Top 3 questions to ask while creating a test plan

The general concept of software QA is fairly straightforward: to ensure that the solution is truly ready for market. However, this is easier said than done. Devising a test management strategy that adequately vets a solution and filters out potential defects demands a concerted effort from testers as well as the developers they will be working with (assuming a DevOps mentality).

A good place to start is by asking the right questions from the onset. These include the following:

1. What does the end user want?

In order for testers to ensure that the software does what it’s supposed to do, they first have to understand what it was meant to do. In the early days of development, this really boiled down to critical functionality. But the modern user is far more demanding. There is a lot more nuance to tailoring a successful application and testers must be keen to it from the beginning in order to create test cases that actually matter.

This is especially important at the user acceptance testing (UAT) phase, when the customer actually gets to take the software for a test drive. According to industry expert Scott Barber, the goal of UAT can really be summed up with one simple question: “Do the users of the system agree that we have met the requirements we were given?”

If testers weren’t acutely aware of these requirements in the first place, it will be impossible for them to create test cases that answer this question.

2. How much time do we have?

Once test mangers know what they’re trying to achieve, they must be actively included in the development of a project timeline. This goes beyond simply asking for a strict deadline. Rather, it involves thoughtful consideration for what can be feasibly accomplished in a given time-frame. Fast time to market is ideal, but not if it means QA management will have to be glazed over.

One of the benefits of the agile trend is that it eliminates the silos that teams traditionally worked in. The development approach is far more inclusive, which means testers are more involved in decision making processes, one of which is establishing a projected timeline. Once testers know how much time will elapse between builds, which are generally more frequent in agile development, they can tailor their tactics to accommodate the process. Agile testing methodologies, for example, can be employed to ensure that every new iteration is properly vetted.

3. What tools are available to us?

Last but not least, it’s vital for testers to take inventory of what tools they have available to help them adequately ensure that user requirements are met within the projected timeframe. In an agile or continuous environment, for example, QA will need a test management tool with an easy-to-understand dashboard and real-time tracking support. This is to ensure that everyone is on the same page at all times.

Automation integration is also extremely useful, as it allows for the automation of repetitive test cases that would otherwise cannibalize time and create more room for human error. Regression tests in particular are ideal candidates for automation. These tests must be run with each new iteration to ensure that nothing about the build was negatively impacted by the most recent alterations.

Once these three questions have been adequately addressed, testers will have to delve into more granular queries about day-to-day processes. Even then, consideration for user requirements, time to market and availability of project resources will continue to drive QA management through the product release, and beyond.

Sanjay Zalavadia
As the VP of Client Service for Zephyr, Sanjay brings over 15 years of leadership experience in IT and Technical Support Services. Throughout his career, Sanjay has successfully established and grown premier IT and Support Services teams across multiple geographies for both large and small companies. Most recently, he was Associate Vice President at Patni Computers (NYSE: PTI) responsible for the Telecoms IT Managed Services Practice where he established IT Operations teams supporting Virgin Mobile, ESPN Mobile, Disney Mobile and Carphone Warehouse. Prior to this Sanjay was responsible for Global Technical Support at Bay Networks, a leading routing and switching vendor, which was acquired by Nortel. Sanjay has also held management positions in Support Service organizations at start-up Silicon Valley Networks, a vendor of Test Management software, and SynOptics.