Performance testing is a difficult and complicated skill to learn. Not only do you need to understand how to performance test applications, you need to know how to make sense of the vast amount of data you gather, and then present that to engineers, managers and customers in a way that makes most sense to them so that they’re able to make informed decisions.
On May 8th, Mais Tawfik presented “Performance Data Analysis” at Denver’s SQuAD (Software Quality Association of Denver) meeting. In her session, she showed ways of presenting data in visual formats so that they would highlight anomalies and help present a full picture when analyzing the results of a performance test effort.
Attributes for effective analysis and visualization of data discussed included:
- Tells a story
- Offers faster interpretation
- Highlights what’s pertinent
- Highlights trends and patterns
- Designed for the target audience
- Reflects the big picture
- Suggests conclusions
- Provides context
- Maintains data integrity
- Accounts for gaps in data
Though Tawfik highlighted how this is done with performance test data by using a real-life case study, these techniques are useful whenever analyzing and presenting large amounts of data.
Listen in to the video clip below to hear from Mais Tawfic about her presentation and the benefits of visualization of performance test data.
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The connection between improv games and the daily standup may seem like a stretch at first, but as presenters Arlen Bankston and Jessie Shternshus demonstrated at their Scrum Gathering Atlanta session, “Standout Standups with Preparation, Practice and Applied Improv,” the same improvisational games used by improv actors can facilitate communication between project team members in a non-threatening way.
After briefly summarizing the Daily Scrum process, they led session participants in creating a list of impediments through a game where each group member begins by saying, “And to make matters worse…” Within a few moments, one problem had grown into a string of several problems. Participants came up with impediments including technical difficulties, lack of team cohesion, issues with tools, lack of preparation and team communication issues such as rambling team members and people distracted due to multi-tasking.
Bankston and Shternshus then led a number of activities, some that participants paired up for and others that worked well for several group members. One partner activity required that while one person is speaking, the partner had to listen to the very end of the sentence, so they could begin their response with the final letter of their partner’s sentence. This challenged partners to listen without interrupting, or assuming what the other would say.
It also stopped the natural process of preparing what to say next and shifted the focus onto the speaker. “Every person comes to a conversation with an agenda,” Jessie Shternshus pointed out.
Another game was “Color/Advance,” which helps alleviate rambling. One partner told a story, and the other could encourage more detailed information by saying, “Color,” or could prompt the speaker to move on by saying, “Advance.” This game provided feedback in a harmless and fun way. Participants suggested that this could be useful in a standup or in a retrospective.
Presenters elicited further feedback from participants about what helps improve communication during standups, and session attendees discussed ideas such as using a progress board with sticky notes for at-a-glance updates and passing around a physical object to indicate whose turn it is to speak.
Improvisational games promote active participation, build team engagement and generate positivity and laughter, according to the presenters. “We’re trying to make active listening possible,” summarized Arlen Bankston.
In his presentation at Scrum Gathering Atlanta, “Creating a Shared Vision: From Compliance to Commitment,” Senior Coach and Vice President of agile42 Brad Swanson discussed the importance of having a vision and offered five strategies for building a shared vision.
In defining the word “vision,” Swanson gave some inspiring examples, such as Kennedy’s vision of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 60’s and the vision of creating a portable digital music player—the iPod. Inspiring visions include concrete, measurable details, he explained.
This interactive session gave participants opportunities to explore different strategies for building a shared vision. Groups prepared posters and gave presentations based on the five strategies for building a shared vision, from the book The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook by Peter Senge, et al: Telling, Selling, Testing, Consulting and Co-Creating. Groups practiced Innovation Games techniques such as “Remember the Future” and “Product Box.”
Team members had just minutes to apply techniques and produce analyses and product brochures. “The process you went through as a team is more important than what you ended up with on paper,” Swanson pointed out during the wrap-up.
Participants highlighted key takeaways from the presentation, including “applying the co-creation techniques generated passion and purpose.” One of the participants said that he liked how the product brochure activity, one that required the creation of a physical item, spurred participation from everyone in the group. Another participant commented on how these techniques helped sharpen focus, when so often people can get caught up in the details of a project.
How effective is your organization at implementing a shared vision?
Some might argue that exploratory testing, by its very definition, is the opposite of automated testing; however, testers are learning ways in which automation and exploratory can be used to complement with one another.
At STAREAST 2012, I spoke to one participant who used tools that would help facilitate her exploratory test session, allowing collection of logs and other information which would help with troubleshooting. Though this is not “automated testing,” automation is aiding exploratory testing through the tool.
In her keynote, Dot Graham talked about “automated exploratory testing,” giving an example of how it was used to test Bing. I asked Bob Galen, who presented “Session-Based Exploratory Testing,” about mixing automation and exploratory testing. He warned against the thinking that automation could replace exploratory testing, but did give an example of a case study in which the repository that was created from exploratory test documentation helped to generate automation test ideas.
Listen in below to Dot Graham and Mark Fewster, authors of Experiences of Test Automation, as well as to Bob Galen, as they explain their thoughts on the mixture of exploratory testing and automation.
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One popular objective for test automation is to automate 100% of manual tests, according to independent test consultant and author Dorothy Graham. However, while some tests are better as automated tests, some tests are better performed manually. In her keynote at STAREAST 2012, “What Managers Think They Know about Test Automation—But Don’t,” Graham discussed the various misconceptions managers can have about automation and identified ways to set realistic goals.
Objectives are vital, as they determine a team’s direction, funding and assessment of the project as a success or failure, she explained. Unrealistically high goals will ensure failure. One measurement of success is ROI, which some managers misconstrue as the many benefits of automation: tests are run more frequently, they take less time to run and they require less human effort.
To measure the ROI, one can use a simple calculation of (benefit – cost)/cost. More information on this is available on Graham’s website. Without this quantifying of ROI, good ROI can be achieved, but it is essential that the benefits are made visible.
“Automation does not find bugs; tests find bugs,” said Graham. Automation in itself is not a cure-all for an organization’s testing needs. Furthermore, it does not replace testers. Automation, like other testing tools, supports the efforts of testers.
Graham emphasized the importance of implementing high quality testware architecture, as she cited poor architecture as the leading cause of abandoned automation efforts. The testers, test execution tools and positive relationships between developers and managers must all work in concert to produce successful results. “Good automation takes time and effort. It doesn’t just come out of the box,” said Graham.
She encouraged testers to educate their managers on the realities of test automation, as their support is critical to project success.
For more on test automation from Dorothy Graham and Mark Fewster, authors of Experiences with Test Automation, see Test automation: Exploring automation case studies in Agile development
For comprehensive conference coverage, see our Software Testing Analysis and Review conference page.
Many people think performance testing is a difficult effort riddled with complicated tools and measurements. As for those aspects that are complex, Scott Barber, Chief Technologist at PerfTestPlus, Inc., suggested leaving them to the specialists; there are easy parts that people who are just getting started with performance testing can take on. His presentation at STAREAST 2012, “Simple and Informative Performance Tests You Can Do Now” offered several entry points to this often misunderstood aspect of testing.
He discussed the definitions of performance testing floating around, from “performance testing makes websites go fast” to “performance testing optimizes software systems by balancing cost, time-to-market and capacity while remaining focused on the quality of service to system users.” Furthermore, he clarified definitions of some common testing terms. Load testing is about expected, anticipated conditions. Stress testing, conversely, is about outcomes you don’t expect, finding when and where something might happen or break.
Performance testing plays an important role in numerous possible objectives: determining compliance with requirements, evaluating release readiness, assessing user satisfaction, estimating capacity, validating assumptions and generating marketing statements. As such, it hardly makes sense for performance testing to come only at the end of production, explained Barber.
“Performance testing helps stakeholders make decisions regarding product value and project risk; specifically value and risk related to speed, scalability and the stability attributes of a system and its components throughout the product lifecycle,” he said.
He advocated raising visibility about performance testing within your organization by asking questions, which often boil down to “what’s the real goal?”; generating acceptance criteria and setting priorities. Report and talk about performance often, he suggested. He also recommended taking a few minutes to spot-check the performance of competitors’ sites; not many organizations do this, but a competitive analysis does not take much time and offers some useful data.
As far as getting started with actual performance testing, he provided links to several online tools:
Tools for determining speed:
Tools for making use of performance snapshots:
These tools can offer data, often with accompanying graphics, in a rather short amount of time, and they aren’t the only ones; more tools become available every day.
Check out this video of Scott Barber at STAREAST 2012:
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When testers “compare the product to specifications,” what they often find is that they identify intentions — and the intentions are different from the product. While the tester’s job may be to gather information, this becomes an intentional investigation, according to STAREAST 2012 keynote speaker Michael Bolton of DevelopSense, Inc.
His speech, “Evaluating Testing: The Qualitative Way,” explored qualitative research methods, compared the job of software testers to that of investigative journalists and offered the notion that testing is ultimately a human activity.
Read more in-depth coverage of this insightful speech here: Software testers as qualitative researchers: STAREAST 2012 keynote.
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As software quality professionals, we all know that the earlier we find defects, the easier they are to fix. However, all too often, performance testing is not done until the very end of a release cycle. In fact, some organizations wait until after the code has deployed, thinking they can only monitor performance, and fix it when there’s a problem, rather than doing testing up front.
Eric Gee is facilitating a session here at STAREAST 2012 titled, “Performance Testing Earlier in the Software Development Lifecycle.” In this short video clip, Gee gives us a short preview of his session and how performance test engineers can partner with architects and developers, testing at the component level ensuring that performance issues are found and addressed as early as possible.
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Here at STAREAST 2012, we’ve been hearing quite a lot about the importance of exploratory testing. This technique allows testers to really dig into areas of high risk, using the knowledge they’ve learned as they’re testing to creatively test and uncover problems that aren’t on the “happy path.” However, when they do run across an anomaly or defect, they need to recreate that problem so that the developer is able to troubleshoot it and find out the root cause.
I asked conference attendee Thora Commins the tools she used in order to easily recreate the issues she uncovered during exploratory testing. Listen in to hear her response:
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“Simplify, simplify, simplify” and “make sure you’re testing exactly what your customers are asking for,” says Mary LeMieux-Ruibal from Cognizant. She and Dr. Mirkeya Capellán from Sogeti facilitated the session, “Creating a Risk-based Testing Strategy,” at STAREAST 2012.
In the article, Risk-based testing approaches for Agile development teams, I talk to LeMieux-Ruibal and Capellán about risk-based testing and how it’s used in Agile environments. It was a real pleasure to meet up with them in person in sunny Orlando, FLA at the conference and get to chat with them in person. Take a look at this short video clip as they give a quick summary of their session:
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