Planning Your Next Testing Assignment
Imagine you have been assigned the responsibility to oversee the testing of a new module being added to the company’s flag‐ship application! What a wonderful opportunity to challenge your skills and to show management you can handle the responsibility. Where do you start with this assignment? Do you dive in and start testing? Or do you take some time to lay out a testing approach?
There is value in the planning process to better understand the expectations, risks, timelines, and testing pproaches. Often people confuse test planning with heavy documentation. A light‐weight approach can be adopted by balancing the amount of time spent planning and the size of the test plan based upon the project’s scope and risk level.
To make the process easier, translate the word “PLAN” into four actionable steps: Prepare, Layout, Analyze, and Navigate. These steps can help you plan and manage your next testing assignment.
Prepare by gathering information to form a foundational knowledge base.
Understand Expectations and Deliverables
In defining a testing approach, understand the purpose of the assignment, the clients’ expectations, the deliverables and associated deadlines. It is helpful to understand how the client will use the module, importance to their business, and what features are more important to them. This will allow you to write better test guidelines and to properly allocate the testing time.
Review Documentation and Identify Contacts
An important aspect of the planning process is to review available documentation to identify initial questions and to
determine if critical information is missing. At this stage, consider the optimal skill‐sets required in your testing team and identify subject‐matter experts to contact with questions.
Layout the test plan in a concise manner selecting a medium that is most closely aligned with the project’s scope and risk level.
Create the Test Plan
As you gather the information, start to create the test plan using any word processing, spreadsheet, or online collaborative tool. The specific tool selected can be a personal preference as each one has its pros and cons. When assembling the document, consider using tables and bullet points to make it easier to read and locate information.
Another avenue is the use of low‐tech options such as: a white board, an easel board, or a notebook allowing you to quickly make changes and track progress. Whatever option is selected, keep the test plan concise to ensure it is used as a reference tool throughout testing.
Analyze the information to identify risks, milestones, communication, and testing approaches.
Identify Risks and Training
Review the assembled information to identify initial risks with approaches to minimize those risks and identify any training that is necessary. For example, the testers may need to be trained on a system that feeds into the module. Common risks include not having enough testers and insufficient testing time. This is not the time for panic but for creative solutions! Tap into the tester’s strengths; identify how to integrate testing approaches; and keep the approach agile by reducing heavy documentation. If there is a strong exploratory tester, consider allocating time upfront to identify the module’s weaker areas to assist in prioritizing the testing.
Identify Testing Approaches and Milestones
It is important to identify testing approaches that could include functional, regression, integration, and performance testing. Balance potential testing approaches with testing time and available testers to plan out rough time estimates considering any overlap across approaches. From this information, identify testing milestones to help measure the testing progress against the deliverable date.
Review the Test Plan with Stakeholders
While developing the test plan, review the test approach with the appropriate stakeholders to determine if anything important is missing and to gain buy‐in. It is better to discuss differences earlier in the project than to try and bridge miscommunication at the end of the project. This does not have to be a formal review as sometimes a meeting discussing the approach is sufficient. The frequency and the timing of communications with the stakeholders are dependent upon the scope and complexity of the project.
Navigate through testing by referencing the test plan and adjusting approaches based upon new knowledge.
Test Plans and Approaches Evolve
A test plan will provide strategic oversight to manage your testing assignment. Refer to the test plan periodically to ensure that the objectives and deliverables are being met; review identified risks to assess likelihood; and review milestones against the team’s progress for any corrective action. When reviewing the test plan, continue to identify new risks and determine if there is a need to change testing direction.
A test plan evolves throughout testing because test approaches are refined based upon additional knowledge gained through the test results. As testing progresses, risks may change, unexpected problems are encountered, and certain phases of testing may take longer than originally anticipated.The planning process is interwoven throughout test execution as it allows you to deal with the anticipated problems and the unknowns discovered during testing.
The test plan is a tool to develop an overall testing strategy and to provide guideposts to measure progress. The key to planning is to consider the project’s scope and risk level to determine how much time to devote to the planning process. Keep the test plan light‐weight by documenting information that is helpful in managing the project. Remember that the test plan is a living document. As you learn from the test results the test approach will adjust accordingly. Most importantly, enjoy your testing assignment by allowing the test plan to become one of the tools you use to successfully complete your mission.
Bernice Niel Ruhland
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