Sunday, 27 February 2011

My Lightning talk at Official STC Meetup in Nottingham!

Do Personas Play Part in Testing?

How I entered IT?

This was my personal story of 25 years in IT packed in 5 minutes. I started by telling where I was 25 years ago and how I entered the IT profession. My career as a space scientist while working on Space Shuttle Programme for the European Space Agency was cut short when I had to leave the profession after the Space Shuttle Challenger’s disaster in 28 January 1986 (Slide 2).  At the time, IT looked like a good option to choose as a profession but required considerable upfront preparation. I did not take the decision lightly and enrolled for MSc degree in Systems Engineering before entering the profession full time.

Started as a Business Analyst

My career took off and I became a Business Analyst although still called Analyst Programmer.  In my first job, I landed on a waterfall project. The first couple of projects (big and small) were like this, working through the whole development lifecycle using SSADM methodology. I spend a great deal of my time on V-model which was the basis of my talk.

While working through SDLC on a number of projects, I was sub-consciously building persona of the customer at the requirements stage that I used in acceptance tests. When I was working through the system design stage, I was linking the persona to the design through relationships to the attributes. This carried through system and integration testing providing a valuable link to the requirements.  This helped me in the latter phases of the project to link tests to requirements at subsystem level and an easy way of reporting system status during the course of the project.

In later years, I realised that waterfall is not very popular anymore and project after project adopting Agile approaches. I believed that the V-model collapsed to I-model turned flat and used for Agile SDLC approaches such as Scrum (Slides 7/8).

Creating a Persona

I picked the theme of creating persona by using example of CRM-R-US Requirement Document presented to us by Darren McMillan during Weeknight Testing 4 on 26 January. In that session, I collaborated with Lisa Crispin by sharing my desktop via Team Viewer. The approach to share screens was not a great success but we carried on irrespective. While Lisa was drawing up a mind map I was thinking more on the line of personas. Part of Darren’s requirements are listed in Slide 10 and the corresponding questions for interviewing him for creating a persona on Slide 12. I pointed out in my talk that slicing stories (Slide 11) from the requirements would look bare without the persona. It is industry practice to label each story with some kind of persona during the story mapping stage to provide better focus on development.
There was no time to actually create Darren’s persona or seek help from Andy Glover (@cartoontester) to draw up his sketch but the benefits of personas were highlighted. I am hoping in the coming weeks I would be able to have 1:1 talk with Darren and come up with a sketch.

Benefit of a Persona

Benefits of personas are all too clear from slide 15. It can add another dimension not only in the story mapping or acceptance testing stages but also in the system, integration and exploratory testing stages. If done properly, the tests from each stage can be linked via the persona tags. If these tests are stored in a single repository then the results can be extracted to produce status reports on demand.  If multitude of tools are deployed on your project then output from each phase can be linked using ALM tools.

People who influenced me

I did not realised that I have been using personas till I came across the work of Jeff Patton and Gojko Adzic and started applying vigorously to testing. I firmly believe that using personas in testing is a powerful approach that can help testers focus on test design more effectively.


My thanks to everyone attending the Nottingham Meetup and STC for sponsoring the event.
Slides from the talk are available here

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