Monday, April 7, 2008

Lessons learned from Civ IV

I've been playing Civilization IV again recently, and realized that there are lessons in Civ IV that are applicable to a problem I've been wrestling with at work.

I run a team that builds test automation tools for a large company in Seattle. There are several other groups within the company that have built similar tools. Recently I was charged leading a team to look at all the different tools in use within the company and figuring out how to reduce the amount of duplicated work, as well as increasing the total amount of our testing that is automated.

After much conversation we came up with a kind of intellectual framework describing 6 tasks of test automation and 4 contexts in which automation is used within the company. Some time soon I'll post about that in more detail. The tool that my team has built addresses the most complex types of test automation, but is more cumbersome than some of the other tools that address only the simpler automation contexts. We've spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make it easier to use our tool for less complex automation tasks, without a lot of success.

In my recent Civ IV games (I bet you were starting to think I'd forgotten about that...) I've been focusing on winning Cultural victories rather than military or scientific victories. In a cultural victory one of the most powerful things you do is assimilate the cities of other players. It occured to me that we could assimilate the other automation tools in the company--we can wrap our tool around them, use it to handle the most complex tasks, and let the testers and developers who don't need that complexity continue to develop their automation using the simpler tools.

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