Jul 282010

The Scrum v. Kanban debate has been relentlessly raging for the past eighteen months. One could only watch with fascination as polarized camps formed around what is after all a fairly dry software method issue. The intensity of emotions this debate generated could almost be compared with those expressed in the debate about abortions.

As a practitioner who uses both methods, I tend to view them as arrows in my quiver. Each method has its strengths and weaknesses. The important thing is suitability to the target environment, not the theoretical pros and cons. For example, one could prefer to use Scrum in development and Kanban in service delivery.

A macro trend is starting to change the playing fields for the two methods. I am referring to the splitting of the software testing process to two parts:

  • Unit testing by development. Nothing new here – same as numerous software development teams the world over had been practicing since the 90’s.
  • “All other testing.” Dramatic change here – functional, regression, load, usability, acceptance and other kinds of testing can nowadays be accomplished through various software testing as a service companies.

Consider companies like BrowserMob (acquired earlier this month by NeuStar), Feedback ArmyMob4HireuTest (partnered with SOASTA a few months ago), XBOSoft and others. These companies combine web and cloud economics with the effectiveness and efficiency of crowdsourcing. By so doing, they change the playing fields of software delivery in two ways:

  • By definition, testing as a service involves handing over tasks from one party to another. No matter how closely a development team works with the party that carries out the testing, it is a stage-to-stage flow. Such flow lends itself to Kanban techniques in a natural manner.
  • Web site monitoring is becoming part of the crowdsourced testing portfolios. The significance of being offered in such a manner is that the monitoring function of IT operations – at least as far as web operations goes – becomes associated with testing tasks that were traditionally part of software development. It is very consistent with the evolution we are witnessing in devops – the line between development and web operations is becoming fuzzier.

If crowdsourced testing indeed gets the traction I believe it would, it will accelerate the deconstruction and subsequent reformulation of the product delivery process [1]. In addition to transforming the way software testing is done, the paradigm practiced by the companies cited above could be extended to other facets of product delivery such as development or marketing. For example, crowdsourced ideation can already be done through the services provided by Quirky.

[1] Gat et al, “Reformulating the Product Delivery Process,” presented at the Lean Software & Systems Conference, April 21-23, Atlanta, GA (www.slideshare.net/isrgat/reformulating-the-product-delivery-process-3853287).


  One Response to “Changing Playing Fields: The Impact of Crowdsourced Testing on Software Methods and IT Operations”

  1. […] The importance of this trend was summarized in Israel’s recent Cutter blog post “Changing Playing Fields“: Consider companies like BrowserMob (acquired earlier this month by NeuStar), Feedback […]

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