Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Transparancy at a SaaS company

For me, transparancy is one of the most important characteristics a SaaS company or other cloud company (IaaS, PaaS) must have to survive in the current world.
A customer relies 24/7 on the SaaS solution and when something goes wrong (server down, security breach etc.) a customer should be informed immediately so he can adapt to it and hopefully don't loose too much time and money when the SaaS solution is down.

So when I read the tweet by AFAS Software CEO Bas van der Veldt that transparancy is great when you have nothing to hide and AFAS likes transparancy, I made a bold move.
I tweeted back that I want to test that. Promptly I got a tweet back with an invitation to do just that.
But as a SaaS software tester I was really interested in how AFAS deals with traceability, which was also interesting for Mr van der Veldt, so he invited me to come over.
Within a few days arrangements were made and I was invited on Friday 15 February to see how Testing&Development was done at AFAS in a transparant way.

After a nice drive through the Dutch 'hills' (Utrechtse Heuvelrug) I arrived at AFAS.
At arrival in the reception it became clear to me automation was a key process here.
The AFAS reception welcomed me and guided me to a registration unit where I could register myself. Pretty fancy stuff with an automated photocamera to take mugshots (not so fancy :-) ) and a SMS-service telling my host I arrived.
Within minutes my host arrived: Martijn Wouter, teamlead test.
After a brief introduction I was given an elaborate tour through the AFAS building seeing the different departments development, test and support and the inhouse server room. A nice thing to see was the AFAS Usability Lab where it explores through cameras and special software how customers realtime use its software and register the results for future use.
Martijn introduced me to his team and explained the different roles the team members have.
As a professionally educated tester it struck me most testers came from other divisions of AFAS ready to use their knowledge and also eager to learn testing by certifying and visiting workshops.
I see it as a way of exploratory testing, using your skills as a domain tester testing new software, doing testspecification and execution at the same time. The last is not simultaneously at AFAS, which
is no problem, software is rated high by its clients.
Another thing intrigued me: most SaaS-companies work via the agile methodology in small interdisciplinary teams. Martijn explained to me AFAS still uses the waterfall method, but because of the short line development&testing is still moving in a fast pace with the documentation department. Also with the client because of the direct incident system (including automated dashboards).
Next to this, inhouse developed test automation tools speed up tests and ensure test coverage.
Clients are very important to AFAS and AFAS sees to it they are satisfied through the already mentioned Usability lab, the AFAS Theater product and knowledge presentations (SEPA!), an online transparant annual report and special online client and partner dossiers. Traceability meets automation!
Employees are also important for AFAS: during breaks they can play table soccer, spent time in the gym or eat lunch/dinner at the company restaurant.

It was a great Friday afternoon at AFAS. I hereby want to thank AFAS for the opportunity they gave me to have a look into the kitchen of a successfull SaaS company.