Pivoting Organizations to Agile Testing: An Interview with Howard Deiner


In this interview, independent software consultant Howard Deiner explains how agile testing is different from traditional testing, how to get an organization to try new things, and how the Apollo space program utilized agile techniques.

Howard Deiner is an independent software consultant who specializes in agile process and practices at Deinersoft Inc. In this interview, Deiner explains how agile testing is different from traditional testing, how to get an organization to try new things, and how the Apollo space program utilized agile techniques.

Jonathan Vanian: Let's start with a little background about yourself: what you do, what you work as. You can take it from there.

Howard Deiner: Sure. I mean, how many years has this been? Since 1975. I don't even want to do the math on that. It just makes me sad. You name it, I've worked on it in software.

I started off with being a programmer, doing scientific programming, all kinds of stuff. I eventually got into commercial software. I still think of myself in that realm. And after working a few products, I found myself in a position where I was, instead of making things, which is what I really liked doing, I started making teams and then making people more effective.

JV: Ah, so you got into a management position?

HD: Well, yeah, management, then into coaching.

JV: Coaching, yes.

HD: Yeah, the stuff I do nowadays is coaching organizations, everywhere from the executives and the C-levels and stuff, all the way down the stack to what I really consider myself at home with, which is like, developers.

JV:  That's where you started from and that's where you feel a little bit more comfortable with.

HD: I still like building stuff, to tell you the truth (laughter). Nowadays I get called in for gigs everywhere, from “Help us manage our business better” to “Figure out how to align ourselves and get better results.” I'm doing some stuff right now with agile engineering practices, some of that. So, we do weddings, bar mitzvahs, whatever works.

JV: (Laughter) Yeah, so I think this would be a great segue to get into this conversation about agile testing. Explain a little bit about what is agile testing and how it differs from traditional testing approaches.

HD: You know, it is an extension, in a sense, of the whole continuum of where we used to do very predictive sort of development, software engineering, and now we're moving more towards the craftsmanship stuff. And that hit a sweet spot with me because it's not a matter of developing this stuff and then testing it at the end and magically everything will work. Software's too complex to do that.

JV: What do you mean by craftsmanship?

HD: The whole aspect of writing good code. What does it mean to satisfy people? How do you keep them happy? And like I say, there's things on the product side. The lean start-up stuff is a big deal for me.

JV: Sure.

HD: But on this end of it, it's kind of pivoting organizations away from the old, traditional style of analyze it, design it, develop it, then test it, and expecting that that's going to give you quality products. Nowadays, I'm trying to tell every place to push all that testing early. If we can get testing and requirements back together again and start iteratively developing our products, they turn out so much better in the end.


About the author

Jonathan Vanian's picture Jonathan Vanian

Jonathan Vanian is an online editor who edits, writes, interviews, and helps turn the many cranks at StickyMinds, TechWell, AgileConnection, and CMCrossroads. He has worked for newspapers, websites, and a magazine, and is not as scared of the demise of the written word as others may appear to be. Software and high technology never cease to amaze him.

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