Accelerating End User Testing

Do you develop software?

I suspect if you are looking at blogs in this space then that’s probably true, or at least it might be an area of interest for you.

Do you carry out End User Testing?

Well again, if you develop software then in most cases you are likely to be doing so with users in mind.

So End User Testing can be a pretty difficult thing to really get to grips with. In Applications Division we have adopted a technology called TestRail to help us, and frankly, it’s really doing an impressive job

TestRail allows us to do things that have previously been terrifically hard and complex to coordinate. It allows us to understand how User Testing is going and to rapidly get defects straight back into development as they surface in our testing processes. Tracking progress is done through a very intuitive gui and when defects are found they are created by the tester and JIRA is created immediately. No messing about, straight back to development. This is really impacting our productivity positively

Often with big systems there can be quite literally hundreds of workflows and user test cases that need to be validated by teams of End User Testers. Keeping track of progress, or actually more importantly lack of progress, is a project manager’s nightmare. Traditionally, teams have used things like spreadsheets, email and word of mouth to know how far testers are getting on with their test scenarios and plans. Often, people unfortunately become distracted or have their plans interrupted or perhaps they might be unexpectedly absent from work. Knowing someone has not managed to complete a set of tests is crucial in making sure that things are not disappearing down rabbit holes and so that projects can complete in time.

Getting issues straight back to development allows us to start working on the problem or defect straight away, we don’t need to wait until the test run has completed, getting the tester to create the JIRA when the defect is found really speeds things up

Surfacing this has often been a really difficult thing to do but TestRail really helps to address this. It is easy to interpret and allows the project to adapt to the current situation in a way that would not really have been possible previously

We have introduced TestRail as part of our Digital Transformation programme.

You can find out more here;

Currently we are using TestRail in Human Resources and Finance. We are extending its use to link into both agile and waterfall projects and  expect to adopt this across the entire range of projects we undertake in Apps

If you fancy finding out more about how we are getting on with this please do get in touch


UCISA17 and disruptive technologies

I recently attended the UCISA annual conference and exhibition.


UCISA (Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association) runs an annual conference which is a great chance to meet with peers working in the sector hear about how others have addressed challenges and develop ideas on how we can overcome obstacles that are common to our community.

You can find out a bit more about UCISA here;

I am actually the vice chair for the infrastructure group which specialises in looking at things like Cloud computing, IT security, virtualisation and many other areas and if you want to know more about that please check this out here;

This year’s conference started with a bang and we had a fantastic presentation from Stefan Hytforrs.

Stefan is a freelance speaker who lectures on how innovation, disruptive technologies and behavioural change affects both the world of business and of course social change. Stefan presented a fantastic example of how new games like Pokomon Go have grabbed the attention of huge numbers of people and altered their behaviour. He shows a great example of hoards of people frantically chasing a virtual pokamon in fields and from a non participant’s point of view it looks simply incredible.

However his lecture really discusses far more interesting questions about what actually we regard as success. He sees the importance of community and people as the vital component in success and believes that really this is at the heart of success.

Stefan goes on to open or eyes to the fact that for the first time in our history we are truly connected, not in a hierarchy but in a peer to peer collaboration and it is here that things really start to resonate for me when we think about the objectives of the software development community of practice.

I highly recommend taking a look at Stefan’s blog and his videos, this is really a person interested in creating a better future


Hear him talking about the future here you might like it;




Software Development Community of Practice

Imagine having access to a safe environment where you can ask all sorts of subject related questions. Or perhaps you prefer meeting people and talking about your and their experiences? What about situations where you really need some advice or a second opinion on a method or how to apply a standard in some way?

A community of practice does all of this but lots more


As well as deliver tangible results

Communities of practice are a great way of getting people to connect and talk about a common area of interest. Working here at Edinburgh University I have seen fantastic work going on in my own department and Division but also in the Schools and of course in other parts of Information Services.

From working with UCISA as Vice Chair for the Infrastructure Group I have gained connections and contacts who have been great sources of information, ideas, new ways of thinking and these have really translated into tangible results. This is exactly what a community of practice should be about.

Universities have a long history of inter-organisation collaboration and for an organisation that has the scale and diversity of our own we have a fantastic opportunity to make the most of our own rich sets of skills, experiences and specialisms.

In my current role I can see a fantastic opportunity to create a Community of Practice in the University that focuses on Software Development and all that it involves. This interest area is a big thing for a lot of my direct colleagues and I firmly believe that a community of practice would be a great vehicle for encouraging collaboration on so many levels. So that’s what we are going to do!

So look out for activity with the new Software Development Community of Practice

Why not sign up to the mailing list at

Or drop me a note at

Reflections on UCISA 16 conference

“Sue, that is surely the best conference I have ever attended”

This was what I said to Sue Fells who is the Business and Operations Manager at UCISA. Rarely have I come away from a conference and felt that something happened when I was there that will make me think completely differently. To attend a conference where each presentation leaves you asking questions is very very rare but that is exactly what happened.

When I was thinking and preparing about how I was going to write this blog I was wondering what pieces would be most interesting to staff in Apps Division, what could I take back that would encourage people to build on what we were doing and what could really motivate people to develop the initiatives we are heavily underway with?

So my planning for this started before I went, which sessions would I go to? Which vendors would I speak to? How could I use this time with the Director and other colleagues to really make the most out of the event? Lots of plans, lots of ideas, great I’m ready to go!

What I didn’t expect was that a lot of my preparation as it turns out would be replaced by my reaction to the experience!!!

I could go into length about the sessions I went to, I have many notes I can assure you. But in truth pictures paint more words than I should in a blog and so with that in mind I have linked two of the key presentations into this blog. I would encourage everyone who reads this to take a look at my highlight talks… Really it’s worth it.

First of All

California dreamin’ presented by Hilary Baker, Vice President for Information Technology and CIO at California State University.

Hilary’s presentation surrounded the approach she and her colleagues had taken to engage with their students (41548 students) at CSU, to encourage them to participate in the development of their own experience at the University, with the ultimate objective of increasing student graduation rates.

Hilary asked students how they could use technology to make it better for them as they tried to manage their degree process, navigate their experience at the University and also to prepare them for careers in the future. What a great package of objectives!

They set up a competition called AppJam where students were invited to create teams of students with skills from a range of specialist areas who would collaborate to develop ideas and mock-ups and prototypes for apps that could be incorporated into the institutional App called CSUN mobile. The students would be asked to present their ideas and prototypes and a winner would be chosen which would actually become a real part of the App. I guess they got 24 teams because they also had a rather nice cash reward into the bargain, but again lots of great real world experience there.

Have a look at the presentation and learn how this all went and why they are going to grow the idea going forward!

Really inspirational ideas and commitment from Hilary and her team.

A great phrase Hilary used really underlined the real success story of their project. “Students Can No Longer Escape Learning”


Creative Leadership by Jamie Anderson, Professor of Strategic management at Antwerp Management School and Visiting Professor at London Business School.

Now this is what you call a life changer. I defy anyone to see this presentation and to not be blown away by it! Really I think this is surely one of the most insightful presentation I have seen ever!

Jamie takes the audience on a journey of self-discovery, something that will leave you really thinking about many diverse things but specifically what we all need to do in order to be creative in our work.

I will not spoil the fantastic experience of following him on the journey and encourage you to take about 45 minutes to treat yourself!

If there was ever a presentation that would make you sit up and listen then his is it.

Please do take a look at this!

All of the presentations can be found here, and registration is a simple process of adding your email address.

Resilient File Infrastructure

Resilient file infrastructure

In the last 2-3 years a number of key services have been advanced, upgraded and replaced. With these changes have come some architectural alterations that have strained our ability to guarantee data integrity in the event of a disaster. This has come about due to design choices by vendors primarily on how they retain objects in their applications. For example in some of the services vendors choose now to retain both transactional database information and real objects that are referred to in the database in associated external file systems. This might take the form of a Word document or a PDF for example where the application holds metadata in the transactional database and the real file in an external file system.
Databases are now typically synchronised in real time across two datacentres at King’s Buildings and Appleton Tower and it follows that it is now very important that the objects held in the external file systems are replicated in a similar manner to ensure that in the event of a disaster both transactional database information and the associated external file system objects can be recovered to the same point in time with no data loss.
Most recently attempts were made to address this problem and within the tel013 and uwp006 projects a resilient file system that could replicate content from King’s Buildings to Appleton Tower was prepared and evaluated. However during evaluation a number of technical constraints emerged that proved that this solution would not be viable.

The requirement for the resilient file system still exists and so we propose to do the following;

• Gather a complete set of the applications and their priority that should make use of this resilient file system service
• Evaluate the technical demands that these applications will impose on a resilient file system and prepare a set of technical requirements
• Catalogue a set of potential solutions that might be used to satisfy these requirements
• Evaluate these potential solutions against the technical requirements
• Identify the preferred solution and prepare a recommendation on which solution to implement

The information gathering and evaluation will be carried out by staff in both ITI and Applications Division

Iain Fiddes