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Naresh Jain's Random Thoughts on Software Development and Adventure Sports
     
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Avatars of Test Driven Development (TDD)

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

It’s easy to speak of test-driven development as if it were a single method, but there are several ways to approach it. In my experience, different approaches lead to quite different solutions.

In this hands-on workshop, with the help of some concrete examples, I’ll demonstrate the different styles and more importantly what goes into the moment of decision when a test is written? And why TDDers make certain choices. The objective of the session is not to decide which approach is best, rather to highlight various different approaches/styles of practicing test-driven development.

By the end of this session, you will understand how TTDers break down a problem before trying to solve it. Also you’ll be exposed to various strategies or techniques used by TDDers to help them write the first few tests.

Outside In – Behaviour Driven Development (BDD)

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Recently at the Agile India 2013 Conference I ran an introductory workshop on Behavior Driven Development. This workshop offered a comprehensive, hands-on introduction to behavior driven development via an interactive-demo.

Over the past decade, eXtreme Programming practices like Test-Driven Development (TDD) and Behaviour Driven Development (BDD) have fundamentally changed software development processes and inherently how engineers work. Practitioners claim that it has helped them significantly improve their collaboration with business, development speed, design & code quality and responsiveness to changing requirements. Software professionals across the board, from Internet startups to medical device companies to space research organizations, today have embraced these practices.

This workshop explores the foundations of TDD & BDD with the help of various patterns, strategies, tools and techniques.

Inverting the Testing Pyramid

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

As more and more companies are moving to the Cloud, they want their latest, greatest software features to be available to their users as quickly as they are built. However there are several issues blocking them from moving ahead.

One key issue is the massive amount of time it takes for someone to certify that the new feature is indeed working as expected and also to assure that the rest of the features will continuing to work. In spite of this long waiting cycle, we still cannot assure that our software will not have any issues. In fact, many times our assumptions about the user’s needs or behavior might itself be wrong. But this long testing cycle only helps us validate that our assumptions works as assumed.

How can we break out of this rut & get thin slices of our features in front of our users to validate our assumptions early?

Most software organizations today suffer from what I call, the “Inverted Testing Pyramid” problem. They spend maximum time and effort manually checking software. Some invest in automation, but mostly building slow, complex, fragile end-to-end GUI test. Very little effort is spent on building a solid foundation of unit & acceptance tests.

This over-investment in end-to-end tests is a slippery slope. Once you start on this path, you end up investing even more time & effort on testing which gives you diminishing returns.

In this session Naresh Jain will explain the key misconceptions that has lead to the inverted testing pyramid approach being massively adopted, main drawbacks of this approach and how to turn your organization around to get the right testing pyramid.

Agile Evolution

Friday, June 15th, 2012

How has Agile evolved over the last 12 years?

Agile WTF – Way to Fail!

Friday, June 15th, 2012

This is an introductory presentation on the essence of Being Agile vs. Following Agile. And why being Agile is important? I’ve also tried to show an evolution of Agile methods over the last 11 years and the future of Agile. Also take a sneak preview into what challenges an organizations may face when trying to be agile?

Inverting the Testing Pyramid

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

As more and more companies are moving to the Cloud, they want their latest, greatest software features to be available to their users as quickly as they are built. However there are several issues blocking them from moving ahead.

One key issue is the massive amount of time it takes for someone to certify that the new feature is indeed working as expected and also to assure that the rest of the features will continuing to work. In spite of this long waiting cycle, we still cannot assure that our software will not have any issues. In fact, many times our assumptions about the user’s needs or behavior might itself be wrong. But this long testing cycle only helps us validate that our assumptions works as assumed.

How can we break out of this rut & get thin slices of our features in front of our users to validate our assumptions early?

Most software organizations today suffer from what I call, the “Inverted Testing Pyramid” problem. They spend maximum time and effort manually checking software. Some invest in automation, but mostly building slow, complex, fragile end-to-end GUI test. Very little effort is spent on building a solid foundation of unit & acceptance tests.

This over-investment in end-to-end tests is a slippery slope. Once you start on this path, you end up investing even more time & effort on testing which gives you diminishing returns.

They end up with majority (80-90%) of their tests being end-to-end GUI tests. Some effort is spent on writing so-called “Integration test” (typically 5-15%.) Resulting in a shocking 1-5% of their tests being unit/micro tests.

Why is this a problem?

  • The base of the pyramid is constructed from end-to-end GUI test, which are famous for their fragility and complexity. A small pixel change in the location of a UI component can result in test failure. GUI tests are also very time-sensitive, sometimes resulting in random failure (false-negative.)
  • To make matters worst, most teams struggle automating their end-to-end tests early on, which results in huge amount of time spent in manual regression testing. Its quite common to find test teams struggling to catch up with development. This lag causes many other hard-development problems.
  • Number of end-to-end tests required to get a good coverage is much higher and more complex than the number of unit tests + selected end-to-end tests required. (BEWARE: Don’t be Seduced by Code Coverage Numbers)
  • Maintain a large number of end-to-end tests is quite a nightmare for teams. Following are some core issues with end-to-end tests:
    • It requires deep domain knowledge and high technical skills to write quality end-to-end tests.
    • They take a lot of time to execute.
    • They are relatively resource intensive.
    • Testing negative paths in end-to-end tests is very difficult (or impossible) compared to lower level tests.
    • When an end-to-end test fails, we don’t get pin-pointed feedback about what went wrong.
    • They are more tightly coupled with the environment and have external dependencies, hence fragile. Slight changes to the environment can cause the tests to fail. (false-negative.)
    • From a refactoring point of view, they don’t give the same comfort feeling to developers as unit tests can give.

Again don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting end-to-end integration tests are a scam. I certainly think they have a place and time.

Imagine, an automobile company building an automobile without testing/checking the bolts, nuts all the way up to the engine, transmission, breaks, etc. And then just assembling the whole thing somehow and asking you to drive it. Would you test drive that automobile? But you will see many software companies using this approach to building software.

What I propose and help many organizations achieve is the right balance of end-to-end tests, acceptance tests and unit tests. I call this “Inverting the Testing Pyramid.” [Inspired by Jonathan Wilson’s book called Inverting The Pyramid: The History Of Football Tactics].

Inverting the Testing Pyramid

In a later blog post I can quickly highlight various tactics used to invert the pyramid.

Update: I recently came across Alister Scott’s blog on Introducing the software testing ice-cream cone (anti-pattern). Strongly suggest you read it.

Agile is Counter Intuitive

Friday, November 26th, 2010

I hear many people claim Agile is just common sense. When I hear that, I feel, these guys are way smarter than me or they don’t really understand Agile or they are plain lying.

When I first read about test-first programming, I fell off the chair laughing, I thought it was some kind of a joke. “How the heck can I write automated tests, even without knowing what my code would look like”. You think TDD is common sense?

From traditional methods, when I first moved to monthly iterations/sprints, we were struggling to finish what we signed up for in a month. Its but natural to consider extending the time. Also you realize half day of planning is not sufficient, there are lot of changes that come mid-sprint. The logical way to address this problem is to extend the iteration/sprint duration, add more people and to spend more time planning to make sure you’ve considered all scenarios. But to nobody’s surprise but your’s spending more time does not help (in fact makes things worse). In the moments of desperation, you propose to reduce the sprint duration to half, may be even 1/4. Surprisingly this works way better. Logical right?

And what did you think of Pair Programming? Its obvious right, that 2 developers working together on the same machine will produce better quality software faster?

What about continuous integration? Integrating once a week/month is such a nightmare, that you want us to go through that many times a day? But of course its common sense that it would be better.

How about showing working software demos weekly/monthly somehow magically improving collaboration and trust. Intuitive? And also shipping small increments of software frequently to avoid rework and get fast feedback?

One after another we can list each practice (esp.the most powerful ones) and you’ll see why Agile is counter-intuitive (at least to me in early 2000 when I stumbled upon it).

Stop Sprinting, Start Minting

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

These days, its common to see teams doing the Product Backlog Management to Sprint Planning t0 Daily Scrums to Reviews to Retrospectives perfectly fine, as described in the book (or the 2 days Certified Scrum Master course). We are doing all the process stuff correctly, except that we don’t seem to be”actually” making money (minting). But somehow along the way, we seemed to have missed the point.

The problem I see is, teams are doing all the process stuff, as they are told, except that, post demo they don’t actually release the software (deploy it into production). Most teams are very happy showing the demos at the end of the sprints. They start thinking that this new process they are following is magical. Until 6 months later, their so-called “Product Owner” comes backs saying I didn’t quite expect “this” this-way and I thought “that” would be “this” and not really “that”. That is when it hits the team that what they were really doing was building inventory and basically doing a compressed-waterfall.

Until you actually release your software and see your end-users actually use it in real life, you don’t have the most important feedback. Hence you are not “done” until you really see you users use the feature you just released (and probably you are not even done after that. “Done-Done” was a cute concept, get over it). There is no better means of feedback nor is there a better risk-reduction strategy other than releasing software to production frequently (at least every week).

Remember code that is not yet deploy and just sitting in your repository is a liability. So is, all your fancy product backlogs and grandiose plans.

Standup Meetings: Missing the Forest for a Tree

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

I’ve seen some teams getting so caught up in answering the 3 questions of the stand-up meetings, that they even forget the objective behind the standup meeting.

Following are NOT the goals of a standup meeting:

  • Get in-sync or to know who is doing what & where they stand. 
    • That information can be achieved through the story-wall (virtual story-wall if you are using a Agile PM tool). If you are a team of 3-4 people and sitting next to each other, you’ll anyway have this information (you better).  
  • To identify impediments. 
    • Why wait till the standup meeting to identify something is blocking you. If you can’t solve something yourself, bring it up to others notice immediately. Don’t sit on it.
  • Status report. 
    • This is the worst goal you can have for standup meetings. We are moving away from micro-management. 
  • Communication to the chickens. 
    • Again they can look at the project status on the story-wall. Or they can stop by in the team room and talk to someone informally. We don’t need to have a meeting for them.
  • And so on…

IMHO the real goals of a standup meeting is

  • To come up with a Game Plan till the next standup meeting. 
    • Its an opportunity to inspect and adapt 
    • Helps in doing micro-re-prioritization 
    • Helps in keeping everyone on the same page as far as the goals/vision is concerned

If answering the 3 questions helps towards this goal, then go ahead. But don’t think of them as an end in themselves.

Scrum fills a gap

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

I used to think the only reason why Scrum is so popular today is coz of their “over-the-counter” certification programs. After thinking about it, I started to question myself, why others cannot see that the whole certification thing is so flawed? My best guess was, if I can see, I’m sure a lot of other people can also see through it. Then why is it so popular?

I talked to close to 50 companies that claim they are practicing Agile (read as Scrum). I tried to understand what was the driving factor for them to choose scrum. Some obvious points came across:

  • Its easy to get Management buy-in coz Scrum is big on Project Management aspect
  • Scrum is very simple, so we can start doing it without a huge change to our existing organization structure and culture
  • Its easy to find training (certification programs)

Most people said it was a good starting point. After doing Scrum for a while, we realized Scrum alone will not help much, we need some XP practices for sure.

The I asked them, why did they not choose to start with XP? What was the biggest concern?

Surprisingly most people said that, we have heard that in XP you don’t need Managers. Most people who do XP, claim that middle-management becomes a big road-block for them. In most organization they cannot get rid of middle-management nor can they find something more interesting/valuable for them to do. So XP becomes a big No No for them. But with Scrum, what lots of organizations do is, they send their managers to Certified Scrum Master classes and make them Scrum Master. Some become Scrum Masters on teams, some become Scrum Masters for their Scrum of Scrums. This way they get middle-management on board.

So looks like Scrum has found a way to address the role of middle-management. Hence fill the gap. I’m not too sure if I agree with this, but its a fact of what I see out there happening.

Disclaimer: Personally I don’t care what people do, XP, Scrum, Crystal, DSDM, RUP, Spiral, V&V, etc. As far as it really helps them and constantly improves them its great. But if they are just doing/following some process for the sake of the label, it really bother me.

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