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Struggle and Enlightenment. A Tale of Clarity in the Midst of Chaos courtesy of Excel. John N. Daughety Team Lead, Development HBK Investments, L.P. The Scene…. A small, old office building backing up to a car dealership

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Struggle and enlightenment l.jpg

Struggle and Enlightenment

A Tale of Clarity in the Midst of Chaos courtesy of Excel

John N. Daughety

Team Lead, Development

HBK Investments, L.P.

The scene l.jpg
The Scene…

  • A small, old office building backing up to a car dealership

  • Tight quarters, furnished affordably by other startup failures

  • Dozens of busy bees dreaming up telecom software and talking idly of retirement

  • Airplanes carrying banners offering “more than they pay you” to all who pass below

  • Less than 10% unoccupied office space at Nortel, Alcatel HQ

The challenges l.jpg
The Challenges…

  • Startup company – no money or time (or desire) for formal process

  • No money for test support software

  • Requirements not defined, scattered throughout the brains of several

  • “Hallway design meetings”

  • Hard to hear near the windows – pages for service techs at the dealership

  • Very short delivery schedules…in theory

The hero l.jpg
The Hero…

  • New to the industry

  • One of two testers in the company

  • Release testing starts in two weeks

  • The hero must prepare for testing the GUI…alone!

  • It is really hard to get on the service road for 75 when he goes home each night

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The Villains…

  • Developers with $$$’s in their eyes

  • CEO with $$$’s in his eyes

  • Marketing truly believing they don’t have to do anything to succeed

  • These offices really are cramped…

  • “I think I’ll buy one of those new S2000’s when I sell my stock.”

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It’s Not All Bad for the Hero

  • His partner has extensive industry experience

  • They have no problem communicating – typing at the same time is tough, though

  • He has his own PC… with MS Office

  • Much of the GUI has been created

  • That dealership does great work on his car

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Goals Enter Stage Left…

  • Set of test cases that must cover the GUI

  • “Document” that people can confirm is correct (an ad hoc design spec)

  • Something even the villains will review:

    • easy to read/review

    • easy to look at specific parts only

    • easily accessible

  • Easily updated as the design... er, code, changes

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A Ray of Hope Appears…

  • Excel can organize GUI test cases

  • It supports a modular design

    • Easy to read all or specific parts

    • Easy to change as product changes

  • It can be shared on the network

    • Everyone can view it, and it is always current

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A New Hero Emerges

  • Test Cases were completed with Excel

  • They clarified some potentially harmful misunderstandings

  • They scared up some good bugs

  • They defined the application better than any other document (or person)

  • Excel saved the day!

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Now For A Legal Example…

  • Dialogs are from a test-case management application

    • User creates, edits test cases

    • User creates, edits test runs

    • User creates, edits test scripts and manages test cases in script

  • Three artifacts:

    • Test Case: a description of a test and the expected results

    • Test Run: details for execution of a test case on a specific software release or build

    • Test Script: a collection of test cases performed in a specific order

  • Only Test Cases and Test Scripts will be used in the example

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Overview Worksheet

  • First worksheet in workbook is overview

    • Screenshot of dialog

    • Basic information

    • Type

    • How to open

    • How to close

    • List of menu items – hyperlinks to detail

    • List of controls – hyperlinks to detail

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Control Details

  • Each control has its own worksheet in the workbook

  • Typical characteristics noted:

    • Default state when applicable (e.g., checked/unchecked for a checkbox control)

    • Contents when applicable (e.g., for a textbox control)

    • Behavior in response to specified actions

  • Characteristics broken down by state

  • States applicable to a control enumerated

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A Word on Menu Items

  • Top-level menu choices listed on Overview page

  • Two ways to handle details

    • Link to other sheets in workbook

    • Link to other workbook with menu only

  • Worksheets organize menu choices nicely

  • Menu selections can link to dialogs they open or functionality they drive

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Navigation Paths

Dialog Overview

Menu – 1st Level

Menu – 1st Level


in Dialog Link



in Command Name

Hyperlink in

list of controls

Control Detail

Menu – 2nd Level

Dialog Overview


in Command Name

Hyperlink in

list of controls

Menu – 3rd Level


in description

of action

Control Detail


in description

of action

Hyperlink in

Functional Link column

Functional Description

Functional Description

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Back to Our Story…

  • The hero has a nice testing guide

  • Linking files allow users to “see” navigation

  • Files that define functional design can be added to provide a complete picture

  • He has free time to walk over and ogle that S2000…

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The Hero Believes in Evolution

  • First, got something on paper

    • Excel spreadsheet with lots of text

  • Improved it as he worked

    • Better organization

    • Add screenshots

  • Discovered additional uses/benefits

    • Links to other dialogs

    • “Functional Design” spreadsheets

  • Adapted for greater purpose

    • The only single source of application information

    • A great guide for Tech Docs team

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Requirements for the Role of Hero

  • Design for portability

    • Ideally, keep all workbooks in a single file folder

    • Use relative address when creating hyperlinks (select link files from Current Folder list choice)

  • Use File/Page Setup for good printed version

    • Titles include sheet names

    • Time-stamped for “freshness rating”

  • If sharing, make sure to allow read-only access

    • Get Edits/comments via email

  • Other tools could be the hero as well

    • Use what you know well when possible

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The Rest of the Story…

  • The Hero did lots of testing

  • The CEO did lots of thinking about $$ (no longer $$$)

  • Marketing never started thinking…

  • The developers really believed whatever they built would sell

  • The Hero is now in another building with another company

  • The S2000 is still in the showroom…

  • His car runs great!

  • As soon as the company is gone, his resume will reflect a new job title - President, maybe…

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The Materials Presented

  • I am happy to email copies of Excel files used in the presentation

  • Send me a request at: