Change

Reboot

Some days I’m glad I’m not my own boss.

Back when I was responsible for a team, I was a total pushover. Until I wasn’t. When I wasn’t, they hated me. In retrospect I know that what they hated was the inconsistency. But that’s another story.

What isn’t inconsistent is that I’m always hard on myself. I finish something a little late, and I’m sure that I’m walking on thin ice. Something goes the smallest bit haywire in one of my projects, and I’m sure I’m going to get fired. Even if it’s not within my control.

Usually this works to my advantage. It drives me to always improve. My boss appreciates that he never has to tell me what to do better. And eventually I find myself looking back and not really understanding how my professional growth happened.

Last year was incredibly abnormal for me in this respect. I was burned out, unmotivated, had lost focus on any career goal, and had turned into the type of worker that I would be happy to see fired. At least from my perspective. I have colleagues who assure me that I haven’t been a bad employee, I just haven’t lived up to my standard.

I took a lot of vacation in November and December. Perhaps that is why I feel like they were the two least productive months of my career. When I returned to work with the new year, I was apprehensive.

And then I surprised myself.

I accomplished more on January second than I expected. And again on the third.

Somehow with all the time I took off between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, I managed to shake off the horrible habits I’d picked up in 2013 and reestablish the great habits that I hold myself to.

As I have been writing this, I’ve been trying to determine why I’ve improved, and several things have come to the front of my mind.

First, I for the majority of my vacation worked my ass off. Not work work, but work nonetheless. Hubby and I hosted Christmas at our house this year. That meant cleaning house, rearranging, Christmas shopping, cooking, decorating, cooking more, and then doing even more house work. I made myself a huge list of everything that needed to be done, prioritized, set deadlines, and executed. Sound familiar? I essentially project managed my pre-Christmas to-do list (and right up through the weekend after Christmas since we continued the celebration through New Year’s Eve).

Second, even though I was working my ass off I made time to relax. This is a big deal for me. When something big has to be done I typically go all in until I get so burned out that I’m no longer productive. Hubby and I set aside a couple of days before Christmas on which we did a bit from my gigantic task list and then spent time together relaxing and having fun. Saints Row V, Minecraft, and Team Fortress 2 all got their fair share of attention, as did my Netflix queue and my crochet project (which was good, since it was a Christmas present).

Third, I delegated. There is no end to the kudos that Hubby gets for being so incredibly helpful with everything that I wanted to get done for Christmas. When Hubby asked what he could do to help, I looked at the list and gave him a task. I left my list of work that needed to be done on the coffee table, and when he wanted to help without being a distraction, he picked up the list and took the initiative.

Finally, I said no. I said no to myself (in the form of not starting a craft project for my elder niece’s Christmas present, and not making candies), and I said no to friends who wanted to get together right after Christmas (when I really needed some down time).

Leading up to my vacation I was struggling to make progress, like a computer that is bogged down by a hung process or a memory leak. My vacation was the reboot I needed to reestablish the old habits that I expect from myself at work (and at home), but hadn’t been living up to in quite a while.

Here’s to 2014 and carrying the momentum forward!

The Impact of the Skagit Bridge Collapse

I live in the Bellingham (Washington) area. Bellingham is a college town on the water and only an hour drive from the mountains, almost half way between Seattle and Vancouver BC. I wrote most of this post last Friday. The day after the I5 Skagit Bridge collapse.

Now how am I supposed to get to Bellingham?

This was circulating around Facebook last Friday. What I was thinking was “Now how am I supposed to leave Bellingham?”

Note: Skagit is pronounced as if the “g” were a “j”, and the a is soft as in apple. Ska(pple)-jit

I live roughly half way between the Canadian border and the bridge (which is no longer) over the Skagit River in Burlington. You’ve probably heard about it in the news (Seattle, Canada, England).

I am so happy that no one died in the collapse and that the people who were injured were in stable condition this morning. Timing could have been much worse. An hour earlier and traffic would have been heavier. A day later and traffic would have been terrible. Middle of the night, and there wouldn’t have been the same visibility to rescue people from the river.

What keeps going through my mind is how sweet it was that one of my brothers called. “Heh, did you hear? About the bridge?”

It was his way of saying “Yay! You called me back, you weren’t there.” He’s sweet even if he doesn’t want to admit it.

I am curious (and a bit worried) about how the bridge outage will impact daily life, and how it will impact our local economy.

On a personal level, until the bridge is fixed I will definitely be visiting family to the south less frequently. In good traffic the detours will take half an hour to an hour, making the drive to my mom’s about 2-2.5 hours. Each direction.

This will happen because I5 is the primary north-south road in NW Washington. There aren’t many alternate routes (especially in the Burlington area and north), and none of them are capable of handling the volume of traffic that typically uses the bridge (apparently 71000 cars per day).

Not to mention the semis. I5 is the primary route for trade between BC and the Seattle area. I have no idea how many Semis travel that stretch of road, but I do know that Burlington and Mt Vernon’s small town streets are the best path for them to take (I really feel for people who live there).

The best alternates that avoid town are two lane highways. One is windy, forested, and really not friendly to heavy traffic or big trucks. The other is a nice straight farm highway, and the traffic will probably not mix well with the farm tractors in the area.

A lot has happened in the past week. One of the highlights is a temporary bridge span is planned to be placed in the next several weeks. I’m excited about that because it means I can get back to visiting family and friends down south every few weeks without worrying as much about the traffic.

Another image circulating on Facebook.

Another image circulating on Facebook.

It also means my original concern, and the entire reason I started this post, will become a (mostly) irrelevant. My concern was that the increased travel time (which isn’t quite as bad as I’d expected, based upon what I’m hearing around the office) and travel distance would cause an increase in costs over the next year, and that those increases would be passed along to the consumers.

Semis will still need to detour around the temporary bridge, but the detour won’t be required for the average driver so it will be faster for everyone.

So that was my train of thought on this subject. Started a week ago, and finally finished because I am not allowing myself to start new posts without finishing old ones anymore.

Yay,  progress!

On a related note: WSDOT added a camera to view construction progress on the bridge!

Image automatically refreshes every 2 minutes. Click image to view the WSDOT traffic cameras page.

They also just added two cameras to view detour routes on SR20 and George Hopper Road.

Also, whoever administers the @wsdot twitter account does a fantastic job!

Report Testing Guide for End Users

This is a basic testing guide that I prepared after searching fruitlessly for a guide to give the system users at work. Originally posted here.

Please feel free to share your thoughts about how this can be improved, expanded, made more generic, adapted for other uses, etc.


Why do I need to test?

Testing is essential to making sure that any report or system enhancement is accurate and works as expected. The IT team tests as thoroughly as possible, however there are several reasons that testing should be done by the end user as well:

  1. You are much more familiar with your piece of the system than IT is. SAP is a new system for all of us. While you have been learning how your processes function in SAP, we have been providing cut-over support, learning the data structures, and learning how to look up limited pieces of the data.

  2. YOU are the expert in your area of the business. The IT team has limited familiarity with how you use the system. We are constantly learning where various data elements are and how things interact, but we don’t yet know enough about the operations of any business area to consider ourselves experts. YOU are the expert.

  3. Customer satisfaction is important, and YOU are our customer. You are our customer, and it is important to us that the solutions that we provide meet your expectations and needs.

Types of Testing

Testing can vary quite a bit in complexity depending upon the project and the stage of development. There are three essential types of testing for reports:

  1. Interface Review: Validating that the search criteria and columns included in the report are correct and working as expected.

  2. Data Validation: Detailed review of the data presented in the report in comparison to the source system (SAP) to identify any fields that may be incorrect.

  3. Usability Testing: Testing the report as you would normally use it. This testing can help uncover issues in presentation or in the data included in the report that were overlooked in the Interface review and Data Validation.

Identifying Errors

If any problems are found encountered for any of the tests, they need to be documented and sent to the IT team for review.

For problems encountered during Interface Review:

  1. The exact search criteria used
  2. If you received an error: what that error was and instructions for how to reproduce the error. (Screenshots are always welcome!)
  3. If there was a problem with the results, details about how the results differed from expectation.

For problems encountered during Data Validation:

  1. Example transaction
  2. Which column is incorrect
  3. The incorrect data shown
  4. What the correct data should actually be
  5. Where to see the correct data in SAP.

For problems encountered during Usability Testing:

  1. If a data issue is found, then provide the information listed under Data Validation.
  2. If another issue is found, then outline what the issue is and the requested change.

Report Testing Checklist

Interface Review:

#

Test

Pass/Fail

Problems Encountered

1

Are all required columns present?

2

Are all column names correct?

3

Is the sort order for the results correct?

4

Are all required search criteria present?

5

Are all search criteria names correct?

6

Are default search criteria appropriate?

7

Do all search criteria work properly?

8

Are there any other issues or changes needed?

Data Validation:

The following apply to EVERY column.

#

Test

Pass/Fail

Problems Encountered

1

Is the data format correct?

2

Is there data in every column that should contain data?

3

Validate the data shown on the report: If the report contains multiple types of transaction (for example: notification types or billing document types), check at least two of each. Compare the report to what is shown on the transaction(s) in SAP.

4

Validate calculations: If the report contains any calculations (sub-total, days past due, etc), validate that against the other data on the report and against data from SAP.

5

If this report replaces an existing report or data pull that you use, then compare results between the two reports. Do you notice any issues?

6

Are there any other issues or changes needed?

Usability Testing:

Consider how you would use the report in the normal course of business, then test the report as if it were considered live.

Warning: Do not share results from the report or base decisions upon the report unless you have completed Data Validation testing without any issues.

#

Test

Pass/Fail

Problems Encountered

1

If you would provide the report to a customer, then export it and prepare it for the customer. Do you notice any issues?

2

If you would use the report for operational analysis, then export it and work through a sample analysis. Do you notice any issues?

3

If you would use this report to review data periodically (such as checking on the status of a sales order or work order), then use it as needed for a day or two. Do you notice any issues?

Sign Off

When the report has passed all of your tests, it will be ready to be made live. Ultimately, you are as responsible as IT to ensure that your report is accurate prior to us making it live.

Before the report is considered live, we will ask you to approve making it live via email. This will be considered your Sign Off that the report is complete and accurate.

Creative Commons License
End User Testing Guide for Reports by Amanda Thomas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

An end user testing guide

One of the most interesting (and often frustrating) changes at work since the merger completed has been trying to help the users understand that I am no longer an expert in our systems and processes. It is a complete shift from what we are all used to.

For the past couple months we’ve been working on building reporting with SAP data to replace the reporting that we had before the merger. I’ve learned a LOT about the data and have honed my Google-fu (so much that one of the experienced SAP users recently referred to me as an SAP wizard when I was able to tell him which tables to look to for descriptions of sales document types and billing document types).

The challenge has been testing. Since I used to know the system and processes so well, I used to do the majority of the testing for new reports or when we made system changes. When end users tested system changes, I would give them a checklist of specific things to test for, types of transactions to test with, and types of issues to look out for. When they tested reports, it was mostly about making sure the columns and search criteria they needed were there. But in both cases they didn’t need to test extensively because I’d already worked with the dev team to eliminate every bug I could find (and I am damn proficient at finding bugs, if I do say so myself).

A couple of weeks ago we got to the point where we’d  developed a bunch of reports, most of them were in various stages of testing but a few had been tested by the users, had bug fixes, and been made live. And for two in particular several rounds of fixes had happened after making them live.

I needed to find a quick and relatively hands-off way of getting the users equipped to test reports. It needed to be quick and hands-off because I had ten reports in development with at least as many people (in three time zones) involved in testing, and because I was having a hard time keeping up with the dev team as it was.

After searching for a quick user testing guide with no luck, I decided to make my own. And I decided since this appears to be something that is lacking in general, I thought I’d share.

So without further adieu, here is a quick testing guide for reports (that can be easily tweaked for other testing as well).

UPDATE 13 May 2013: This has received a bit more traffic than I’d anticipated, so I’ve also created a page dedicated to the testing guide. If you have comments, recommendations, questions, etc, please post them on that page. Any future revisions will be made there.


Why do I need to test?

Testing is essential to making sure that any report or system enhancement is accurate and works as expected. The IT team tests as thoroughly as possible, however there are several reasons that testing should be done by the end user as well:

  1. You are much more familiar with your piece of the system than IT is. SAP is a new system for all of us. While you have been learning how your processes function in SAP, we have been providing cutover support, learning the data structures, and learning how to look up limited pieces of the data.

  2. YOU are the expert in your area of the business. The IT team has limited familiarity with how you use the system. We are constantly learning where various data elements are and how things interact, but we don’t yet know enough about the operations of any business area to consider ourselves experts. YOU are the expert.

  3. Customer satisfaction is important, and YOU are our customer. You are our customer, and it is important to us that the solutions that we provide meet your expectations and needs.

Types of Testing

Testing can vary quite a bit in complexity depending upon the project and the stage of development. There are three essential types of testing for reports:

  1. Interface Review: Validating that the search criteria and columns included in the report are correct and working as expected.

  2. Data Validation: Detailed review of the data presented in the report in comparison to the source system (SAP) to identify any fields that may be incorrect.

  3. Usability Testing: Testing the report as you would normally use it. This testing can help uncover issues in presentation or in the data included in the report that were overlooked in the Interface review and Data Validation.

Identifying Errors

If any problems are found encountered for any of the tests, they need to be documented and sent to the IT team for review.

For problems encountered during Interface Review:

  1. The exact search criteria used
  2. If you received an error: what that error was and instructions for how to reproduce the error. (Screenshots are always welcome!)
  3. If there was a problem with the results, details about how the results differed from expectation.

For problems encountered during Data Validation:

  1. Example transaction
  2. Which column is incorrect
  3. The incorrect data shown
  4. What the correct data should actually be
  5. Where to see the correct data in SAP.

For problems encountered during Usability Testing:

  1. If a data issue is found, then provide the information listed under Data Validation.
  2. If another issue is found, then outline what the issue is and the requested change.

Report Testing Checklist

Interface Review:

#

Test

Pass/Fail

Problems Encountered

1

Are all required columns present?

2

Are all column names correct?

3

Is the sort order for the results correct?

4

Are all required search criteria present?

5

Are all search criteria names correct?

6

Are default search criteria appropriate?

7

Do all search criteria work properly?

8

Are there any other issues or changes needed?

Data Validation:

The following apply to EVERY column.

#

Test

Pass/Fail

Problems Encountered

1

Is the data format correct?

2

Is there data in every column that should contain data?

3

Validate the data shown on the report: If the report contains multiple types of transaction (for example: notification types or billing document types), check at least two of each. Compare the report to what is shown on the transaction(s) in SAP.

4

Validate calculations: If the report contains any calculations (subtotal, days past due, etc), validate that against the other data on the report and against data from SAP.

5

If this report replaces an existing report or data pull that you use, then compare results between the two reports. Do you notice any issues?

6

Are there any other issues or changes needed?

Usability Testing:

Consider how you would use the report in the normal course of business, then test the report as if it were considered live.

Warning: Do not share results from the report or base decisions upon the report unless you have completed Data Validation testing without any issues.

#

Test

Pass/Fail

Problems Encountered

1

If you would provide the report to a customer, then export it and prepare it for the customer. Do you notice any issues?

2

If you would use the report for operational analysis, then export it and work through a sample analysis. Do you notice any issues?

3

If you would use this report to review data periodically (such as checking on the status of a sales order or work order), then use it as needed for a day or two. Do you notice any issues?

Sign Off

When the report has passed all of your tests, it will be ready to be made live. Ultimately, you are as responsible as IT to ensure that your report is accurate prior to us making it live.

Before the report is considered live, we will ask you to approve making it live via email. This will be considered your Sign Off that the report is complete and accurate.

Creative Commons License
End User Testing Guide for Reports by Amanda Thomas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I love change, until I hate it.

I have a strange love of change in my work place. I get bored quickly doing the same type of work repeatedly. The more things change, the more my job remains interesting. This is generally good for me because my job typically has a lot of variety, it all leads to some sort of change, small (like new reports to help improve process) or large (such as new system implementations).

When going into a project, I have always been the first to admit that change can be difficult, but that I am weird and LOVE change. I think my enthusiasm usually sets others at ease, although sometimes it can also mislead others about the complexity of the undertaking.

A year ago, the company I work for was bought by another company. I spent most of the year working on the systems integration project with a team from both companies, including about a third of 2012 traveling to the new headquarters on the east coast. In November, the companies officially merged and the system changes went into effect. It meant an ERP (SAP) change for half of the organization and a CRM (SalesForce.com) change the other half of the organization, among a bunch of other changes.

Throughout the process I did the same type of work that I’ve done for the past five plus years: a mix of Business Systems Analyst (geek-to-business-translation) work and Project Management.  Unfortunately, my BSA work was all focused on the legacy systems, not the systems that we were consolidating to.

Once the go-live data issues settled down and my focus changed to the new system rather than the old, I became horribly overwhelmed.

At the risk of sounding like a corporate dweeb… I have prided myself for years on being a change agent of some sort and as part of that, hand holding others through change, and always having the answers.

Last week, I realized that I was struggling with the change. It was taking me days to get through something that would have taken just a few hours in our old system, purely because I didn’t know the database structure and didn’t know the system well enough to find the data sources without help. I didn’t want to ask for help, because I never need help. (“Never” was definitely an oversimplification.)

It was a huge blow to my ego to realize that I was struggling with the change. And then in the back of my head I heard the advice that I give everyone else: “How are they going to know that you need help if you don’t say something? You won’t learn if you don’t ask.”

I eventually got my head out of my ass and asked for help. Things are still taking me longer than they used to, but that’s part of learning a new system (another piece of advice that I often give others and ignore when it applies to myself).

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m good at change when I realize that change is happening to me, but when it sneaks up on me or I am not in control in some way I can be really bad at it.

Or perhaps I’ll just blame the SAD, I’m sure that had some influence. (By the way, in case you were curious, the light therapy thing I got is working fantastically.)