Blog: Dramatis Personae

On September 8, Stuart Reid, the convenor of the Working Group, posted a response to the Stop 29119 petition that included this paragraph:

(The petitioners claim that) “The standards ‘movement’ is politicized and driven by big business to the exclusion of others. A large proportion of the members of WG26 are listed at our About WG26 page along with their employers. This list does not support the assertion in the petition. The seven editors (who do the majority of the work) are from a government department, a charity, two small testing consultancies, a mid-size testing consultancy, a university and one is semi-retired.”

I believe Dr. Reid misinterprets the position of the petition’s authors and signers as objecting to the standards process “driven by big business to the exclusion of others”. Here I can only speak for myself. My concern is not about the size of the businesses involved. Instead, it is this: if a handful of consultancies of any size were to use the ISO standards process to set the terms for “the only internationally-recognised and agreed standards”, it would raise a plausible perception of conflict of interest. If those standards were lengthy, complex, open to interpretation, and paywalled, and if those consultancies were to offer services related to standards compliance, the possibility of motivations other than altruism could loom. So, as the convenor of the working group, Dr. Reid is right to attempt to make affiliations clear and transparent.

As of September 3, the roster for the ISO 29119 working group looked like this:

The convenor of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC7 WG26 is:

Dr Stuart Reid – Testing Solutions Group, United Kingdom
The co-editors of ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119 Software Testing and members of WG26 are:

Anne Mette Hass (editor of ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119-3) – KOMBIT, Denmark
Jon Hagar (product editor of ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119) – USA
Matthias Daigl (editor of ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119-5) – Koln University, Germany
Prof Qin Liu (co-editor of ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119-4) – School of Software Engineering, Tongji University, China
Sylvia Veeraraghavan (editor of ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119-2) – Mindtree, India
Dr Tafline Murnane (editor of ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119-4) – K. J. Ross & Associates, Australia
Wonil Kwon (ISO/IEC 33063 Process Assessment Model for Software testing processes) – Software Testing Alliances, South Korea

(Source: http://bit.ly/wg26201312)

As of September 12, that page had changed:

The convenor of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC7 WG26 is:

Dr Stuart Reid – Testing Solutions Group, United Kingdom
The co-editors of ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119 Software Testing and members of WG26 are:

Anne Mette Hass (editor of ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119-3) – KOMBIT, Denmark
Jon Hagar (product editor of ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119) – USA
Matthias Daigl (editor of ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119-5) – Koln University, Germany
Prof Qin Liu (co-editor of ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119-4) – School of Software Engineering, Tongji University, China
Sylvia Veeraraghavan (editor of ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119-2) – Janaagraha, India
Dr Tafline Murnane (editor of ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119-4) – K. J. Ross & Associates, Australia
Wonil Kwon (ISO/IEC 33063 Process Assessment Model for Software testing processes) – Software Testing Alliances, South Korea

(Source: http://bit.ly/wg26201409)

Anne Mette Hass‘ affiliation has been listed as KOMBIT for several years. Her LinkedIn history suggests other possible connections. There, as of September 14, 2014, she is listed as a Compliance Consultant for NNIT. A search for “29119” in NNIT’s web site leads quickly to an events page (http://www.nnit.com/pages/Events.aspx, retrieved September 14, 2014) that features a promotion for “Webinar – The Core of Testing, Dynamic Testing Process, According to ISO 29119.” Prior to this, once again according to LinkedIn, Ms. Hass worked for Delta, a Danish test consultancy. A search for “29119” on Delta’s site leads quickly to a page that begins “DELTA’s experts participate as key players in a variety of national and international norms and standardization groups”. ISO 29119 is listed as one of those international standards.

I presume that Jon Hagar, with no affiliation listed, is the “semi-retired” editor to whom Dr. Reid refers. Per LinkedIn, he is currently an independent consultant. Prior to this, Jon was an Engineer-Manager of Software Testing at Lockheed Martin.

Matthias Daigl‘s affiliation is listed as on the Working Group’s roster as “Koln University”, yet his profile on LinkedIn lists him as “Managing Consultant at imbus”. It makes no mention of Koln University. On the imbus.de site, you can find this page, which includes this paragraph: “Represented by our managing consultant Matthias Daigl we take an active part in the development of the series 29119. Matthias Daigl is a member of the DIN norm commission 043-01-07 ‘Software und System-Engineering’ and he is one of the two Germans who belong to the international ISO/IEC JTC 1 subcommittee 07 workgroup 26 ‘Software testing’ working on the standard 29119 with test experts from the whole world. There the imbus consultant has the editor role for the part 29119-5.”

There are several listings for Qin Liu on LinkedIn. One of them refers to an associate professor at Tongji University.

Dr. Tafline Murname‘s affiliation is with KJ Ross and Associates. “KJ Ross provide you with independent software quality expertise, either in-house, fully outsourced or a blend of both. With 100 local and 3000 offshore trained test consultants on hand, our service is carried out to national and international standards, including ISO/IEC 29119 and ISO/IEC 17025.” It is worth noting that KJ Ross does not explicitly offer 29119 consulting services on its Web site; if it is marketing such services, it is not doing so aggressively.

Wonil Kwon is listed as “Software Testing Alliances, South Korea”. LinkedIn shows this affiliation, along with one for STEN, a testing consultancy. http://www.sten.or.kr/index.php.

Sylvia Veeraraghavan‘s affiliation according to the Working Group roster page suddenly changed on or about September 3, 2014. She is now with Janaagraha, a charity. Prior to that, though, she was with Mindtree, a company that assertively touts its part in developing 29119, and which sells related consulting services.

So, let’s review the claim of affiliations for the seven editors as currently listed on the page.

A government department. Dr. Reid apparently refers to Matt Mansell, affiliated with the Department of Internal Affairs, New Zealand. This description is consistent with Mr. Mansell’s current and past affiliations on LinkedIn. Oddly, Mr. Mansell’s name is no longer listed among the editors; he was formerly given credit as the editor of 29119-1.

A charity. Technically true, but Ms. Veeraraghavan very recently resigned from a large testing consultancy; a lucky break for Dr. Reid in terms of the timing of his response to the petition.

Two small testing consultancies and a mid-size consultancy. Ms. Hass, Mr. Daigl, and Mr. Kwon currently work for testing consultancies, and until very recently, Ms. Veeraraghavan did too. Ms. Murname also works for a consultancy that touts her work on ISO 29119, and notes that its services “are carried out to national and international standards, including ISO/IEC 29119”.

A university. Two per the roster, but of these only one claim—Qin Liu’s—is supported by LinkedIn. Why is Mr. Daigl listed as being with Koln University? Could it be because of this? https://www.imbus.de/english/academy/certified-tester/

One semi-retired. True.

Finally, note that when Dr. Reid lists the editors of the standards, he does not refer to himself, even though he is arguably the most publicly prominent member of the Working Group, and its convenor. Dr. Reid is the CTO of Testing Solutions Group, a testing services consultancy. From TSG’s Web site: “For companies looking to make the switch to ISO 29119, TSG can provide help with implementation or measure how closely existing processes conform to the standard and an action plan to being about compliance.” (sic) (Source: http://www.testing-solutions.com/services/stqa/iso-29119-implementation).

Six of nine core members of the working group appear to be affiliated with consultancies. Why does Dr. Reid offer a different assessment? Would it be to distract from the appearance of a conflict of interest?

In addition, Dr. Reid states:

There is also no link between the ISO/IEC/IEEE Testing Standards and the ISTQB tester certification scheme.

That’s interesting. No link, eh?

(All links retrieved 18 September, 2014.)

I observe that, as Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. It will be very interesting to watch what happens over the next few years.

So, has Dr. Reid been transparent, forthcoming, and credible about affiliations between himself and the editors (who, in his words, do the majority of the work) and organizations that are positioned to benefit from the standard? Has the Working Group diligently upheld and documented its compliance with ISO’s Codes of Conduct?

Those who support the standard, when you can find them, often tout the advantages of an international language for testing. I’ve written against this idea in the past. However, it is true that Latin was used as an international language for a long time. To this day, some phrases survive in common parlance: Cui bono? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

One final note: Investigation is not well served by standardization. I did not follow a standardized process in preparing this report.

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9 responses to “Dramatis Personae”

  1. Anne Mette Hass says:

    I think this ‘war’ against the ISO standard is so sad. Nobody has set out to or want to harm anybody else with this work. The more variation we have in viewpoints and the more civilized be can debate, the wiser we get as times go by.

    There is no way the standard ever wanted to become or ever will become a ‘kalifat’.

    So why are you ‘wasting’ so much time and energy on this? What are you afraid of?

    Best regards,
    Anne Mette

    PS. I’m likely not to answer if you answer me – I have better things to do.

    Michael replies: This comment earns its own blog post.

  2. Laurent Bossavit says:

    Here is a quote from Anne-Mette Hass, one of the 29119 editors:

    “The ISO 29119 is based on the ISTQB syllabi, and, as far as I understand, it is the intention that the ISO 29119 testing process and testing documentation definitions will be adopted by ISTQB over time.”

    Source: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10152731672549009&id=144926394008

    Not only is there a link, this statement makes it clear that the link is in both directions: the standard is tailored to the certification and vice versa.

  3. Freddy Vega says:

    Michael,

    Re: “Why does Dr. Reid offer a different assessment? Would it be to distract from the appearance of a conflict of interest?”

    Although your interpretation for the reasons regarding the above appears to be valid, there are others as well. Here is mine:
    Could it be possible that he is listing the companies that are sponsoring the members of the ISO? In other words the companies that are listed on their roster?

    Michael replies: Of course there are many possible interpretations. Dr. Reid is free to offer his own, and were he to do so, people would be free to accept or reject the explanation based on their interpretation of the facts and of Dr. Reid’s credibility.

    Meanwhile, if the companies that are sponsoring the members of the working group are avid certificationists, such that selling certifications are part of their business model, I would say the potential exists for them to ramp up their marketing in a very predatory way: by exploiting the reputation of the ISO, and by advocating for “voluntary” standards to be adopted by large organizations and governments. The ISO itself is clear on the potential for standards to become mandatory (“ISO and IEC standards can be used to support and simplify the process of development and application of technical regulations”; http://bit.ly/VoluntaryOrMandatory; so is the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (http://nist.gov/standardsgov/definestandards.cfm; see the second last paragraph). Whether the organizations supporting or promoting standards like 29119 are being ethical or rent-seeking is a decision that I leave here to the reader.

    For example I represent myself and sometimes a company, but never both at the same time.

    Thoughts?

    I wonder about that; never? In the past, I’ve been in positions where I was acting or speaking on behalf of my company in technical support, at trade shows, in the press, and in court. In those cases, my identity and that of the company were associated and intertwined with each other. I would not have been able to do do my job nor sustain my personal ethics unless my own values and the company’s values had been aligned; and I felt duty-bound to be a good representative for my company in public situations.

    I believe that you’ve pointed out in other forums that if someone cannot support the company’s agenda or the task that she has been assigned, she should quit. If I felt that being associated with an organization’s policies were damaging to my reputation, I’d view quitting as a serious option too; and if I were speaking or behaving in a way that was offensive to my employer, I’m sure that would have repercussions at work.

    I notice that you’ve provided your own name before the @ symbol and your company’s domain in your return email address; it seems like your identity and your company’s are associated, at least on that level.

    As for me, right now, my company and myself are pretty much inseparable; I’m self-employed. Even so, and somewhat frustratingly, I’ve still never made Employee of the Month.

  4. Freddy Vega says:

    Michael,

    As well, those are some very interesting links to the ISTQB from the editors. Certainly worth exploring more. And I will do so.

    FV

    Michael replies: You might also want to check out the quote from Anne Mette Hass that Laurent Bossavit has helpfully provided in a comment here, and contrast that with Dr. Reid’s assertion that “no link between the ISO/IEC/IEEE Testing Standards and the ISTQB tester certification scheme”.

  5. Thomas Sullivan says:

    Michael, a hearty thanks for the thorough and telling research. Dr. Reid and company present an example of propaganda in action so perfectly sinister that it’s dazzling to behold. First, surround yourself with people that agree with you or with whom you have a common, self-serving interest. Second, paint these people with the right color of make-up so that they collectively appear to be a random, unbiased sampling of your professional community. Third, present this group as “the voice of reason” in your profession, against whom any other party appears to be on the lunatic fringe. And finally, calmly pick up your carefully crafted propaganda truncheon and beat your opposition into submission and silence when they dare to counter your agenda. On the other hand, Holmes needs his Moriarty. Maybe this whole situation will dispose the rest of us to become more focused. It’s certainly done that for me.

  6. This reminds me that I need to brief the NNIT PR department next time I have articles published, so that can make it on the website too. 🙂

    Jesper
    Context-driven as Context allows
    Test manager at NNIT (an IT consultancy)
    Committee member for Copenhagen Context 2015.

  7. […] questions continue to be posed, and strong analyses of who is involved and what they’ve said in the past continues. A usual suspect has […]

  8. […] of the people behind the creation of ISO 29119 stand to profit if the standard is introduced. Interestingly, Fiona’s opposition to ISO 29119 comes despite […]

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