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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Some problems inherent in creating a software test plan - Part 1

Creating an effective software test plan & test cases is critical for the success of a software project. Sometimes, when teams are in a big hurry in terms of the time available for the project, there is a tendency to see whether some of this time can be compromised in terms of creating the test plans and test cases. Such compromises sometimes pay off (I will not say that teams get into trouble every time), but taking such short cuts means that you are indeed compromising on the quality of the end project, and dramatically increasing the risks that the project will run into serious problems.
So what are some of the problems that happen in creating a test plan:
- The test plan and test cases are not created by the people who have analysed the design. Typically, test plans and test cases should be created well in advance of the actual testing process; the test engineers should study the requirements and design, ensure that all their doubts are answered, and then start work on the testing documents. They should have access to the people who have created the requirements and the design documents, and be able to have a discussion where required. One big problem that occurs is when the test documents are prepared long after the requirements have been created (with the test engineers not being involved in the process). When such a situation happens, any doubts that the test engineers have in terms of the requirements or the design process are left unanswered and carry over to the actual test documents. If the discrepancy is minor, then such problems can go through to the actual product without much of an impact, but where this is a questions of requirements (consider cases such as weapons engineering, aerospace, financial, etc), such errors can be very significant, and yet not easily caught. End user testing does not really cover all the requirements of the users (especially in the case of complex requirements) and such errors can go all the way through to the actual finished product.

More details in part 2 ..

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