Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Skill Learned at CAST 2011 - SBTM

One of the new practical skills I picked up at CAST 2011 was Session-Based Test Management (SBTM). During the testing competition the Miagi-Do team applied this practice to manage time due to the short time-constraints of the competition. We decided on 20-minute test sessions and after each one, Markus Gärtner, our ‘test master’, would hold a 5-minute debrief. It was tough to tune into the discussions at times but I thought it was a brilliant technique that really helped us to achieve our testing mission.

I have read and heard about SBTM before but have never been able to implement it. I missed a few days of work while in Seattle and had a number of uTest mobile projects waiting for me upon my return so it was a perfect opportunity to give SBTM a shot. I am currently a freelancer so I don't have to worry about metrics or reporting to management about how much time I spend on bug hunting. However, I do care about being productive and using time effectively. The philosophy of working smart vs. working hard has always appealed to me, so I am always looking for new ways and skills to help me improve in this.

I installed an Android StopWatch & Timer app on Motorola Xoom and selected an Android project to test that seemed relatively simple for a warm-up exercise. It’s my preference to start a day with an Android test project vs. an iOS or a Web-based one. Web apps are more involved and iPad 2 apps require connecting to a PC and then syncing with iTunes to access logs in case of a crash. With Android devices logs can be easily and directly accessed with the help of the following apps: Log Collector and aLogcat.

So I set up my timer and dove into exploring. Testing is like meditation to me at times, especially if a new app is full of interesting features and secret pathways. While trying to figure out what it might take to get it to fail or expose ‘bad’ behavior, I can lose track of time. It happened with this test. After reviewing the project scope, and installing and launching the app, I ran a couple of quick tests in landscape and portrait modes. Then the timer buzzed and I nearly jumped off my chair as it spooked me. 
Unfortunately when the alarm went off I lost my train of thought, but I had already filled out an exploratory test template with my steps and initial findings. I also realized that 30-60 minute intervals might work better for me, especially for the initial session since it involves reading about and understanding the product, project scope, customer priorities and quality criteria. 

The 2nd and 3rd sessions went more smoothly but each time the app's buzzer went off I jumped. SBTM certainly helps you to focus and utilize time more effectively. However, I will have to train myself like Pavlov’s dog not to lose composure each time I hear an alarm go off or find a timer with a less startling sound...


  1. For mobile applications I recently combined session-based test management with the pomodorro technique heading for 25 minutes sessions. This worked dramatically well from my perspective. I got a write-up of that session on my blog, but just found myself unable to paste it here from my iPhone.

  2. Here it is, Markus.'Pomodoro Testing' ( Thank you for sharing your experience.

    I have to experiment and figure out what will work better for me. I mostly work alone and tend to get carried away and lose track of time.
    That’s yet another proof that there are ‘no best practices’ and a tester or team has to figure out what works best for them based on context.

  3. I come across here when I was searching something else. Well..good though I land up here. :)

    It works well but at times there is this fear or going away from the whole context when you're totally exploring something else.

    That sounds good to have good enough time for few sessions and then try, experiment with less time to see if it works out!

    Way to go girl!!!