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Specification by Example: How Successful Teams Deliver the Right Software Paperback – 6 Jun 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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About the Author

A UK based consultant, Gojko Adzic helps teams worldwide implement specification by example and agile testing practices. He has written two previous books on the subject and contributed to several open source projects supporting specification by example. Gojko is a frequent speaker at leading software development and testing conferences and runs the UK Agile Testing User Group.


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This book is a tragically missed opportunity to sell Specification by Example into organisations.

Whilst brimming with "good ideas", Specification by Example ironically seems to lack the very thing that would make it more useful i.e. examples. Instead, the author, Gojko Adzic, relies on a series of quotes and opinions from interviews with research subjects in organisations that he identifies have adopted these practices. This is fine if you already "get" what the practices are about, but it doesn't really teach you how to go about doing it. Consequently, it's not a particularly engaging read.

One of the things that niggled at me throughout the book was the assertion that the primary goal is to automate your acceptance tests. He then goes on to suggest (from his research anecdotes) that this is actually very hard to do in a maintainable way. From personal experience, I would agree with this. So why set your readers up to feel they've failed?

My own experience has lead me believe that you don't have to automate your acceptance tests to get value from Specification by Example. Simply having requirements that stand up to the scrutiny of testing adds significant value and is something I have explored successfully with a number of teams. This has lead these teams to automate certain tests where appropriate and leave others to the domain of manual or exploratory testing.

The supporting practices explored in this book (including TDD and automated testing) are a hard sell in most organisations as there is a perception that they slow down delivery. Whilst this is an obvious over-simplification, the counter argument needs to be presented in more management-friendly language than is used here. A series of simple case studies would be more compelling than the quotes and vox-pops favoured by the author.
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Format: Paperback
The book is very helpful in emphasizing how important it is to understand customer requirements and how to get it implemented so it meets the customer's needs.
The author is very ambitious in defining new terms for terminology already given by others in the field of software development processes. But as the author puts it: Terms are not so important. It's the way how you live the process especially the requirements and testing process. How you name it is secondary and may be 3% of importance.
Good cooperation and open communication are most important part when developing software.
Living documentation is another identified key factor for success of software projects which is described in the book. Documentation is usually out of date as requirements change.
In Specification By Example the author describes the concept of executable specifications which are automated tests that read like documentation.
This kind of documentation is always up to date, because it's run daily against the software to test it.
I personally also love the idea that you should define the scope with the customer. Customers mostly have solutions in mind when they talk to a software company. Finding out what the customer's goals are and maybe even how to save the customer money is a key requirement for software companies these days.
Do not blindly follow customer requirements but consulting them. We have to thank Gojko Adzic
for putting together the experience made by over 50 companies around the globe when developing
software and writing it down in this well-organized book.
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Format: Paperback
This book is great.
While as other reviewers have noted, it does not say anything "new" from a technical perspective, this is a great "glue it together" book, which focuses on bringing together the ideas of continuous integration while developing, and starting with example-based acceptance test driven stories and requirements to drive customer value and success in projects.
This is not a technical book, and reads simply and straightforwardly. To be honest, to such a point, that at the beginning, I was saying to myself "So what? I know all this" - but the great joy of the book is that it leads by example by using examples (case studies) to explain how to go about making the idea of continuously developed specification and test harnesses actually take root and flower within an organisation. As with all great user stories, it gives you the context and the criteria to prove success.
I would recommend reading this book with "Test Driven" (also Manning) and "the RSpec Book" (Pragmatic) to complete out a full, detailed view - and probably also recommend reading it with a decent requirements book (Wiegers), and a decent agile methodology book if you are starting out, as these will help you to flesh out the ideas within (maybe even "the Secret Ninja Cucumber Scrolls" for a Cucumber approach (wink)).
If I have but one criticism, it is that I do not recall an example for my situation - trying to influence multiple development suppliers to take on this approach (i.e. delivering to a central corporate client managing application delivery and support). Maybe the next update will contain this...
If I have but one piece of praise to single out, it is that I used the book just yesterday to talk about using some of the ideas contained within to improve reliability on a legacy system. I think "I use it" is the highest piece of praise you can give to such a book.
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