What's In Your Toolbox?

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  • combination of tools.
  • Most formal methodologies are adopted in name only, rarely in practice.

A little investigation typically revealed that most clients really didn't even use their chosen methodology. They tended to use parts of them. Just because you have a daily stand-up meeting, or do frequent, small releases does not necessarily make you an "Agile" shop. No, what I have found is the best methodology is more like a well stocked tool box. You use the tool that works best for the task at hand and adapt as needed. I like to consider them "best practice>'

Unfortunately, this is where I will lose the Agile and Context-driven folks. So let me state right up front–Agile and the Context-driven School are great ideas and I'm a fan of both. They're both in my tool box and I bring them out when appropriate. But just because I tend to rely on them in many situations, doesn't mean I'm throwing away the rest of my tools!

At the risk of offending the Context-Driven school–let's call these tools "best practices." Best-practices, as far as I'm concerned are really nothing more than tools–and they work well in very well-defined situations. I find there is no one "best" practice, but rather a number of them. Each has parts that work great, while others are not so great, depending on the situation. To be successful I typically take a little of this, and a little of that, until I find the combination that works best for the client. So Agile as a whole–may not be the best solution given the current situation–but there are parts of it that are wonderful. I'm going to use them. Waterfall? Maybe not the best solution either, but there are parts that will work really well. Iterative? Also some good parts, we’ll use some of that!

The important thing is that you have a large, well-stocked tool box. Throwing out a name is not good enough. You need to know what tool, or combination of tools, works best in a given situation and know how to use them. How does each tool work? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each? Can I customize the tool, or combine tools to fit the current situation?

Lastly, you need to care for your tools, keep them sharp, keep them current, and always be on the lookout for new and better tools. How do you do that?

  • Read. Software test industry periodicals are a great source of information as are their Web sites.
  • Try them out.
  • Build a network and ask others.
  • Attend a conference or meeting of your local software test organization.

What's in your tool box?

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