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An Insight to Software Testing Policies and Strategies used by Expert Test Managers

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An Insight to Software Testing Policies & Strategies used by Expert Test Managers

There can be a very high level of management at an organizational or corporate level. This might be limited to a definition of how testing is expected to be conducted throughout the organisation.

Wherever organizations have ISTQB certified Test Managers, the management of software testing can be done either at the programme level or at individual project level.

For every such level of test management there is an associated document. When structured in a top-down fashion, it is called the test management documentation hierarchy.

An example of this is shown in the following figure. It provides a basic model for test management by the test managers from which to gain an understanding of the relationships between documents used to manage software testing at different levels.

The figure outlined above is a simple and consistent model that is generally applicable to large organizations having a mature testing culture. The hierarchy identifies

a single overall organizational software testing policy, a testing strategy for each individual project, a project test plan for each project and a set of level test plans that elaborate the detailed test planning for each test level of each project.

Broadly what do we mean by a Test Policy?
A test policy represents an organization’s overall attitude and approach to testing.

Documented test policies are not all that common, but many organizations have a quality policy which covers a definition of what testing must achieve, while others may incorporate quality and testing into a corporate mission statement, such as ‘All systems available round the clock’. A test policy is generic in nature.

What should the best contents of a Test Policy document?
Although there are no industry-standard for the contents of a test policy but the following could be the possibly included.

1) Definition of what ‘software testing’ means in the organization (i.e. how much software testing the organization expects to be done on software products).

2) The test process to be followed (e.g. the Fundamental Test Process).

3) General standards and criteria for software testing in projects (which may depend on classification of projects as critical, large, small etc.), especially acceptance criteria.

4) Use of tools to support software testing, including the tool set to be used where appropriate.

5) Definition of software testing terms such as test level, test type, test condition to clarify their use in other documents.

6) How the value of software testing will be measured (e.g. by assessing the cost of software testing to prevent defects versus the cost of repair when a defect is found).

7) Identification of standard software development life cycle(s) and associated testing life cycle(s) used in the organization.

8) The approach to test process improvement (e.g. seeking customer feedback as part of an overall quality plan, staff training).

What are the Advantages of having a documented Test Policy?
A well-documented test policy can provide following benefits.

1) Visible commitment to the test effort at an organizational level;

2) Definition of key processes that must be followed;

3) Definition of quality levels that must be achieved throughout testing.

4) Provides a mechanism for encouraging standardization across different projects.

What do we mean by a Test Strategy?
A test strategy generally refers to an overall approach to testing of a specific project or a product. It is based upon the requirements described in the test policy document, if it happens to be there in the organization.

A test strategy can relate to an organization, to departments within an organization or to individual projects. There can be standard test strategy templates, used at a high level across all projects within an organization, or lower down, across projects of similar functionality (e.g. a bank may have a test strategy template for use by all projects involved in online banking).

Documented test strategies are much more common compared to documented test policies.

What should the best contents of a Test Strategy document?
As for the test policy, there are no industry-standard for the contents of a test strategy but the following could be the possibly included.

1) Standards to be followed (e.g. those required for the defence, transport, pharmaceutical and banking industries to name a few, plus process standards such as the Capability Maturity Model (CMMI) and the International Organization for Standardization quality set - the ISO 9000 set).

2) Test levels to be used (such as increased emphasis on user acceptance testing in an iterative model, all levels in the V model).

3) Test types to be used (such as functional, structure-based, non-functional testing and experience-based).

4) Test design techniques to be used (such as equivalence partitioning, decision testing and error guessing).

5) Approach to retesting and regression testing (usually all changes will be retested, and regression cycles specified (e.g. weekly or by number of changes included)).

6) The amount of testing to be carried out on reused components (depending on the extent of reuse).

7) Entry and exit criteria to be used for each level of testing (such as 100 per cent decision coverage at unit and integration test levels).

8) Incident management (reporting, follow-up and analysis).

9) Definition of test environments to be used.

10) Use of tools to support testing.

The above list is not the ultimate one & may be modified according to the needs of the organization.

What are the Advantages of having a documented Test Strategy document?
1) The business will understand what is required from them in order to conduct software testing (such as their assessment of risks, well-defined requirements);

2) The project management team will have early detailed knowledge of what will be required for software testing and can plan budgets accordingly (such as test tools and the test environment);

3) The development team will understand their contribution to the test effort (such as frozen code, 100 per cent decision coverage achieved at unit or integration testing);

4) The test team will understand what needs to be done, such as usage of test design technique and criteria they must meet for each stage of testing (usually system and acceptance testing).

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