Testing for GREAT Results – Effective Testing Techniques

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As we all know, we NEVER have enough time for testing. Because testing typically comes as the end of the project lifecycle, any delays from deliverables in the early phases of the project impact the testing efforts. The amount of time to test is usually reduced to meet a promised end date provided to our customers and sponsor. By reducing the testing time, this brings risk to the project by jeopardizing the quality and stability of the product when it is implemented. The trick to good testing is doing it EARLY in the project lifecycle and to perform testing efficiently and effectively. Working with your customer early in the project to derive a MANDATORY set of tests that must be performed can also alleviate some of the pressure to “cut corners”.

The following techniques will enable you to test critical product deliverables for accuracy and completeness:

• Take walkthroughs/reviews SERIOUSLY. This is a great opportunity for you to “test” the product EARLY in the project lifecycle. Types of documents that should be reviewed thoroughly include: requirements, high level design, detail design, technical specifications, business process models, user training materials, site maps, and any other key paper products that are produced. An ideal walkthrough will have 10 or less people, it will have the RIGHT people at the meeting, and follows a clear agenda. Attendees should be required to review the documentation PRIOR to the meeting. Cancel walkthroughs if you don’t get the right attendees and/or if people have not had time to review the documentation ahead of time. There is no sense in wasting time by having a walkthrough if the meeting only serves to give people a chance to review the material. The project manager should ensure the walkthrough is EFFECTIVE – not just a checkmark to say a requirement that is part of the company’s methodology has been completed.

• Ensure that walkthroughs are managed with a checklist to ensure corporate standards are being followed and provide a guideline of items to look for in a “good” product. It is one thing to find deficiencies in a product, but it is much more effective if a standard is established for product quality. Have several different people review product deliverables for accuracy and thoroughness. This should include people from various business units, different hierarchical levels within the organization, and technical experts.

• Establish few approvers. Having too many approvers slows down the process. Two to three approvers maximum per deliverable is recommended.

• Provide templates of good product deliverables that have been produced for other projects. People can mimic a good document and apply their expertise for the document they are trying to create.

  • Attack the product – not the person. A good walkthrough finds defects to be corrected; consider that this can be hard for the creator of the product. Keep to the facts and be thankful when you find defects. Reward a team based on the number of defects they find in their products and the ability for their recommendations to be incorporated into the final product! This will serve to remind the team that it is drastically cheaper to correct a defect now vs. later in the product development lifecycle.

    • Perform lessons learned throughout the project lifecycle. When you get into the Execution phase and you begin to realize the requirements were indeed not specific enough, write down the questions you SHOULD HAVE asked during the walkthrough. This will serve to help you avoid some of the same problems in future projects. Establish a standard procedure to add these questions to your checklist to be used in future walkthroughs.

    • Create separate checklists for each type of product deliverable to be reviewed. Each product will have unique qualities that need to be addressed.

    • Utilize a variety of review points to ensure a good walkthrough, including: scope that should not be in the solution, misinterpretation of the content of the document, information this is wrong, not enough detail for the “next” person/department who will be using this document, information that is missing, and misspellings or misuse of words based on corporate culture.

During the Execution Phase of your testing efforts you need to be efficient to maximize the effective use of the time you’ll have to perform the testing. A great tool to manage this effort is a traceability matrix. This matrix can be created using a spreadsheet or database. To build this tool, create a unique identifier for each requirement and list them down the left-most column of the traceability matrix spreadsheet. Next, identify every test case and list those across the top-most row of the spreadsheet. The matrix “boxes” are then filled in to:

• Ensure each requirement gets tested (not over or under tested)
• Ensure each requirement is not too complicated
• Each test case is used (or ensure “discarded” test cases AREN’T executed)
• Ensure each test case is not too complex by trying to test too many requirements
• Provide a status reporting tool to report progress

Should you want a sample or template for this traceability matrix, you may send an email to info@mindavation.com.

Once all requirements have been tested successfully and identified defects corrected (or deferred to a future date) you can feel confident that your solution is ready for implementation with the level of quality desired. There are also many test management tools available on the market to help with managing your testing effort. Tools such as TestDirector by Mercury Interactive, Inc. and QADirector by Compuware are test management tools. If you go to the web and search on “test management tools” you’ll find lots of hits.

Testing is a very complicated component of project management. Testing helps us ensure the quality of the product will meet (or exceed!) our stakeholder expectations. By testing products early in the project lifecycle we can remove defects with less cost. By being efficient in our execution based testing efforts, we can maximize the impact of our testing efforts.

Denise DeCarlo is President of Mindavation, a company providing project management training & IT consulting, leadership workshops and team building programs worldwide. Mindavation can be reached atwww.mindavation.com or by calling 866-888-MIND (6463).


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