Time for the essentials 

 April 1, 2014

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Admittedly, I'm skeptical about outsourcing testing activities - whether near or far. For me, a lot of communication is part of testing and the surrounding process, and I like to have it direct, personal and ongoing. However, one thought that borders on the topic I find all the more exciting: how we deal with our time and the things that really matter, whether it's in a project, testing, or even in our private lives. If you are attentive, you sometimes notice

  • Test analysts who manually copy hundreds of records from one table to another when preparing test data: click, Strg+c, click, Strg+v, click, Strg+c, click, Strg+v, …,
  • Project managers who spend ages fiddling with heading formatting in Word (the first sign is usually to "design" page breaks with a series of blank lines) or
  • Test managers who spend days screwing over test reports on tests they weren't actually involved in.

All have one thing in common: they could use their time for more important things. Now, the reason for the "occupation" with these unimportant things can be ignorance, or it was chosen more or less consciously. Either way, the time and money that is sometimes burned on this calls for action. What can be done? I have identified three goal-oriented options for myself and my colleagues: automate, learn and delegate. I consider all three when I notice "busyness" in myself, my testers, colleagues, or anyone else. Here are a few ideas as examples:

Automate routine tasks

Especially in software development we have all possibilities open. Test data migration can be done quickly with a script. Even with on-board tools or free tools like macro recorder, automator or various C/R tools, a lot of the small stuff can be done quickly. Expertise on this can be easily found in the team or project. Just automatically opening the ticket or test case system or automatically transferring test results will save time in the long run. Cleanup scripts can also work wonders.

Learning to use tools

A tool can only be used effectively if it is mastered. This does not only apply to our test automation tools and development environments, for which training courses are usually offered. It also applies to standard software such as Word, Excel or even Windows or Mac OS itself. These are used on a daily basis, and many people do not know how to use them. Learning here does not only mean training in the form of courses, but especially the tricks, tricks and key combinations that make life easier. These can often be learned in the project environment or in communities.

Delegating to employees and colleagues

All too often we believe that we have to do everything ourselves "because the others can't" - but this is often wrong. Delegating is always a question of trust, between superiors and employees as well as between colleagues. Of all the options, this is certainly the one that takes the most effort (which is probably why so few people do it), because it involves relinquishing control. But jumping over the shadow - or being pushed - and seeing that someone else can also complete the task with a good result in less time can promote a whole new way of working together. It is precisely here that one often comes up against the walls of the process descriptions: "The test manager writes the test report, that's what the process says" - even though the tester himself may be able to evaluate the test results much faster and better.

Delegating - in private

In a self-experiment last year, I started to delegate certain tasks from my private life to a VPA (Virtual Personal Assistant). This person then researches, for example, various topics or even favourable prices for this and that. He sorts data, tables and databases, merges them and completes missing information. Arranges the metadata of the music collection or simply makes documents pretty. I'm happy to hand over these tedious tasks, and the time I've gained is well worth the price.

These are just a few ideas, but once you pay attention, it's amazing how many of these avoidable time wasters you can notice in yourself and those around you.
With that in mind, take notice and eliminate them so you can focus on the important things. This is where focus comes in ... but that's another story.

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