Adam Satterfield at Global Payments advocates test management for data-driven communication

Adam Satterfield, Senior Director of Engineering Enablement at Fortune 500 company Global Payments, dives into why test management matters, for testers and developers alike. Find out how smart testing is advancing key initiatives at Global Payments such as hosting in the cloud, and how education plays a vital role.


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Podcast transcription

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity and brevity.


Emma: Hello, listeners, it’s your host Emma Peet. Today we’re joined by returning guest Adam Satterfield, Senior Director of Engineering Enablement at Global Payments.


You’ve not just been on the podcast, you were at the Virtual Summit earlier this year, on many DevOps Unbound episodes, and you’ve partnered with us over the last few years.


You direct thousands of testers world over at Global Payments. And that is a Fortune 500 company, so truly elite, providing payment tech and services to businesses of all shapes and sizes. You have a 50-year history of, and I take this verbiage from Global, building the future. So, always being one step ahead where innovation and digital transformation is concerned.


Let’s start with an introduction as to your role at the company, and how testing plays a role because your kind of landscape is a vast number of complex systems, and robust applications operating around the clock. So, testing really is vital. I’m curious to know how you put that in place in a nutshell.


Adam: I think it really starts with a couple of things. First, it starts with setting proper expectations. And what I mean by that is having quality standards and best practices in place, because one of the things we found with bringing multiple teams together, everyone kind of brings their own idea of what quality means with them to the table. For some quality means making it first to market, right? For some, it means having that defect-free system. So, one of the biggest challenges we’ve seen with bringing this many people together in going through such large transformations is that kind of varying understanding of what quality means.


And so, one of the ways we’ve tried to address this is by having good standards in place to help people understand that when we talk about quality, from a leadership standpoint, or from a business standpoint, this is really what we expect.


From there, you can take that and drive that into your teams to kind of shape how you’re going to approach that. We don’t dictate whether you deliver waterfall or Agile. We don’t really care but we care that you have this level of quality of this kind of standard. So, that way we have that good footing in front of our customers.


Emma: That’s interesting then that you’re really focusing on the output, the quality, because you can get kind of stuck in the trenches of a method and getting everyone on the same page. But if you’ve got the same goal in mind, which is that supreme quality, then that’s really awesome.


So, with all these testers and tests happening, managing those tests is crucial for you to log on every day and see, ‘Okay, where were we at? Where do we stand? What’s passed? What’s failed? What defects show?’ How does managing and overseeing those tasks help you deliver on that quality?


Adam: Yeah, and I really think it drives into communication because depending on who you ask about the project, they’ll give you a different status of where the project is or where they feel the project is, or potentially even where they feel where the project is based on what they should be telling a certain leader, which is just kind of funny sometimes.


The awesome thing with data and test management software is the data doesn’t lie. So, I can go in and I can look and see how many tests have passed, what sort of risk do we have based on the defects that we have.


Adam: So, we drive communication through that type of software. We’re very rich in the dashboards that we built based on that data. And then that’s how essentially, we shape those conversations with our various leaders, depending on the type of data we want, but we use the same set of data and that’s really where I think that having that kind of core software will help to standardize the conversations, right? It’ll help to really drive and make sure that we aren’t influencing status and influencing where we are based on our own personal opinions.


Emma: Sure! So, that tooling is super critical to have everyone on the same page. And it’s great to hear that you’ve really honed in on those dashboards so that they truly reflect what’s happening with the tests that you can come on and get that real-time observability.


Adam: Yeah, that’s been critical for us to have rich dashboards and dashboarding capability is then night and day because oftentimes we have teams very busy – the leadership team is very busy, and they don’t have time to necessarily read a five-page report, right?


If you can show them a graph of where we are, clearly lays out the risk. It’s very quick, it’s very impactful, and it’s really helped to drive some very positive change for our entire teams.


Emma: Great! Yeah, I’m a huge fan of anything being data-driven. So, it makes a lot of sense that that’s successful for you. We’ve spoken about testers but I’m sure that in your arena or in your company, there are developers. So, the folks that are right at the start of the software development lifecycle.


Why do you think developers should care about test management? Of course, testers should but I am interested to get your take on that. Why should the developers take an interest?


Adam: Yeah, so it’s really rapid feedback.


I’m very much a fan of a test-first approach, even to the way we do our coding. So, if the developers understand how the end users are going to be using the system through a defined set of tests, those may be unit tests, those may be acceptance tests – however, you choose to write those BDD or just beautiful flowing prose, whichever way you love to write your tests, that helps the developers to understand how the end users are going to use this system.


So, it’ll help to guide their way with the way that they’re doing it so they’re not kind of myopically looking at function A and function B. Additionally, it creates good rapid feedback to where the developers sends the functionality to the tester, the tester has their test cases, they write up a quick report or log a defect, and that developer doesn’t have to wait for the tester to call them to hop on a call to chat them – they immediately get notified, “Hey, there’s a defect”, and screenshots the information there. So, it really helps to drive more concise and much more rapid feedback to the development team.


Emma: Awesome! Yes, a really mature tighter feedback loop. You presented an excellent case there.


Last time we spoke you mentioned you were prioritizing security testing and exploiting the cloud infrastructure you have at Global Payments. How are those initiatives advancing, and how are they proving to make your testing more robust?


Adam: I think it all really starts with education.

Education has been one of the number one things that we’ve identified with either moving to the cloud or adopting new technologies. It’s decided from a team standpoint or even from a leadership standpoint that a certain action is going to take place where we say, “Hey, we need to modernize our application.”


Everyone loves the word modernization, migration, microservices, and all those sorts of things. But oftentimes, teams forget about the education piece. We’d love to adopt this new technology, but we don’t carve out that time to teach people how to leverage it.


Adam: That’s really been probably the biggest change for us is how do we drive that education to the team without really impacting delivery, but also to increase the skills and capabilities of the team.


So, we’ve really explained that a lot, working with the teams individually. Some of this stuff, again, goes back to standards. If we’re going to roll out standards to a team, we better understand how to educate those team members on how to perform these new tasks that are defined in the standard.


That’s probably been a really big piece of it for us. I’m actually seeing that across the industry as well, where there’s been this kind of renewed focus on education and learning to start increasing the skills and capabilities.


Emma: I couldn’t agree more there. It reminds me of what you mentioned the last time on education; our education system systematically doesn’t do a great job of teaching application developers about testing. So having that more vocational on-the-job training if it’s available to you is super invaluable.


In 10 words or less, what’s your best advice for anyone responsible for test management?


Adam: The best advice for anyone responsible for test management: keep it concise and make sure you keep your data up-to-date.


Emma: That’s got a ring to it; keeping your data up-to-date.


If you were to change one thing about the way that testing is governed, what would it be?


Adam: Awareness and education, to be honest, because I’m continually surprised to hear folks on the project management side, the product side, not understand the goal and purpose of testing. It’s something that is quite frankly missing; that understanding of the role and importance of test management, of testing across the business side of most companies.


I think it’s up to the role of test leadership to start driving the education and showing the importance of why it’s important to have our tests in a standard location, why it’s important to have rich dashboards, and why it’s important for testers to take the time to log their defects and write their test cases. That’s probably my biggest thing that I would love to see a big change in the industry.


Emma: That’s great! Going back to testing basics, giving those 101s and building from there.


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