Joint interview with Thomas Axen og Charlotte Dam, PenSam.

Increased focus on testing at PenSam

Thomas Axen is a man who takes testing very seriously. He's done so since 1995, when the primary companies were Microsoft in the ERP field and then ATP, where he spent a number of years developing the testing field. Thomas Axen is now very busy repeating his success at PenSam.

After having worked with further development in the testing field at ATP, Thomas Axen moved on to PenSam last year to perform the same work for the IT business development department, including optimising the testing area and 

creating common ground. The goals encompass more automated testing, more streamlined processes, clear communications and improved test environments. And these goals will be reached with the help of PenSam's new Gatemodel, which contains management tools for managing project-based development processes.

"We have centralised all IT, cleaned up our development models and standardised processes and workflows; everything works in accordance with the Gatemodel," explains Thomas Axen. He has brought along test manager Charlotte Dam from ATP. Today she is responsible for the testing area at PenSam, and she explains: "It took a lot of in-depth debate to reach a common understanding and thus agree on the direction for implementing best practice projects.”

The Gatemodel provides the framework

In addition to optimising testing, the purpose of Gatemodel is to create an overall IT organisation: one team. And this is the biggest transformation that has taken place at PenSam. But the Gatemodel is just the first step in creating the framework and the potential for improvements.

Thomas Axen says: ”I am highly aware of the fact that some needs are created. All of the metrics and measurements we perform now seem to set something off in management – they want more and they want to know more. At the same time, this gives us the opportunity to go in and tune up every part of the motor."

And performing measurements can really pay off. At ATP Thomas Axen was responsible for metrics that showed how resources were being used. For example, he initiated a more detailed time registration process to identify resource waste areas, and how resource usage could be reprioritised.

It took Thomas Axen seven years to create an effective testing organisation at ATP, but he believes that it can be accomplished much
faster at PenSam because he and Charlotte Dam have been through the process before and because the organisation is smaller.

Project managers and test managers as partners

Testing typically takes a third of the software development process and therefore constitutes a large percentage of the overall costs. Which is why it has been important for Thomas Axen to get testing on the agenda at PenSam. One of the ways in which he has accomplished this goal is by getting the test managers and project managers to work closely as partners to create clarity in their interdependence and ensure that
the project became a success.

"The roles are much more balanced now and they work very well together as partners," explains Thomas Axen. Perhaps because Axen's insistence on commitment and professional skills means that a different kind of test management competence comes
into action: People step more firmly into character and take responsibility, which is valued. In fact, the project managers experience that they can relinquish a third of their responsibilities.

Thomas Axen says: "The project managers no longer have to follow up on the test managers. It's a huge relief for them."

Testing is a career path

Thomas Axen has often encountered an attitude towards testing that maintains that employees who can't do anything else can be allocated to testing. Axen couldn't disagree more: "I want only committed testers who take pride in what they do and who get certified. Being a tester is a career path, not a way station on the road to something else."

In the past, many skilled consultants did not view testing as an attractive field, but in recent years that has changed significantly. "At the beginning we asked some of the consultants we were using if they were interested in becoming permanent employees – they said no thanks. But now that they can see what's been happening in recent years, they accept.

Consultants we know also ask if we are looking for more people. We've created a positive reputation," says Thomas Axen, who thinks that testing in general is a growth area in which consultants will continue to get more work.

Still a long way to maturity 

For Thomas Axen, his interest in testing goes beyond working hours. As a member of the board of DSTB, the Danish software testing committee, he contributes to promoting the development of software testing in Denmark. In his work at DSTB, Axen perceives a growing interest in conferences and a trend towards greater maturity within testing.

"But there's still a long way to go to reach where Charlotte and I have gone." This, among other things, is apparent to Thomas Axen when he speaks at testing conferences. ”Those who participate have a very different understanding of the field. They think they're on the same page, but we don't share the same perspective. There are maybe 10-15 businesses in Denmark that possess the required maturity," says Thomas Axen.

A large part of the reason for the lack of maturity in the testing field can be attributed to career paths. The knowledge base crumbles because experts like Thomas Axen move up in the system where they must focus more on management and less on testing. This means that the next group of testers and test managers at the bottom of the 'food chain' must start from scratch.

Thomas Axen says: "In order to maintain a high standard, software testing must be established as a professional discipline at the universities. That will require research in the field, but I think that it's on the way."