The Invasion Of The Spreadsheet Snatchers

“Walk your talk” is a common advice. For me it became “Mind map your talk”. During my employment of an IT company I became a mind map teacher. I needed lots of examples, so I started using mind maps for many occasions.

The frequent visitors of my blog might suspect, that I use mind maps for too many things. Here is some proof against it:

  • In the office I use spreadsheet as a log book and table formatter (Make a  comprehensive table in a spreadsheet program, copy ,and paste it in a word processor).
  • In this blog I hided uses of spreadsheets here and here.

So I am not an Invading Spreadsheet Snatcher. You’re just lucky.

Can you cover me, Spreadsheet?
A fast way to show the coverage of functions or attributes is to put it in a mind map.

  1. Just open the document in a word processor.
  2. Copy the group items.
  3. Paste the items in a mind map.
  4. Use icons to register the progress.

It can be cumbersome in particular cases. How about more than 20 items? With related information like syntax, position, etcetera.

Once I had to test a change request. There were good technical specifications about a new file format in pdf format. And the same specifications in a spreadsheet. 🙂

These were the steps I took:

  1. Open the spreadsheet.
  2. Determine the column with the field names.
  3. Insert a column “Changed”.
  4. Add columns “To be tested” and “Comment” at the right end of the table.
  5. Put a filter on the heading of the table.
  6. Fill in, whether rows have been changed with “Old”, “New”, or “Changed”.
    “New” means completely new field.
    “Changed” means, that the field has changed position or the size, etc.
  7. Set “To be tested” to Yes, if Changes is “New” or “Changed”.
  8. Check, whether the rows Changed and To be tested are filled with the filter.
  9. Test, whether a subset of changes have been implemented within a time box.
    i.e. the rows with “To be tested” equal to Yes.
  10. Note down, what has been tested, and ids of bug reports in the column “Comment”.

Feedback loop 1

  1. Talk with a fellow tester and programmer, which other modifications must be tested
    i.e. the rows with “To be tested” equal to No.
  2. Change “To be tested” to other values after this talk and add additional information in the column “Comment”.
  3. Test, whether the determined changes have applied within a time box
    i.e. the rows with “To be tested” equal to Yes.

Feedback loop 2

  1. Talk to a business analyst, which other modifications must be tested
    i.e. the rows with “To be tested” equal to No.
  2. Change “To be tested” to other values after this talk and add additional information in the column “Comment”.
  3. Test, whether the determined changes have applied within a time box
    i.e. the rows with “To be tested” equal to Yes.

Can you help me with the question, Spreadsheet?
A supplier had changed a table, which was already used in production. A programmer came in with an urgent request to check the changed values. Just a few checks were good enough. I had only a hard copy of the changed specs. After a small request I got the pdf version.

These were the steps I took:

  1. Open the pdf file.
  2. Go to text mode.
  3. Copy the complete table.
  4. Paste the table in a spreadsheet.
  5. Select the cells with identifiers.
  6. Transpose these cells.
    (Change a vertical row cells to a horizontal row cells using a standard spreadsheet function.)
  7. Save the sheet to a csv file.
  8. Replace “; ” (semi colon)  by “,” (comma) in the csv file.
  9. Copy the content from this file in a sql tool.
  10. Make a query with the following format:
    Select * from the_table where id in (<copied string>)
  11. Execute the query.
  12. Talk with programmer about the result.

Bonus Spreadsheet material for free (Really)
In case there is no fancy pdf or digital file, then the following steps can be followed:

  1. Scan the hard copy.
  2. Use OCR software to convert the picture or graphical file into a text file.
  3. Correct errors in the text.
  4. Format the text.
  5. Copy the information in a spreadsheet.
  6. Make nice columns  with “Text to columns”
  7. Follow steps described above.

Just
mind your spreadsheet program.

 

Q&A Deployment Plan Meeting Part 2

Facilitator: Thank you for joining in once again. Han Toan has already answered a lot of questions about Deployment Test Meeting over here. These questions were raised after reading his writing about his Deployment Plan Meeting.

Questions are still coming in. I’ve got green cards from numbers 38, 95, and 12. Number 38, you can ask your question.

Attendee number 38: Did you take the communication styles of the attendees in the meeting into account?

Speaker: During the preparation of the meeting I sent a concept version of the Deployment Plan to all the attendees. So the techies could study all actions and make notes on it.

The project leaders also brought their hard copy. They used it to note down important actions. I would not be surprised, that it was also used for time tracking: will all actions be discussed during the meeting? There were also managers carrying small notebooks.

One of the biggest advantages of the beamer was, that changes were shown. Next to verbal clarifications.

 

Facilitator: I’ve got green cards from numbers 95, and 12, and 23. Number 95, you can ask your question.

Attendee number 95: A Deployment Plan looks like a scripted test case. People say, that there is no need to make a test case, if it is used once. So why the hassle?

Speaker: I consider the Deployment Plan as a checklist of ordered and dependent actions. Still people might consider it as a time consuming artifact or test case.

Due to the complexity of the system and the number of involved parties it is handy to have some kind of script ready for use. Weeks before the deployment there was enough time to think things over.

Let’s assume I have the idea to have a dinner with my team. There are practical things like the location and time period. But there are also other things to take into account: is the food not too hot by the use of peppers? Or is vegetarian food available? If this is the first time, then it takes some time to arrange it.

 

Facilitator: I’ve got green cards from numbers 12 and 23. Number 12, you can ask your question.

Attendee number 12: At the beginning of the meeting I would start with introductions. I missed that part in your story.

Speaker: To me it is a logical step, so I skipped it in my writing. But I agree with you, that a round of introductions is needed. I think, that it is good to realise, that you work with human beings with needs and feelings.

 

Facilitator: Number 23

Attendee number 23: Were enough technical people attending?

Speaker: It was a prerequisite for the meeting. Technical actions had to be discussed. A manager can be helpful, but a techie knows the implications.

To be frank with you, I have to add, that one system administrator was not present. I talked with him about all relevant actions for him. Then I got the assurance, that I could call him during the meeting.

 

Facilitator: A yellow card from number 38.

Attendee number 38: Were all involved managers involved?

Speaker: Yes, they were. It was relevant to get fast approval for additional actions. During the meeting a techie could look at his manager for approval.

 

Facilitator: At the moment there are no more questions on the stack. This is your last chance. Okay. I see number 2. Number 7 and number 9. Number 2.

Attendee number 2: What was your Lesson Learned from this meeting?

Speaker: During the meeting I also updated the Deployment Plan myself. This way costed me a lot of energy, because I also wanted to see, how people reacted. The next time I let someone else update the Deployment Plan.

 

Facilitator: Number 7.

Attendee number 7: Why do you share this story?

Speaker: For me it was a logical step to set up a meeting and be a chairman. It looked effortless to lead this process. It was not completely the case. What is important, that I want to share the steps and actions I took.

 

Facilitator: Number 2.

Attendee number 2: Why do you share this QA?

Speaker: This is my way to exercise answering questions. It is a quite thorough one, because it can strengthen my story. Sometimes I use the answers, the next time I tell my story.

Furthermore it shows, how K-cards can be used.

 

Facilitator: There are no more cards on the stack. I hope you had some refreshing blog posts about a deployment plan and a meeting. Next time there will a blog post about more technical stuff.

Have a nice day (and fruitful Deployment Plan Meeting:).

 

Q&A Deployment Plan Meeting

Facilitator:  Thank you reading “In Case Of Emergeny Press 1“.  I’ve got green cards from numbers 95, 27, 38, and 23. Number 95, you can ask your question.

Attendee number 95: Did you consider Inspection according to Gilb and Graham?

Speaker: I am familiar with the Inspection according to Gilb and Graham. Frankly I did not consider this method. The question should be rephrased as
“Would you choose Inspection according to Gilb and Graham?”.
Looking backwards it is too far fetched. The people should receive proper training and there was just a block of few hours. Another disturbing element is mentioning the most biggest issues first. This can lead to a lot browsing forward and backward through the deployment plan. This can be quite disturbing.

 

Facilitator: Number 27, you can ask your question.

Attendee number 27: What was your role in the project?

Speaker: My role was a test coordinator.

Facilitator: I’ve got a yellow card from number 68. Number 68.

Attendee number 68: Why did you call for this meeting? It is not your task.

Speaker: I thought, that it was important. The next step is to make things happen: I planned in the meeting and I became the chairman.

 

Facilitator: There are no more yellow cards for this question on the stack. So we move on the next green card. Number 38.

Attendee number 38: Did the suppliers provide any deployment plans?

Speaker: All the suppliers provided deployment plans.

Attendee no 38: This looks like a time consuming operation. Was there any reluctance?

Speaker: One supplier did not see the benefits at first. Then he made a Deployment Plan after some talking.

 

Facilitator: At the moment I’ve got one green card from number 23. Number 23.

Attendee no 23: why did you need a deployment plan?

Speaker: I asked my test team the same question. One of the testers told me, that experience taught, that these plans were necessary. A few months before I personally witnessed a rollback.

Facilitator: we have a red card. Number 3.

Attendee no 3: What is a rollback?

Speaker: A rollback is, when the backup is restored. In this particular case also the old system was reinstalled.

Facilitator: we have a yellow card. Is it about the rollback? Okay. Number 17 go ahead.

Attendee no 17: Do you need to test it? The system, which was rolled back.

Speaker: Of course

 

Facilitator: There are no more yellow cards on the stack. I’ve got green cards from 54, 65, and 78. So number 54, you can ask your question.

Attendee no 54: Which format did you use for the Deployment Plan?

Speaker: I asked and got permission from one of the suppliers to use their Deployment Plan as a starting point. The advantage was, that it was familiar to the employees of this supplier.

 

Facilitator: I’ve got green cards from 65 and 78. So number 65.

Attendee no 65: Why do you call it an emergency? Nobody got hurt.

Speaker: How do you call a situation with a person cutting someone’s tent? And what would happen, if this person is caught in the act?
How do you call a situation with a system, which cannot be used right after the deployment?

Attendee no 65: [nods]

 

Facilitator: I’ve got green cards from numbers 78, 95 and 24. Number 78, you can ask your question.

Attendee no 78: Looking at your technical background it seems easy to be a chairman. Do you know everything?

Speaker: I do not know everything. I cannot know everything.

Attendee no 78: Did you not feel vulnerable?

Speaker: At certain points of the meeting I was vulnerable. Quite vulnerable. But I was also confident, that we could make a deployment plan as a group. Sometimes I had to ask for support and I got it.

 

Facilitator: No yellow cards. Number 95.

Attendee no 95: So technical knowledge and experience are not necessary?

Speaker: The important thing is to have a safe environment. A place, where people can voice their thoughts.
In order to discuss all actions I chose a business way of meeting. Please stick to facts. And we’re all here to accomplish something like a group.
I watched for body language. If I was not sure, then I stated the action, looked to the person and became silent.

 

Facilitator: I’ve got green cards from numbers 24, 38, and 23. Number 24, you can ask your question.

Attendee no 24: You added a new blog category: A leader ships. Did you ship? A Deployment Plan is just an artifact.

Speaker: I once read something along the line like System must solve the problem. If the deployment is bad, even the best system cannot solve a problem.

 

Facilitator: I’ve got green cards from numbers 38 and 23. Number 38, you can ask your question.

Attendee no 38: What have juggling and testing in common? You are talking about a hobby and job. These are two separate things for me.

Speaker: I have question in return: would you please summarise both stories in 4 words?

Attendee no 38: What about: good planning withstands emergency.

Speaker: So you plan the emergency?

Attendee no 38: I need some What If Scenarios, if things go wrong.

Speaker: So you want to make a scenario for every possible situation like overloaded network, a comet paying a visit, etcetera. There are a lot of scenarios to ponder upon. I suggest: Plan to anticipate emergency. In this case: complete rollback.

[To be continued here.]