QualityJam

QualityJam

By Dick Stark

In my last blog I discussed how in the agile world of software development, quality is continuous. By finding defects earlier, this approach shifts quality to the “left.” It helps reduce testing time which means software gets released sooner. Quality Management is a critical component of the software development life cycle, but often gets a short shrift. Why? Partly because of the functionality of available software testing tools. According to a conversation with an IT executive I had recently, there is a negative bias against these tools. He wasn’t aware, however, of QA Symphony (QAS), a relatively new player in the software test management space.

Last week, QAS held its annual user conference, QualityJam in Atlanta. I attended the online partner training session virtually. Here is a short update.

QAS is growing very rapidly and taking advantage of the Digital Transformation movement and its focus on Agile (and Jira). Similar to how ServiceNow took market share away from the legacy ITSM players, QAS is rapidly replacing HPE’s HPQC with the QAS qTest platform. This is good news for QAS which now boasts more than 500 customers in 30+ countries, with lots of large enterprises in the technology, financial, and retail verticals.

It’s important to point out that QAS is not another Jira plug-in. It is an independent platform with various components that integrates with other ALM toolsets such as CA, and other open source solutions. According to QAS, there is no better test management platform tool in the market today.

Test Management tools, not to be confused with Test Automation tools, provide a testing “manager of manager” functionality. These tool sets also offers runbook or orchestration capability that integrates Test Automation open source, custom, or standard offerings from Test Automation companies such as Cucumber, eggplant, or Tircentis. Since testing varies widely based upon the complexity of the software to test, developers may select Cucumber which offers a code based system or Tricentis, which offers a simplified “point and click” offering (better for business users).

qTest is also purpose built for “shift-left” teams to facilitate BDD in their DevOps pipelines. BDD stands for Behavior Driven Design. BDD uses a ubiquitous language to establish a user story for a software system under development. This user story identifies a stakeholder, a business effect and a business value. It also describes several scenarios, each with a precondition, trigger and expected outcome. BDD provides software development and management teams with shared tools and a shared process to collaborate on software development.

Finally, RightStar has already assisted with QAS resales and implementations at several customers. And RightStar consultants have excellent QAS experience. qTest allowed one such customer a rigorous test management experience without reverting back to slow waterfall methods. The QAS eXplorer tool has been a revelation as it allows repeatability and predictably in the exploratory test phases. QAS exceeded expectations allowing this customer to improve its end-to-end testing performance, meaning faster software development times.

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Quality is Now Continuous

Quality is now Continuous

By Dick Stark

Two weeks ago, RightStar visited a large Global 50 organization to present QA Symphony’s (QAS’) Test Management platform, qTest. Previously the organization had standardized on Jira as a development platform for approximately 5000 developers. Now they are evaluating vendors to replace its current test management platform.

Testing is a very important piece of the Quality Management component of the software development life cycle. When I first began programing back in the late 1970’s, I learned very quickly the old adage, that “nothing works right the first time.” And if it did, it would most likely be a fluke. I worked in a sales support role for a minicomputer company and helped develop a price quotation system for the sales team. Since this was before spreadsheet software was invented, this was an exciting project for me. I was responsible for development, testing, defect fixing, and support. Since my program was replaced in a few years with a spreadsheet program, I learned very quickly how things can change.

The waterfall method of developing software delivers the “completed” code to to the testers, a separate group responsible for making sure the software works as designed. With the programmers relieved of the testing burden, the code delivered is often “bug ridden,” since it is the testers and not the programmers’ job to find the bugs.

We’ve since learned that the sooner defects are found, the cheaper it is to fix them. A study by IBM found that each hour of code inspection saved 20 hours of testing time, and 82 hours of rework time, had the defects made it to production.

This makes an excellent case for the continuous software development model with a test management framework. The agile approach places greater responsibility on the developers for avoiding defects. They, not the testers are responsible for code approaching “zero defects.” And a testing platform ensures that the developers write their own tests and helps guarantee that their own code works before they release it into the pipeline.

This approach shifts quality to the left. To do this some organizations require that code be peer reviewed, or pair programming, where programmers work together in pairs, one at the keyboard, and the other looking over his or her shoulder.

Today it is generally accepted that most software will go to general availability with known and unknow defects, in the rush to get the product to market. We’ve all experienced this with some software released too soon in an effort to balance the risk of too many defects with the reward of being first to market. An interesting question that Mark Schwartz poses in his book, a Seat at the Table, is whether testing can be good enough to catch all defects. The answer is no, but a good process and a test management platform can help.

Quality is incredibly important at RightStar for project delivery. Most of our projects may have User Acceptance Testing (UAT) before go-live. It is of course much better to fix any defects during UAT, rather than after the go-live. This means that RightStar must not be just “software implementers with screwdrivers,” but experts at assessing quality in technical practice, and understanding how the successful delivery of a quality project will reduce the overall costs, improve the efficiency and speed of our deliverables, and lead to more satisfied customers.

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Report from the Atlassian Washington DC Team Tour

Dick and Lenair at Atlassian Team Tour

By Dick Stark

Last Monday, RightStar sponsored and exhibited at the Atlassian Federal Team Tour. This is one of a series of eleven worldwide stops to promote Atlassian products, services and customer networking. For a spring break Monday morning, Atlassian had an outstanding turnout with more than 325 attendees, almost triple from two years ago, and a strong statement that Atlassian is starting to take hold in Washington DC. Here is a short summary.

Atlassian opened by announcing that they now have more than 112,000 unique users worldwide with more than 5300 .gov domain user accounts. This explosion of Atlassian, both federal and commercial is a testament to the value of teams, sharing, communication, and getting things done. Product updates mentioned included:

Atlassian Home is critical for those that need to stay on top of what matters most. Lots of apps help users feel busy, but not productive. Atlassian Home provides a quick snapshot of the day, what to prioritize and how to do it.

Stride is Atlassian’s new HipChat replacement that has been out for six months in beta, but just released. Stride’s premise is that chat is more distracting than enabling. Stride includes, “beautiful messaging, coordination of action and notification volume with lots of bots to interact between other Atlassian and non-Atlassian apps such as incident management.” Best of all, Stride provides a multi-media real-time meeting capability.

The Atlassian Team Playbook is made up of tools and templates offered to customers for no charge and available on its website. It consists of a simple light weight monitoring system for key Atlassian metrics. Included is Health Monitor, a quick way to get a pulse on progress made over time. It uses an Objectives and Key results (OKR) Google framework for setting goals and tracking progress towards those goals. Right people plus the right products plus the right practices equals great teamwork.

Next up, a technology consulting firm made four points about using agile development:

  1. Use the tool, but don’t “throw it out into the wild.” Process is critical.
  2. The tool offers both a standardized approach, and the freedom to customize.
  3. Dashboarding can provide a lot of power, especially when onboarding new groups.
  4. Train with the tool so that everyone understands how to use the portfolio available.

Atlassian normally starts out with a small footprint in a company or agency and then grows organically until products such as Jira and Confluence, spring up in several places. The next step may be a consolidation or migration to the data center or cloud versions. This is an excellent opportunity for RightStar, a DevOps consultancy to begin with an assessment that shows the benefits of Jira across the entire organization along with a map of what needs to be done to achieve true business value.

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Federal Data Center Modernization

By Dick Stark

Last week I talked to a large DOD customer where we have just started year two of our data center infrastructure management (DCIM) Nlyte contract. I’m happy to report we are making excellent progress and should soon have an Authority to Operate (ATO) the Nlyte DCIM solution What’s exciting is that Nlyte (and RightStar) offer a way for government agencies like this one to modernize their data centers and comply with the new Federal DCOI mandate.

DCOI, or Federal Data Center Optimization Initiative, requires government agencies to consolidate Federal data centers and increase interagency shared services such as the cloud. DCOI also requires that Agencies meet targets for energy metering, effective power use, virtualization, automated monitoring, and utilization of both servers and facility floor space. According to the mandate, “Agencies shall replace manual collections and reporting of systems, software, and hardware inventory housed within data centers with automated monitoring, inventory, and management tools, by the end of fiscal year 2020.”

Although DCOI is a mandate, the not-so-good news is that little progress has been made and as a result, the government extended the compliance deadline from 2018 to the end of fiscal year 2020. MeriTalk, a Federal think tank recently surveyed 150 data center decision makers and discovered that fewer than one fifth were on track to meet the original September 2018 goals.

Typical Data Center Floor Plan with Nlyte:

typical data center floor plan

The really good news is that there are pockets of excellence and success at many agencies already, and we can guide others that are just starting. This contract will be a model for other agencies, especially the DOD which is just starting to modernize. Another reason to be optimistic about DCOI is the recently passed Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act which lays a foundation for IT modernization across the government. Even better, MGT, signed into law on December 12, creates working capital funds for IT projects at Federal Agencies. What’s interesting is that MGT is not designed to just spend money on IT modernization projects, but to find ways to accrue savings from these projects. A DCIM project, with more accurate and efficient automated monitoring tools, is a perfect solution.

According to the MeriTalk report, 73% of those surveyed say the drive to close, consolidate, and optimize data centers is a necessary precursor to the larger goal of IT modernization. Optimization is an important priority. While auto-discovery tools like BMC Discovery track an organization’s networked IT assets, Nlyte provides DCIM solutions for management of the data center’s physical assets and infrastructure. An Nlyte/Remedy integrated solution provides detailed data on the physical location of each asset in the data center and maps the relationships between these assets as it applies to applications, ownership, service support, cable connections and energy use. This is an exciting opportunity for Nlyte and RightStar to help government agencies meet the DCOI mandate and the larger goal of IT modernization.

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Pink 18: How to Remain Relevant

pink-elephant-logo

By Dick Stark

The 22nd annual Pink Elephant Conference, held last week, February 18 to21 in Orlando, has traditionally been IT’s annual tribute and awards ceremony to all things ITIL. That’s changing, as there is a new Sheriff in town, DevOps. And Pink has coined a new word for this conjoined DevOps/ITIL new world: Integrated Service Management. Here are a few things I learned at this year’s show.

ITIL alone is not enough. So said Pink Elephant President, David Ratcliffe at the Pink 18 kick-off. David went on to say that ITIL is still the star of the show, but it needs a new supporting cast. He proudly announced that over three million people now have some type of ITIL certification, with Pink training at least 500,000 of them. Have over three million ITIL certified people made a difference? Does ITIL matter? Yes, especially translating knowledge into results. Delivering knowledge, like taking an ITIL class is only the first step.

It’s not like this message has come as a surprise. ITIL’s waning popularity has not happened overnight. First, not everyone embraces change. At RightStar we know from experience that a shiny new toolset, (and Pink certified to be sure) doesn’t always equal customer satisfaction, increased efficiency and lower overall costs. Sometimes the users don’t cooperate making adoption more difficult. Additionally, some customers go for a “huge” go-live of everything rather than taking an iterative phased approach (which doesn’t always have a happy ending). Finally, we’ve seen ITIL / ITSM projects take years, not months which has opened the ITSM door to DevOps and why Gartner asserts that “DevOps is the bimodal bridge to Mode 2.” (Meaning DevOps/Mode 2 is focused on agility, while ITIL / Mode 1 is focused on stability.)

Speaking about agility, DevOps is a discipline that is all about speed, faster time to market, real sense of urgency, IT modernization, and doing more with less. Culture, tools, vision, now must all be managed alongside different processes. A single best practice is not enough. What’s needed, according to David Ratcliffe, is Integrated Service Management.

How to remain relevant. Next up was Jeremy Gutsche, Pink’s Keynote Speaker. He is founder of trendhunter.com and author of the book, Better and Faster. His mission is to help people find better ideas faster and he regularly consults with F500 companies to help ensure that they remain innovative and relevant. Jeremy has an innovation process that looks at hidden strengths, and helps teams compare to the world’s best. A few good ideas include:

  • Everyone wants to get better, but not everyone puts in the effort. Would we work 24×7 to try to eat a competitor’s lunch?
  • How often do we experiment with new ideas? Is there a future for the BMC Innovation Suite? Has every Atlassian app already been invented?
  • What parts of our business do our customers actually care about? Consulting, implementation, training, support, software?
  • What can we combine with our offerings? DevOps simulation training? What sales plays are most effective?
  • Who ese can we partner with?

Answers to these questions and others will help RightStar shape and refine out 2018 strategy. One thing for sure: like ITIL, RightStar must also figure out how best to stay relevant.

 

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Would You Rather Play a Game or Listen to a DevOps Lecture?

DevOps Simulation Training Feb 2018By Dick Stark

What would you rather do, listen to a lecture on DevOps or play a game? The answer was obvious last week at RightStar’s half day DevOps simulation / gaming session in Washington, DC to a sold-out crowd of 25 attendees. This role based simulation is highly realistic and leverages game dynamics to provide a vision of successful DevOps practices and the resultant business value. It was clear that the attendees enjoyed the session, left with a greater understanding of how DevOps practices could benefit their organization, and most importantly, had fun.

Like in the book the Phoenix Project, the attendees are part of a fictional retail company that must rely heavily on IT and ecommerce for marketing and sales success. Also, during the session, and like the Phoenix Project, nearly every IT calamity possible befalls the company, which drastically impacts its on-line sales and causes the company to lose money. Time to put DevOps to work!

Round 1. The attendees are divided up into six groups: Service Desk, Business, Dev Team 1, DevTeam 2, Testing, and Operations. In addition to keeping the “lights running,” the teams must develop new applications and continue to improve existing ones. But after a few IT glitches, things quickly go from bad to worse. It’s total chaos: Ops’ “hair is on fire,” no new software is deployed or patched, customer sat is terrible, and Dev team 1 becomes a huge bottleneck. To make matters worse, sales slow and profits drop.

Round 2. Before diving into the second round the instructor and the students did a retrospective to look at what went wrong and figure out what to do next. It’s determined that better communication, (actually co-location of the two Dev teams), offers better work flow and utilization. The Test group actually starts testing software. The Service Desk pushes back on the Business group and asks for help to better prioritize the incidents. Ops looks at hiring a consultant to fix one of the breaks, and Dev builds a Kanban board to better prioritize and track work. By the end of the round, things have moved from total chaos to a more controlled chaos, with improving sales and profitability.

Round 3. Now things are starting to really improve. The Dev Team posts more information on the Kanban board, resources are shared and not siloed, and automated testing happens. Everyone works together to clear the backlog and software gets deployed. Ops starts implementing problem management (problem solving and study always trumps, “when in doubt, reboot). This reduces the number of incidents. The best news: all teams begin operating under a process framework which allows for continuous integration, or “shift left,” to ensure even more rapid and accurate product development success. Naturally, sales improve and profits rise.

Time flies and suddenly the morning session is over. Getting Dev and Ops under the same roof reinforces shared goals, improves communication and can dramatically reduce the time to get help or needed information.

The end result is a reduction in time to value, especially as lead times shrink and quality improves. What would you rather do? Learning by doing made a big difference with the fictional retail company and it can make a big difference in your organization too.

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RightStar’s DevOps 101 eClass Summary

Atlassian Continuous Loop2.pngBy Dick Stark

Last week RightStar presented an online eClass: DevOps 101, to an on-line audience. We covered the fundamental principles and best practices of DevOps and reviewed how organizations can benefit by utilizing these concepts within their own organizations. It was an excellent overview that concluded with a discussion of how the Atlassian toolset can get most of the way to DevOps. Here are some of the highlights.

Every industry is now software first. We reviewed the importance of software development in organizations like Starbucks, P&G, and General Motors (GM). Given that a car is really just a computer on wheels, auto manufacturers now have more software developers than large software companies. (And yes, GM is an Atlassian and RightStar customer.)

The way software teams work has changed. Competition means that software is now released on average every six weeks versus once a year, and companies like Netflix and Amazon make hundreds of releases daily. Agile development has skyrocketed and roles on a development team have come together to prioritize, scope, and support one another. According to an Atlassian survey, 77% of teams report using Agile methodologies and 78% have moved to a distributed version control system like Git. What’s next after Agile?

DevOps is a culture where dev and ops collaborate to build a faster, more reliable release pipeline. We quoted Werner Vogels, Amazon CTO: “You build it, you run it.” In a traditional scenario dev teams engineer a solution and then hand it over to ops to deal with production issues. A DevOps approach requires both dev and ops teams to come together to “run what they build,” means that work is a shared responsibility with greater transparency and accountability.

What is the best way to get started? We discussed a small software development company that RightStar just started working with. The organization develops websites for non-profits and faces challenges including more accurate time tracking, visibility into the current workload, capacity planning, standardization, consistent use of tools, and productivity.

So, RightStar proposed an assessment as the first step and we spent several days onsite better understanding their challenges and requirements. RightStar then delivered a report detailing their current environment, along with culture, process, and tool recommendations. We’re hopeful that the customer will continue using RightStar first for a week of Agile coaching, and then later, RightStar’s remote administration offering to help fine tune their Atlassian tools.

Another excellent way to gain a “live” understanding of DevOps is through simulation training. RightStar offers a half day DevOps simulation session that demonstrates the business value and positive impact of a DevOps approach. This role base simulation is highly realistic and leverages game dynamics to provide a vision of successful DevOps practices. RightStar has three sessions scheduled in the next 45 days. The first one is full and we’re optimistic that we will fill all the others.

I’m excited about the DevOps consulting progress RightStar is making already in 2018 and expect even more sales of advisory services, process improvements, and toolset implementations.

 

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