Testing the Disney World Website: An Interview with Les Honniball

[interview]
Summary:

Recently, I shared communication with Les Honniball, a technical manager for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Technology. In our discussion, Les covered how analytics pairs well with testing and his opinion on remote workers.

Recently, I was lucky enough to share some communication with Les Honniball, the technical manager for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Technology. In our discussion, Les covered his upcoming presentation at STARWEST 2014, how analytics pairs well with testing, and his opinion on remote workers.
 
Cameron Philipp-Edmonds: Because you are doing a session titled Testing the New Disney World Website, I would like to ask you some related questions. Can you start us off by telling us a little about yourself and your role at the company?
 
Les Honniball: I have been in QA for more than twenty years, starting as a tester and working my way up to management. I enjoy finding testing solutions for the various projects I work on. At Disney, I am the technical manager for all online sites, which includes Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and their associated resorts. My team tests everything from hotel bookings, flight reservations, and dining reservations. Anything you interact with on our Disney sites, my team has more than likely tested it.
 
Cameron: That's impressive. So, what led you to the idea of your session?
 
Les: We had so much to test across various platforms, with changes coming in constantly. We use agile development. And from how we planned for development and testing and how we deployed the site, I thought it would be a good idea to share our lessons learned and how all the different businesses collaborated together.
 
Cameron: As one would imagine, testing a website with such heavy traffic presents unique challenges. Can you tell us about some of those? 
 
Les: Sure, I will share one with you. Changes to features creep up on you. These changes would come in after we started a sprint that needed to be implemented because other features depended on it. You just work through it the best you can. Yes, there was debate: Do we have to do this now? Can it wait? … But it was going to happen either now or later. So you remain flexible, take the change in stride, and do your best. If you let every change bother you, it will drive you nuts, so you just do your very best.
 
Cameron: Testing the website includes both manual and automated testing, but is there one that gets used more than the other? And why is that?
 
Les: Manual Testing played a bigger role than automation. We use Selenium, both IDE and WebDriver. WebDriver was used to create regression and smoke tests by our automation teams. My QA Team used IDE to create functional tests. For example, we had one set of tests that took us more than ninety minutes to execute manually. My team automated it in Selenium IDE, and that test now takes eleven minutes to execute
 
Cameron: For a lot of agile teams, analytics and metrics tend to be overlooked or underutilized. However, in your presentation you mention that the testing process used goes hand-in-hand with successful analytics. Can you expand on that a little bit?
 
Les: From the start we tracked lines of code and defects in the various verticals (functional areas). We knew if we found a high number of defects in one functional, we would look at the code to see how much change was done there. We also tracked all the changes and feature creep, so we could re-estimate if necessary and prioritize our sprint stories accurately
 
Cameron: All right, Leslie, now I have some more general questions that aren't necessarily related to your presentation. First question: You've worked with remote teams in places like Argentina, India, the Philippines, and the US all while maintaining an agile development process. Working remote is becoming more popular in today's digital world. In your opinion and experience, do you feel remote teams are just as capable in agile practices as a team where everyone is in-house?
 
Les: Yes I do. Remote teams can work well in the agile development process, I think we prove that here at Disney. What we did differently was we had those off shore resources come work with us side-by-side for a month. That was for both QA and dev. We all got to know each other, our working habits and abilities. They attended our daily scrums when working remotely either by phone or video conferencing and they worked as close to our working hours in either Florida or California as they could.
 
Cameron: Okay, you have over two decades in the testing industry. What advice would you give to yourself twenty years ago after knowing what you know now?
 
Les: I would tell myself, be patient, be flexible, and know you are part of the team—not just a tester. QA finds defects, they don’t create them. Build relationships with your partners and again “BE FLEXIBLE!"
 
Cameron: As we wrap things up, what is the one thing you would like the attendees of your presentation to take away from it?
 
Les: Actually I have two things. First is to “be collaborative.” Talk to your devs, talk to the product owners, share your concerns, and discuss your ideas. Don’t surprise them with an issue at a meeting, let them know beforehand. Secondly, be flexible … you're going to have feature creep, things are going to change, so don’t let it bother you to much.
 
Cameron: Fantastic. To end things here, is there anything you'd like to say to the delegates of STARWEST before they attend the conference?
 
Les: I have attended this conference for many years and there is always some new process or tool. See how you can apply what you have seen and learned at the conference to what you are doing now and in the near future.
 
Cameron: Thank you for your time, Les. 
 
Les HonniballAs manager of quality assurance for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Technology, Les Honniball leads a team of QA engineers responsible for testing the web sites of Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, Disneyland Resort in California, the Disney Cruise Line, and the Walt Disney Paris and Hong Kong theme parks and resorts. A twenty-three year veteran of the testing field with experience working for companies large and small, Les has worked with remote QA teams in India, the Philippines, Argentina, and the US using the agile development process. Les works closely with various automation teams at Disney to help define the core automation tests needed to launch a successful website.

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