When I was still a young boy, just before the end of apartheid and the dawn of democracy most of the adults were predominantly employed in three professions teaching, police and nursing. The rest of the black population were either working in factories or tradesman job. What fascinated me was that if the folks who worked in factories or tradesman saw you using a hammer to nail down screws they will lose their minds while shouting “Use the right tool for the right job (You idiot in some cases)”. This saying is one of the phrases that are used both literally and figuratively. Most stressed this point as it could lead to one being fired. As I grew older I noticed that most of the tools that this generation used did not come with user manuals because most of them were illiterate. The picture below shows some of the tools the prior mentioned old saying applies to.
The first wave of tools that most people were exposed to with user manuals were household tools like an iron, washing machine, kettle, TV remote control to name a few. These manuals were at most less than 20 pages. If you have used any of the tools mentioned above it was never a train smash when a new version is released because if you used one you have used them all.There is a new phone release every year. The first thing we do upon getting the phone is to disable user guide tips feature.
Things have changed. The doors to semi-skilled and skilled profession are now open to all. IT industry unfortunately has manuals that will give you a nose bleed. The tools we use in IT are far more complex than the tools our predecessors used. I like to compare the test tool to a whole tool box instead of a spanner or a wrench because the tool comes with a lot of features that do different things. The test management tool used in testing HP ALM has a manual with pages north of a thousand. Its counterpart HP UFT user guide has +/- 2274 pages. The user guides were compiled by the company that created these tools not for fun but to assist users use the tools optimally.
The tools used in IT have training courses design just to equip users on how those tools are used as a result the manuals that comes with the tool is not for regulatory compliance purposes as is the case in some field. In one of the company that I worked for I came across a colleague implementing changes in their test case. The change was to add a new step in a test case of 35 steps. After inserting the step now the test case had two same number (1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8…35). When I joined the whole movie it was when the numbers were being changed one by one. I must say it was painful to watch. I asked why you don’t reorder them automatically. How? That was the questions. I took the mouse and hover it over the icon as shown below.
After the icon was clicked the step numbers were reordered without a hassle. The gratitude you get for showing someone something this simple will give you mixed feelings. When you have graphical user interface but you are not familiar with it, if you hover the mouse over each icon you see , you will get a tool tip which tells you the primary function of that particular icon.
Reading the manual might seem like a waste of time to most people but I can assure you even just reading the table of contents will give you an idea of what is at your disposal when you need it. The culture of reading user manual does not come easy I must say. When I started my internship I had a mentor who will give me a task to do and all the materials needed to complete the task. After installing the tool I begun creating a report I was tasked to do. I got stuck because I did not know how to configure the layout of the IDE to show some of the menus required to complete the task. I boldly stood up and walked to his workstation for clarity. He took of his headset , silently pointed at a notice on his board written “RTFM”. I asked what does that mean, he said “google it”. After he put the headset back on. I went back to my desk and did just that. At first I thought this treatment was racially motivated. I read the manual end to end for about a month. It was there that I discovered the inefficiency in the current design of the reports. I was then dubbed the “report guru” not because I was smarter than everyone but because I was the one who knows what the tool can do and what were its limitations. Needless to say as painful as it was to read the overwhelming manual which seemed to have a lot of irrelevant information to the problem I had, it taught me to use the manual as a reference tool.
“A bad workman blames his tools” is another old saying that might as well have been derived from actually “using the right tool for the right job without reading the manual”. There are telltale signs of when the tool is not being used properly
The instructor led training offered on tools used are there to scratch the surface. “HP ALM Essentials” they could have easily named this course “Mastering HP ALM” but they did not want to promise something that is virtually impossible to deliver in 5 days. You can get your resources one of the best expensive tool there is in the market but if they are not trained or are not encouraged to read the manual that comes with the tools all that money is wasted.