10 May, 2017

Testing behind closed doors – 'when' is as important as 'what'

My Dad was an airline pilot during the golden years of commercial travel. He flew a Super VC 10, a rugged airliner designed to cope with short, dusty African runways. Its undercarriage was tough, really tough, designed to work like the claws of a bird of prey, once it gripped the tarmac that was it!

One day when on final approach to a very short runway, Dad’s co-pilot who was landing the plane, got a little over enthusiastic and smashed the plane down very hard. So hard in fact the starboard (right) wing undercarriage hit the end of its shock absorber travel and didn’t bounce back hence the plane taxied in lopsided with one wing considerably lower than the other.

The Engineer on board scratched his head, they had a two hour turnaround before flying off again and they needed that right undercarriage to come back up to its normal position. Then he got an idea – we need to bounce the plane! He convinced my Dad, the flight crew, the stewards and stewardesses, ground crew and anyone walking past to all climb onto the sagging wing and link arms and form a circle. They then jumped up and down in unison, bouncing the wing – after ten minutes or so it worked – the wing came back up to its normal position - But not before several other planes had taxied past with passengers staring wide eyed and very happy that they weren’t on that flight! I also have a vision of the passengers nervously waiting in the terminal watching as a mixed bag of thirty or so lunatics bounced up and down on their aeroplane prior to take off. 

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So not the greatest advert for the airline in question.  And parallels can be drawn with today’s IT systems – having to test or take remedial action within the sight of the customer can be incredibly costly from a brand confidence viewpoint and in some cases can be fatal to a business relationship. We tend to spend a lot of time talking about what we test but not always when.

At Edge we still come across situations where client testing activities, for one reason or another, has been left to very late in the day.  We sometimes find that UAT is used as a catchall driven by shallow Unit and System Testing. Edge’s view is that testing must start as early as possible, ideally at the point of requirements definition and review and that each test phase must undertake its specific role in the overall testing lifecycle. Reliance on late phase testing runs the risk of additional unplanned cost and effort being required, additional change control being deployed, the original objectives of the system under test being compromised and potentially the risk of the system or release eventually being tested, dare I say it, in the Production Environment.

Everyone has their own favourite brand driven production disaster story and testing in the client’s face should be avoided at all times. So if there is a need to link arms and bounce up and down together to prove something is fit for use and fit for purpose – do it in a test environment!  


By Rich Mort, New Business Director - Edge Testing

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