Test Planning

When you are planning for your tests, either small-scale plans, just to look at a single feature or change, or more complex plans for testing and application there are a few steps you can go through to help ensure you have to revisit your plan only when your understanding of the SIT changes rather than the requirements for the plan changing.

Be clear from the start who is using your plan, is it just for you to help plan what you are going to test? is it for the test team to allow for a shared understanding? or will it be used by the wider project?

Having an understand of this will enable you to include the information that the rest of the audience need for the plan to be helpful for them. You may find that a single plan isn’t sufficient as different people require dramatically different information.

Where the test team may only need a loose plan to help the achieve good coverage the project manager could be wanting to understand resources or duration and stakeholders may want to be able to see that what they are worried about is getting sufficient testing to give them comfort once live it will be reliable.

Understanding the differing requirements for any plan you make can help you produce one that is fit for purpose, in my experience the easiest way to do this, is to create an outline of the plan, something that doesn’t take too much time to do, and share it with those who will be looking at your final plan, speak with them about what it tells them and what they need to know that they can not see, incorporate what you can, make compromises where there are too many conflicting needs.

This will help you create a plan that works well for most people the first time and hopefully reduce the number of times you need to revisit the plan.

Do you know what testing is?

So you are working on a project, large or small and you are working with a variety of stakeholders, some may know what testing is, some may think they know what testing is, and some have never even thought about it.
So what do you do?
For me this one is an easy thing to address, I tell them all what testing is to me, in small bit size pieces. Using plain English, and alway checking back with them about what they mean when they use technical language, always phrased as ” just so I can understand..” not so I can correct them, so I can make sure I really know what they mean, This goes for technical people more than any, I sat in a meeting with a system architect lead, interface lead and developer lead, and they all had a different definition to unit testing (or developer testing). If I hadn’t asked it would have gone unsaid, assuming they all meant the same things.
People who don’t know what testing is, you have to show them the value you bring, demonstrate why what you do, makes their lives easier. Telling them isn’t enough, they have to see what you bring to the table otherwise you are just some strange IT role.
Be open and inclusive invite people to see what you do, help them see why you ask the questions you do, and never fear being challenged, just make sure when you respond to that challenge its positive, clear, easy to understand and relevant, they aren’t saying your wrong, or not needed, they are really saying I don’t understand why often with little realisation that this drives what they are saying.
If you want to do well in the professional world being able to demonstrate your worth is a skill that is worth developing, as the way you demonstrate it has to change according to the audience, you have to be able to explain in terms anyone can understand and defend why you have done or are doing what you are, especially if they come with preconceptions about what it is you do.
James Bach and Micheal Bolton tester story is an invaluable tool here (These are the people who I first saw this from not sure who’s idea it was first) It gives a framework within which to think about the differing side of what you are doing, and how to address questions about it to support why you have chosen to do what you have, when you have.
It’s all about understanding, what the concerns are, and how you can provide assurance to the stakeholder who raised it, that you will be able to provide them with proof/information/demonstration of that area so they can make a judgement on how happy they are with it, for example, in my current project the speed of order entry for the trade sales team is very important, they need to be able to work through an order flow, including placing individual lines on an order at the speed of speach. We are addressing this through demonstartaions and timings of screen loading, so the Trade sales manager can see how fast it is and make a judgement of if they are happy with that.

New Year, New Challanges

So i hope everyones new year is going well, so far mine has kicked of to a great start, got my certificate for successfully completing the foundation BBST testing course, very happy about that. I highly recommend the course, it’s packed full of great material.
I also gave a well received presentation on the test strategy for the ERP project at work to the 30 or so core individuals of both work and the reseller of AX that are helping with the config and installation, lots of questions, hopefully answered to everyone’s satisfaction. Its been a long time since i’ve done any presentations so I was rather rusty, so I watched a few good presentations and did plenty of prep to ensure I knew what I wanted to say and at a good speed.
Now I have the challenge of moving it forwards, so I have a couple of exercises to detail, one to help them understand the initial activity of working out what we could test, I’m planning on taking a simple object and running a session or working out what all the testable elements of that are. Secondly I’m going to try running a version of the dice game, so they can practice thinking about how they understand something.
Then I just have to plan out how I’m going to train some people who’ve never tested before, so they can help out testing on the project.
Busy times ahead.

Test strategy

Over the past few months I’ve been working on a test strategy at work, some foundations for doing better testing, it’s been a lot of work but I’m slowing getting there.
There’s been a lot of re education, and educating from the start for a variety of levels of people across the business.
yesterday was, in my mind a break through, It’s been agreed in principal, and will be used on one of the largest projects we have done at work. 
How did i get to this point?
A lot of conversations, me learning enough about all the elements that I could answer any question, and debate any point with any person. repeating myself, in a variety of meeting with the same people. Having confidence in what i’m doing helps as well, the fact I truly believe that this is the right thing for us really help, I think at times it overwhelms my restraint and I can get a bit pushy with it, I do try to reign it in though.
So where am I know with it, I have a strategy doc, it needs a bit of additional detail around the edges, but we are moving forwards with it, and in the new year we will begin the implementation of it for the project, Really looking forward to that.
If you believe you can help the quality of testing where you work, you can make a difference, it takes passion, and patience, you have to be prepared and able to explain any part of context driven testing, at a multitude of levels, to a variety of people. If you can do this, you can slowly bring them around to seeing the benefits of doing it. You have to be aware of your work places particular worries, and hang ups, so you can address those in detail, and with confidence, if you don’t sound like you know it’s going to work, and be an improvement, you are not going to convince anyone else either.
Make sure it rests on a base of solid detail and fact, with actionable processes that satisfy your works needs. I started with the Dev team leader nearly a year ago, why him? because I have a good working relationship with him, and his opinions are well respected by the heads of IT, so when I got him on board I had a powerful ally. You don’t have to start with the main decision maker, its often easier to start with those that surround them, and slowly work your way along, addressing worries, providing details, and example, showing how it could work for you.
If they say no, find out why, understand what’s behind that, go away and understand that, and how you can address it. Its an achievable goal, you just need to make that first step.

Counting those Test Cases

So we are working through a test strategy for a big software rollout at work, change of ERP for those of you that are interested.
As you will have read in my earlier posts we have a consultant in to help us with this, He’s done a great job of highlighting some pitfalls we have overlooked, and suggested some thing that we really need to be considering. However he also has a huge amount of work in his overview for writing test cases, writing test scripts , then running those test scripts. I have challenged him on this, I have suggested that we would be much better of if we used Exploratory Testing, and get the SME’s (subject matter expert) to use this rather than us writing thousands of test cases which, mostly will need rewriting as soon as the business gets a good look at the software and changes a load of stuff, like they normally do.
He seemed bemused that I’d want to take this approach on such an important project. I did my best to explain the benefits of the context driven approach, but I’m new to the whole thing, so we will see how well I do when we attempt to restructure the plan today.
Any pointers on how to sway people are gratefully accepted.

So that Consultant Test Manager…..

Well he’s been in for a week today, we have bombarded him with info, he’s taken a fair chunk on board, not done much questioning though, not sure why. I am sure it’s not because we have covered all angles.
I should get a chance to see his strategy doc either today or monday, from what I have gathered so far it’s going to revolve around the factory school approach. So he’s looks like he’ll be suggesting a more longer time frame, or higher resource requirement.
So hopefully in the next couple of days i’ll get the time to talk through with him about an alternative approach, he does seem open to the ideas of exploratory testing, and context driven testing, he’s just nervous about it in a project as I don’t think he’s ever taken that leap.

We’ll see how that goes.

He is thankfully highlighting the risks for the business about what we are doing, and how much work is involved, so we should be viewing those more seriously now we have a paid for opinion on the matter, more on that another time.

What have i learnt from this week so far, just because they have years of experience, doesn’t make them a better tester than someone who has a better understanding of the context.
That experience has helpful insights but it can also carry over problems from their experiences.

we’ll see how the next week goes.


New project

Well I get to move on to a massive new project in the next few weeks, really excited about it, I’m nominally named as the test lead, not like there will be many people to lead though, we do have a new tester starting in november, taking to total number of dedicated testers to two, I know good isnt it. I should have some project resources for testing as well though.
Why am I so excited though? Well its my opportunity to demonstrate that exploratory testing is a worth while thing to be doing, that gives tangible results, and  works on the largest of projects, this is the biggest thing we are going to be doing any time soon.
The downside, I get this wrong and they won’t support ET any time soon, that and it could cost me my job, but hey I’m willing to take the risk, as I believe it will work and that we will show them that test case counting is pointless and a waste of valuable resources, and you never know i might get a new job out of it if I can play my cards right.
We are going to be installing a new ERP over the coming months, I suspect longer than they currently think, but that’s definitely for another time, and I will be responsible for providing updates on testing, bug tracking, test management and resource coordination, currently. We are getting a consultant in to help produce a strategy, and give realistic time frames and resource requirements for testing a project of this size, how much we agree is something that I will find out when they get this guy in. I might even post about it if it goes well.
I plan on ET with session based management to ease the company into the realms of real testing. that I will most definitely post about as I go along. It all starts in around 4 weeks for me. Here’s to it going well, lots of hard work but I am looking forward to it.


Test Strategy

Where I work I am the only tester who is employed to work on general software testing, we have a small team that works on the web site, they are quite separate to the rest of the business though, and constantly engaged in testing patches and updates, as you’d expect.

So my boss asked me to write a test strategy for the business, as you’d imagine I was over the moon at the chance to move us towards good quality testing, and away from meaningless metrics.
I thought the best place to start would be James Bach’s heuristics strategy, as its broad and easy to apply, and to that I have added some information about session based test management to give them some comfort around easily understood measures and metrics that will fill the void of the pointless test case counting graphs.
It has been broadly accepted by my boss, I suspect he doesn’t actually understand it, even though when I ask him about it, he assures me he does, and requires no further explanation, I do however have the dev team leader totally on board with it, and he loves the way it works, and is trying to support it as much as he is able, which is fantastic.
However we are about to undertake a major project to install a new ERP , AX to be specific and they are looking for a consultant to help write the test strategy for this project, now obviously I’ve asked why we are not using the strategy they just asked me to write, and I’ve been assured that any consultant will be writing a test strategy, with me based on what I have already done.
The downside is the CV’s that are coming in all read like factory school of testing grads, and I’m not looking forwards to having to counter everything they say about how I want us to go about testing, when I need them to support me in attempting to explain that we can not test an ERP with me and may be a couple of others in 4 months.
I really wish I knew some ET testing consultants in the area who were able to come in and help, they would still have to get past my boss and the project manager, but they would at least be starting with the advantage that they would be supporting the test strategy my boss has already said he wants to use.
He does however keep going on about getting in a consultant to ask about best practices, it’s deeply frustrating.
well minor rant over, pointers however more than welcome