ this year, including the two-part interview in which he discusses his book Agile ALM. (Since both parts received high traffic, we allowed them to share slot number three in our top five list.) Site Editor Yvette Francino asks Hüttermann to talk about how automation in used in automation lifecycle management, which he discusses in Automation in Agile ALM: Interview with author Michael Hüttermann — Part 1. Then, in part two, Automation, continuous integration and continuous improvement in Agile ALM — Part 2, he answers questions about programming skills, continuous integration and automation.


In the number two slot, we have another story about ALM tools. Software consultant Nari Kannan went into detail about ALM tools in his great piece Agile ALM tools: How they differ from traditional lifecycle management tools. He explains how newer tools facilitate Agile development by offering adaptability, simpler end-user interfaces and support for distributed and outsourced teams.


And finally, our most popular ALM story of 2011 has to do with requirements management. In March, Forrester analyst Mary Gerush, author of the report, Right Tools. Write Requirements. Right On! provided some great insights into ALM trends. In Trends in ALM: Requirements management tools, she tells Yvette Francino what organizations should consider when selecting a requirements management tool.

December 16, 2011  2:25 PM

Collaboration and social media in ALM

Yvette Francino Yvette Francino Profile: Yvette Francino

Our world is changing, and with new tools and technologies, collaboration is easier than ever, regardless of where we’re physically sitting. This month SSQ promises you a full line-up of content related to how businesses are using social media and other collaboration tools throughout the application lifecycle.

In ALM from a distance: Effective remote collaboration tools, consultant Brad Swanson describes tools and techniques that organizations are using to remove the obstacles from distance collaboration. Tools are available for everything from release planning to continuous deployment, allowing us to work efficiently no matter where we’re located.

Melanie Webb tells us more about what vendors are doing with social media in her piece, Social media: How savvy businesses are capitalizing on collaborative tools.

We know that collaboration tools and social media are great for communicating across the miles, but can you really gain trust without the benefit of face-to-face relationships? I think so. Check out this story of the success of crowdsource test organization uTest and read why I personally have such a high regard for this company, thanks to their use of social media.

December 14, 2011  7:28 PM

Social media and ALM: Serena hosting Twitter PlusIs contest

Yvette Francino Yvette Francino Profile: Yvette Francino

This month, SSQ is exploring the use of social media in ALM. As SSQ’s Melanie Webb writes in the article: Social media: How savvy businesses are capitalizing on collaborative tools:

Social media plays an important role in facilitating interaction between businesses and their customers, according to many industry experts.

We spoke to representatives at Serena to find out how they’re using social media, and Twitter, in particular. Serena is currently hosting a “PlusIs” contest via Twitter running through January 19, 2012.

SSQ: What prompted Serena to host the #PlusIs Twitter Contest?

The #PlusIs contest is a chance for Serena to gain awareness and also for our followers and customers to use Twitter and their imaginations to get creative, have fun and win great prizes, such as the grand prize of an iPad 2 and a donation of $250 towards the charity of their choice. With three categories to submit for—IT, Tis the Season and General—there is something for everyone in Serena Software’s #PlusIs Twitter contest. Serena wanted to do something fun and also encourage people to give back this holiday season.

SSQ: Can you tell us some of the more creative entries you’ve received so far?

Sure, here are some top contenders:

   – Poor Release Management + Frazzled Service Desk = Pain Management 
   – SBM + ARMY = ITIL in place
   – #SF49ers + Sunday IS must see TV
   – San Fran Occupy camp w/mite & lice infestation + Christmas song = Fleas Navidad

SSQ: Does Serena use Twitter to gather feedback from customers?

Yes. Customers provide feedback to @Serena_Support and we also use this Twitter channel to give regular news on hints and tips, new releases and would also use it to communicate a Sev1 situation if one occurred. We were also able to contact an unhappy customer purely due to Twitter and make them whole again.

SSQ: How else does Serena use social media?

Serena also uses social media to promote new case studies, webinars and company announcements.

SSQ: Do any of Serena’s products have “social features” built in?

Yes. Next month Serena Service Manager a “circles of expert” capability that will empower IT Service Deck professionals to connect with identified circles of expert in real time to resolve incidents. For example, when an SAP Production incident is reported, the system will automatically identify the “SAP Experts” based on the number of SAP-related incidents that each identified individual had successfully closed over a configurable period of time.

December 8, 2011  9:17 PM

Mobile giving gains popularity amongst nonprofits

Melanie Luna Melanie Luna Profile: Melanie Luna

In December, is focusing on social media and collaboration. The potential advantages of collaborative technologies are perhaps most clearly realized in the form of charitable giving that takes place over mobile devices. With the holiday season upon us, philanthropic efforts naturally increase, and MobileCause is hoping to set new records in fundraising that takes place via mobile devices.


A couple of months ago, I spoke with Jeff Kuligowski, Senior VP of Sales and Marketing at MobileCause, about their Software as a Service platform that enables efficient mobile giving and fundraising for nonprofit organizations. Organizations such as The Salvation Army, United Way, USO, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Special Olympics are already using MobileCause. The potential for giving through one’s mobile device continues to grow, and mobile apps are not only leading to increased fundraising dollars, but also to more opportunities to cultivate relationships with potential donors and to build a community of constitutents through social media.


Doug Plank, CEO and founder of MobileCause, told me in an interview this week that “mobile is going from being a transaction device to an engagement device.” This platform allows for organizations to connect with their constituents through regular updates, and it allows users to determine how frequently they are contacted. Mobile giving can take place through SMS text-to-give campaigns, fundraising dinners and regular text pledges (which often lead to macro donations); mobile users can also engage via access to rich media, websites and social media applications that provide the opportunity for organizations to disseminate quality information to people who have requested it. Plank explains:

When you can have access to a communication device that one of your friends, or one of your donors or one of your interested supporters has, you want to be able to tap into that, right? It’s the most personal and ubiquitous tool that’s out there right now.


He continues:

And with that one device, you can send me a text message, I can read my email, I can go online and look at your website, you can call me, I can watch a video about your organization… You’ll be able to push that information that you care about, and encourage your friends to support it also; you can push it out via text message, via Facebook, via Twitter. You’ll be able to do that with our technology that’s coming in Q1 2012.


This is a boon to all nonprofits and charitable organizations, and Plank expects this mode of giving and engagement will only continue to spread in 2012. According to recent research, “Over 65 percent of all respondents see the fundamental value of mobile media to be the ability to integrate with social media activities.” Likewise, Plank recognizes the critical trend of integration between mobile and social technologies. He predicts that the ability to make donations of any size, and the instances of peer-to-peer giving will expand in 2012. 

December 8, 2011  8:06 PM

Quality metrics: The pros and cons of defect tracking

Yvette Francino Yvette Francino Profile: Yvette Francino

Last month, I blogged about the different advice you can get from experts about how to measure software quality. I was chatting about the range of opinions on defect tracking with performance test guru Scott Barber, and he asked if I’d like to speak at the upcoming STP Online Summit: Delivering Value with Testing Metrics, Dec 13-15. Heck, yeah! I’m usually in the audience or facilitating one of these shindigs, so it’s a real honor to be included amongst such an expert team of presenters.

In preparation for my presentation, I wrote two articles outlining the arguments both for and against defect tracking:

I also asked Paul McMahon, author of Integrating CMMI and Agile Development for his take on defect tracking, which he wrote about in his tip:

My research on the topic unveiled so many informative tips that we put together a metrics guide for our readers: Quality metrics: A guide to measuring software quality.

Take a look and let us know what you think!

December 5, 2011  3:53 PM

Crowdsource test group uTest announces $17 million funding deal

Yvette Francino Yvette Francino Profile: Yvette Francino

A number of announcements have come out from crowdsource test group uTest in the past couple of years. Today the organization is celebrating as they complete a $17 million Series D round of funding. The company has achieved year-over-year growth of 250% over the past three years and is on track to become the first crowdsourcing company to file an IPO.

What makes uTest so successful? Well, take a look at CEO Doron Reuveni’s blog post for the stats on the history of their tremendous growth. As we heard from VP of marketing and community Matt Johnston in his keynote about “into the wild” testing at STPCon, SoLoMo (Social, local and mobile) has huge growth opportunities, and uTest is well-positioned to capitalize on those markets.

My opinion? It’s uTest’s great sense of community and their amazing and unique use of social media that contributes so greatly to their success. 

Our SSQ theme for December is the use of social media in ALM and in this industry, uTest is a leader in using social media to build community amongst their 45,000+ group of testers and their customers, and they also lead the way in gathering data that will help enhance their products and services.

But what really makes the difference to me, personally, is the genuine sense of kindness I’ve felt from the leadership in this company, and that, of course, filters down to the employees who emulate that sense of community and generosity.

I first learned about uTest in October 2009. Having recently been laid off from Sun after the Oracle acquisition, I was just an unemployed blogger who had an interest in social media and QA. I was intrigued by the idea of crowdsource test and blogged about it. The blog post earned me a personal email from uTest’s community manager Peter Shih and an introduction to Matt Johnston, who agreed to be interviewed for my first podcast!

In January, 2010, I got this job as a Site Editor for SSQ at TechTarget, and now I have the privilege of talking to VIPs, including uTest CEO Doron Reuveni, regularly, but I have a very special place in my heart for those who talked to me when I was simply an unemployed blogger. Community managers and VPs are busy people. I understand that they need to spend their time judiciously and can’t talk to everyone. So when they take the time to talk to me — not because of my title or what I can do for them — simply because I ask… that means something!

But the real reason I love this organization is that they did something that touched my heart and will remain with me for the rest of my life. Earlier this year, my son went missing. When I put out the word on Twitter, my friends at uTest used their huge network to help spread the word of his disappearance. We found my son shortly after and I am eternally grateful to all those who helped me in that search. It was particularly heart-warming for me to get care, support and help from people who didn’t know me personally.

Though we all talk about the value of “face-to-face” relationships, there is something very special and touching when someone who has never met you reaches out to help you. And when your professional life mixes with your personal life, well, that’s what makes us human. Could that be the key that bonds us together and fosters a loyalty, perhaps even stronger than a face-to-face relationship?

Businesses are using social media in many ways. In order to be effective, they cannot simply market their products and promote themselves. They have to give back to the community in some way. uTest is successful for a lot of reasons. But what I believe is the secret ingredient behind the success is the genuine goodness that’s at the heart of their culture.

Congratulations uTest. You’re tops in my book.

November 30, 2011  3:50 PM

Make performance testing part of continuous integration

Yvette Francino Yvette Francino Profile: Yvette Francino

“We think [performance testing] needs to be part of that continuous process,” said Ajit Sancheti , co-founder of Mu Dynamics, Inc. Today Mu Dynamics announced the integration of their Blitz cloud-based load test tool with Atlassian’s Bamboo, a Continuous Integration (CI) server. 

The trend of integrating ALM tools seems to be growing, as vendors are exposing their APIs or putting in appropriate hooks to allow for data to flow seamlessly between tools. This seems to be especially true in the area of DevOps as demand grows for a faster release process using automated tests and continuous integration

“When you look at how cloud and mobile applications are built, people are building the app, making changes 20 times a day,” says Sancheti. He believes that the simplicity in load testing with Blitz as well as the integrations with other tools has aided in its popularity.

The key for anything in the cloud is simplicity. If you start to impose complexity up front, people don’t adopt the solution. Even though we’ve stayed very, very simple, we don’t do the complex transactions, we see more and more people use it, because 80-90% of performance testing does not require the complexity.

Performance testing in the cloud continues to grow in popularity and does offer several benefits, including lowered capital and operational costs, and support for distributed development teams. Now, by integrating your load test into your CI solution, you can be sure with each build that any issues with performance are caught early, before your code hits production.

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