Today's Big Picture

October 24, 2010  1:30 PM

Metric Goof Ups

Shilpa Venkateshwaran Shilpa Venkateshwaran Profile: Shilpa Venkateshwaran

Metric Goof Ups

Companies depend on metrics to manage their businesses. Metrics can measure failures or successes, it can help with showing trends or progress. It helps create baselines upon which changes can based on. Since the companies depend so much on metrics its important to get metrics right. Metric goofs ups are common and can be very easily avoided. These are some goof ups or common mistakes that can occur when putting metrics together or when the data is misinterpreted by the end user of the metrics. Its not that people put wrong numbers or bad metrics on purpose, these are things that crop up without us knowing. Or these can be errors due to user mis-interpretation. Both these errors can be reduced if we take the time to avoid these mistakes when creating the metrics.

Few most common mistakes are:

Cascade Errors – This is when one error knowingly or unknowingly causes several more in other places. So everything based of that initial number is now not valid. Formula Errors – If you plain just use the wrong formula or wrong values to calculate a number. These errors can skew your data.

Apples to Oranges – This happens when you are not comparing apples to apples. When you say you have executed 10 tests day one and 20 tests day two and 10 each rest of the week. So in total they are 60 tests. Are these similar tests? If not then you have to break it down by complexity or features to really present what that 100 means. When you group things together they have to be similar ones.

Drill based on numbers not meaning – Sometimes we focus on the numbers and not what it means in the big picture view. So for example if we hear there are 200 new defects in one month, we cant just panic without understanding the context of it. Are these new issues in an area that is new and not test before? Are these defects may be that were known (maybe minor) that were logged together when the testers had some downtime? So its really important to understand the context before we create panics.

These errors are very common and there are several ways to reduce them

  1. Get someone to review your data on a regular basis.
  2. Run error reports on a regular basis. If you run a report to gather defects created per build, run one by date and see if the numbers add up in the end.
  3. Always double check your data and numbers.
  4. Even if you use calculators or excel formulas, once in a while calculate some by hand and see they still add up.
  5. If something doesn’t feel right make sure you go back. If you see a higher defect density percentage, make sure its really high and not just a goof up. Also note these are sections that you will get questions on and so be ready to answer what caused these spikes.

Sign off note: Have you made any goof ups? What did you learn from it?

October 22, 2010  10:09 AM

Mentors and More

Shilpa Venkateshwaran Shilpa Venkateshwaran Profile: Shilpa Venkateshwaran

Mentors and More

My first post was more neutral about the “how and why” of mentoring. Here I am going to talk about my mentors.

My mentors

They have been people I work with or have worked with. I have worked with several people over time. They have really helped me develop on my strengths. I think that is one of the most important parts of mentoring: “To really focus on the strengths“. If I am strong in something already and expand on that talent, I will be stronger in what I do.

Its easy to focus on the weaknesses. People are used to looking at it. When we were in school, we got extra help in subjects we didn’t do good. If I was getting lower grades in social or science my parents would get me extra help. But if they had spent just half of that on my strengths like math I would probably have become a scientist or mathematician. I was always encouraged to work on things I am not good at.

Going back to mentoring what I really did was work on my strengths. I found people who were better than me in things that I was good at like public speaking, being a leader, team managers, etc. I worked with them on improving my skills. Now I can focus on excelling in things I am already good at. It is easier, more rewarding and we can see results faster than if I would have focused on my weakness.

This does not mean ignore your weakness. You still have to work on them. They might be skills support your strengths. I was good at public speaking but I need to work on my being publicly correct, I had to learn to change depending on my audience and also be open to criticism. I was very impatient which is what you don’t need when you are talking in front of a large group. Same way I was a good leader but I was not a good listener.

My mentor: is a friend (who listens to me and is honest with me), is a role model for me, and can be trusted.

Sign off note: Do you have mentors or have your mentored anyone? How was the experience?

October 20, 2010  7:20 PM

Mentors @ Work: Why and How to Find one

Shilpa Venkateshwaran Shilpa Venkateshwaran Profile: Shilpa Venkateshwaran

Are you a person who likes to learn, enhance your skills, advance in your job or are looking for a job and don’t know where to start? The best way to approach this is to find a mentor.  Mentor is a trusted counselor or guide. They take you under their wing and help your quest. They are more than just a friend or acquaintance at work: they are someone who will work with you on a regular basis, who will guide you and criticizes your (constructively).

What is mentoring about?

Its about finding a person who is in a position where you want to be in say 2 or 5 years. The position could be a job role, work ethics the person follows or their attitude. You have to have matching wavelengths as them and also have good chemistry. This does not mean he or she has to be exactly like you but someone you aspire to be. You will be spending a lot of time with this person so you have to pick someone you get along with and someone who will critic you, advice you and have long conversations with you. Mentors coach you with their learnings, experiences and knowledge. They teach you things they learned from the industry, work and their peers or colleagues. This will in turn help you grow in your job and work life. You will be able to handle things thrown at you better and react faster to changes or situations.

How to find a mentor?

Find out if your work or school has a mentoring program in place. If you are trying to find a mentor on your own, find a person you admire. This person can be someone you work with or just someone you know. You can have more than one mentor. You can find short term mentors to work on small goals like public speaking or working on your written communication skills. You also have to find someone who is willing to teach and share their experiences and learnings. Mentoring is an art in itself and cannot be done by everyone. Think back to the teachers who taught you in school or college. Think of the ones that had an impact on you or guided you. The things they taught back then are probably lessons you still remember. Same way you have to find a teacher/mentor who can help you at work or career. You have to find a person who has time for you. You don’t want a person who is busy and has no time to meet with you. No matter how great a teacher they are, if they don’t have time you will not reap long term benefits from this mentoring.

Some Tips

Don’t ask your direct manager to be your mentor. It has to be someone you can talk freely about work and career.
Choose someone senior to you or someone who excels in the area you are looking for to be mentored in.
Mentoring takes time, chemistry and trust. This does not happen in one day so you really have to be patient.
Be open to learning and change.
Be ready to accept criticism. Its not easy but sometimes its important to hear truth.

Sign off note: Do you have mentors?

October 18, 2010  1:26 PM

HP Quality Center 10 Dashboard: My take on it

Shilpa Venkateshwaran Shilpa Venkateshwaran Profile: Shilpa Venkateshwaran

Dashboard is my favorite feature with the HP Quality Center 10 upgrade. Test managers can now sit back and get information on any project they want or can compare data across projects using this feature. It is easily customizable and can be used to view data on a single dashboard page. The dashboard page can be configured to see multiple graphs or charts on the same page. Once setup as public page, it can be accessed by team members, management, test team or anyone on the project.

The good:

  • Same data can be accessed by team members, management, test team, etc. They can access this data anytime. Test leads don’t have to spit out data every time they ask a questions.
  • Once setup there is very little work on maintaining these. You dont have to pull the data out weekly. You can get the team to view the data live in QC. Will save you some time to do other things.
  • There is no place to add notes or explain data. Its just data and you will have to train the users to interpret the data or else send supporting documentation or notes on a regular basis.
  • Easy to customize the graphs and reports. It does not take very long to customize and create separate dashboard views for different teams depending on what they want to see. Management might want a quick one page executive summary while the defect review team might want detailed information on defects, their age, etc. So depending on the audience these can be customized.

The bad:

  • Garbage in is garbage out. You cannot setup the page without making sure your data is correct. You will have to keep an eye on the data and clean up often so as to make the dashboard data valid and up to date.
  • There is some inconsistency in how data history is stored when test cases are executed multiple times. Test leads will have to maintain some data independent of QC to track trends. But then this issue was always there we just have to make the users of dashboard understand this shortcoming of QC.

Other significant changes in QC 10
Version Control
Shared libraries

Sign off note: Do you use QC? If so do you use Dashboard? Do you like it? What is your favorite QC feature to date?

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