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Monthly Archives: June 2014

Middle Management

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with various organisation & stakeholders. I was lucky to have worked with some of the best and also the worst. You might think what one might gain when working with worst. It actually helps you identify the distinguishing factors that makes an organisation to what they are. If one has only worked and associated with best in class, streamlined organisation, it would be impossible to visualise what is missing and what were the reasons for some of the practices being followed. Well you might get in the long run, but having an opportunity first hand makes it huge learning and the ability to see how it thrives on challenges and issues while the other disintegrates and requires a reboot.

In my experience while it is clear that the senior leaders (Directors, VPs, CxOs) are key to set the strategies and cascade the organisation vision, mission into practical, achievable targets to the departments, a lot of the responsibility still lies in how effective the middle management actually are in implementing them. By middle management, I mean the department heads and program/project manages and how effective they are in terms of understanding the short & long term goals, setting out plans and utilising all available resources. Also they play major role in identifying and building new organisation capabilities in order to meet the objectives.

But in some of the organisation I have seen, the middle management ineffectiveness were apparent and although the impacts may not be visible at individual departments, when looking at the organisation as whole, it is proving to be disastrous. The ineffectiveness itself could be due to number of reasons and cannot all be attributed to the competency of the individuals who is playing the role. That is a separate subject and we can discuss that in another post. This post is specifically focuses on what the symptoms are to identify such scenario and likely impact it may create.

Symptoms

These are some of the symptoms to identify ineffectiveness.

Find a responsibility and hide behind

As the name suggests, they are happy doing routine jobs, they actively look for routine & mundane jobs and take ownership of doing them. For e.g.

  • Filling forms & doing day-to-day paperwork required for things like on boarding new staff, granting & revoking access permissions, etc
  • Taking ownership of circulating auto generated reports.
  • Providing approvals for day to day tasks.

While some of these are essential, the main difference is in trying to hold onto them rather than looking at the long run and proactively automate or delegate them. If you can sense a bit of insecurity in these communications it is a good sign that the role is not adding required value to the organisation.

No Initiatives / Innovation

There is unlikely to be request for additional budget for any new initiatives and innovation will be close to NIL for individual department. Even if there are few, it might be just to meet the objectives rather than a whole hearted passionate effort.

Ego & Power struggle

There is likely to be a bit of tension between department leads resulting in lack of co-operation between them. The lack of co-operation will show in terms of pouncing on others mistakes while playing down (or quite) own mistakes, making very strict and impractical demands on other departments to meet own objectives, etc.

Conflict of interest

Individual’s job security will take precedence over organisation objectives / interests. This will result in lot of the effort going in showing their importance rather than actually helping organisation. For e.g. a potential error which could have been caught earlier would be left too late to get the maximum exposure before finding them out.

Unable to get the best out of Vendors

In situation like these the 3rd party vendors will usually hold upper hand rather than in-house department leads. The business (stakeholders) seem to have more trust in vendors rather than their own departments and its leads. This impacts the organisation very badly as it is unlikely to get the value out of the spending on vendors.

Poor or No decision support system

When there is a need for some of these departments work together to meeting an immediate & urgent business need, there is likely to be chaos. For e.g. if the business needs a report which requires provisioning a new server (IT), installing applications which are maintained by separate departments and creating and releasing a new report, this will likely result in,

  • Out of control emails with most of the executives/stakeholders in the distribution list for every step of the journey.
  • Dependency on key individual within the department to run the show.
  • Involvement of senior leaders required to sort out basic issues. (statements like “I am happy to do it, provided x is happy to approve” – this is a killer. As a department head, one is expected to be expert and understanding impact of his actions and also the overall organisation objectives, and be able to make a judgement. When this fails, the obvious question raises need for the role itself?).

 

This is not a complete list but shows some of the dangerous symptoms and its effects. It is up to the senior leaders to look for these and align their organisations effectively in order to eradicate the root causes for these. I will try to list out some of the root causes for these and recommend corrective actions in subsequent posts.

Open 2 Test Vs Telerik Studio

Recently I had to do a test tool evaluation in trying to establish the right approach for a client. This involved comparing the Open 2 Test framework using Selenium web Driver and the Telerik test suite which the client already had in place for some of their projects. The objective is to aid establishing the key drivers and customizing a solution that achieves the maximum benefit for the investment. This is specifically done for testing web applications, hence the focus is on web functional testing, and however I have also listed other aspects separately below.

Web functional testing

 

Attribute

Open 2 Test

Selenium Web Driver

Telerik Test Studio

Comments

Cost

Free. Open source software based. Uses common office software like MS Excel for scripting tests.

Commercial product licensed per duration. (To check if it supports unlimited users?)

Well open source is not all free, and will require an initial investment to extend and customize the tool as required. So this need to be considered in the right context.

Skills & Learning Requirement

Predefined set of simple keywords used for scripting.

UI based scripting language.

Record & Play mechanism.

Both are intuitive to large extent and may require some amount of learning & basic training.

Integration with TFS

Extensible. Java based, hence could leverage on numerous open source libraries available.

Built-in support

While Telerik supports full integration with Visual Studio & TFS, O2T could be extended & customized to integrate as per the specific requirement. (Logging defects in a specific TFS project, etc)

Multi browser support

Existing support for IE & FF. Could be extended for others, but will require framework enhancement effort.

IDE support only for FF

Built-in support for all major browsers for both recording (scripting) and testing.

Telerik’s feature enables cross browser testing automatically.

Test pack maintainability

Fully hand-crafted scripting, hence relatively easier to update & maintain.

Decouples the page DOM elements using object repository, hence easier to maintain page element changes.

Supports script re-usability.

Recorded scripts hence will require effort to update for maintenance.

Allows in-line script editing.

Allows grouping of tests into a re-usable block

As the scripts are fully hand-crafted and in an easy to use excel format, it would be more effective to manage and maintain the test scripts.

Reports

Basic reporting. Being enhanced to provide interactive links.

Fully customizable & extendable.

Basic built-in reporting. Not much option to extend the contents & format of the report

O2T is slightly better off due to the enhancements and customization support for the reporting.

Scheduling

Requires enhancements to the framework.

Built in support

 

Data driven Testing

Basic support

Full Support

 
       

 

Other Aspects

 

Attribute

Open 2 Test

Selenium Web Driver

Telerik Test Studio

Comments

       

Load & Performance test support

Not supported

Built in support albeit with additional licensing cost.

 

Support for Non-browser based testing

Requires enhancement

Built in support

 
       

 

In Summary, the tools are pretty evenly matched on the attributes measured against. While Open 2 Test (Selenium) scores on the licensing cost and script maintainability, it requires some (one-off) enhancements & customization to the underlying framework to make this fully operational and integrated with the project delivery framework.

The recommendation is to apply weightage to the parameters that are used for comparison depending on the organization context (strategy, goals, immediate and long term delivery plans) and then arrive at a score card.

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