Ten Years of Excelon

“[Some large]% of companies fail within three years and [even larger %] fail within five.”

           – Every small business article ever

That quote above is overly simplistic. Ending a business does not equate to failure; there are plenty of people who move on from one success to another. Yet it is true that it is rare for someone to get through the first few years, and making it to ten is a bit of a milestone.

And here we are.

About halfway through this journey I wrote Tomorrow’s Excelon Development, and it remains one the pieces of work I think about the most. No deep insights into the nature of software delivery there. Just a little honestly about where I had been, where I was, where I hoped to take the company.

Part of my vision was that the people Excelon served, our “ecosystem”, would become a sort of extended sales force. And, while not every assignment has been a successful one, I can say that I cannot take credit for our success as much as thank those that helped make it happen.

Thank you all.

In the past eighteen months I have had to restructure the business to deal almost exclusively with remote work. In-person training and consulting disappeared. Client accounts grew and shrunk — one client shut down their Chicago office and ended a work effort early. We all adjusted to remote work.

And now, after its long slumber, the world is opening up.

After the return

The folks at Xpanxion have invited me to my first post-lockdown conference, QASummit, July 28th, in Salt Lake City, Utah. I’ll be speaking on Test Design and Coverage, along with Gwen Dobson, Rachel Kibler, and Janet Gregory. Janet, being Canadian, may have to be over video — I offered to charter a boat to cross the great lakes and pick her up but she wasn’t interested. It seems like a conference on a boat remains elusive. Yes, of course, we’ll do a Testing Show podcast from the conference floor.

At the same time, after a year of working remotely, I am sad to say that all across the board my relationships are weaker. All this time heads down, kicking out the work has weakened our connection to the source of the work, our friends and colleagues.

In addition to the bread and butter work of consulting, contracting, and writing, right now we are refining our model for how to think about software testing and quality. In particular, risk management and transparency. To the tester that means coverage and test design — what tests should we run, and what can we conclude from the results. Further, what other techniques can we use to reduce risk such as configuration flags, peer review, code scanners, how does that change the risk picture, and what visualization of that can we make that people will actually understand? It is the visualization that is key. The transparency piece is expressing those risks to management in a way they understand. If management knows a risk is not covered, decides to go forward anyway, and that risk materializes, that is a far cry better than “Why didn’t QA find that bug?

I wrote that article twelve years ago, and it is still relevant. From what I can see of the industry, it is less relevant, and much less relevant among former Excelon Clients. That makes me happy.

Our next big conference step is probably an in-person event in the summer of 2022, a workshop on teaching, where we develop exercises to explain the work that actually impacts the way work is done. You can criticize me for quite a few things, but I would submit that exercises like Parkcalc, the Miagido school, and the Palindrome test, done well, often change the way people approach their work for the better. The world would benefit from more of them.

Moving Forward

To do that, we need to keep working.

That means doing software engineering leadership, DevOps, and testing, either actually doing it (and throwing out ideas along the way), consulting on it, or writing about it. If your company doesn’t want a contractor, we also do placement.

The world changed. The distance doesn’t matter. We figured out how to make remote work. If there’s a chance to work together, or you just want to chat, well, look us up.

It’s been a great ten years.

With your help, I’d like to go for ten more.





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