What’s your testing strategy?

No freedom, close deadline, lack of tools, restricted communication, zero support, low quality of resources… sounds familiar? You need a testing strategy.

No, I’m not talking about escaping from prison, I’m simply describing a regular testing project for software development.
Furthermore, if you continue to have the power to be functional each day (or at least half the time, you wish to improve your performance, grow, set and accomplish higher goals… then it may be the time to review your strategy.

All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved. – Sun Tzu

What’s your testing strategy?

In the past five years I had the chance to meet dozens of candidates with great skills, stunning minds and fantastic attitude. In contrast to that thought, in more than 90% of cases, their answer to my question is: “my strategy would be to ask for requirements”. 

Inside my brain two of my neurons stop, one says – “wait!”, the other one – “what?”.
How will a collection of requirements lead you to victory (whatever would be the stored value for variable “victory”)?

Certainly, having no strategy is the worst strategy ever. It’s like eating overcooked broccoli daily (they have no taste and you get the same results). On the other side, having a bad strategy on the long run is like chasing many rabbits with empty hands and at in the end you get frustrated for obtaining carrots. Therefore, working hard is great, but how about working smart?

Hence, what would I recommend from my experience? Instead of asking for requirements, I would zoom out a bit, and I would search for an answer to the following 3 questions.

1. WHY am I testing this product/service?

Keywords: mission, objectives

Starting from my working definition for software testing*, I would define my mission as a tester, by obtaining information about objectives (finding bugs, minimizing security risks, helping them make release decisions, assessing conformance with specifications, etc.)

Questions to be considered:

  • What brings value to my stakeholders?
  • Which are the needs of the stakeholders on short and long term?
  • What objectives do I have based on the current context?

Consequently, different contexts come with different objectives, and different objectives require different strategies that may result in different test results.

2. HOW am I testing it?

Keywords: strategy

Even more, now that I know my mission, I need to collect ideas regarding the ways to accomplish it and plan specific action points (that’s my strategy).

Questions to be considered:

  • Which methodology is my team using?
  • What resources (time, tools, specs, etc.) do I need?
  • Do I (and/or my team members) have knowledge and skills to successfully complete this mission? 
  • If not, what’s the training program? 
  • Which are the roles and responsibilities? 
  • What’s the communication plan? 
  • Are there any standards? 
  • How will I handle changes?
  • What are the required deliverables? 
  • Are there any risks and what’s the mitigation plan for them?

Most importantly, the testing strategy will be the foundation for deciding the best combination of tools and techniques to use in order to accomplish the mission.

3. WHAT am I doing?

Keywords: results

In other words, I know my purpose and the processes I have to follow, therefore the only issue left is to take a look at the results and refine the plan.

Questions to be considered:

  • What are the results achieved?
  • Do I have the same objectives as in the beginning?
  • What’s the proof of what I’m doing? 
  • Which are my deliverables? 
  • And my activities?  
  • Is this strategy working? 
  • Isn’t there any way to improve my performance, grow, set and accomplish higher goals?

As a result, the testing skills become stronger as long as “you avoid what is strong and strike at what is weak.” (Sun Tzu).

1. Courses: BBST testing courses
2. Book: The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Photo credits: Frits Ahlefeldt

*Software testing: an empirical, technical investigation conducted to provide stakeholders with information about the quality of the product or service under test (BBST Foundations of Software Testing by Cem Kaner and Rebecca L. Fiedler).

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