Test Strategy Tutorial: A Comprehensive Guide With Best Practices
In this tutorial, explore the test strategy, how to implement it, and the critical elements of an effective test strategy.
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The test strategy is an organizational-level document that describes the general test approach, i.e., what needs to be achieved and how to achieve it. This document is outside the scope of the software testing life cycle (STLC) and does not specify testing requirements for a specific project. Instead, it establishes the common testing principles for all of the organization's projects.
When software scales and the team grows, an unchallengeable need for the right test tool and strategy arises. By incorporating an effective test strategy, you can ensure a bug-free application.
But how do you implement that? You can consider hiring more software testers and going ahead with manual testing. But, hiring more testers isn't a cost-effective approach. Also, manual testing is not enough to cover all the test scenarios and functionalities in-depth, as automation testing can do.
What Is a Test Strategy?
A test strategy is a set of guidelines that determine test design and regulate the software testing process. It is an organized documentation of testing techniques for a particular software product. It is an essential summary of information that needs meticulous and logical arrangement of the testing approaches taken for the product. A test strategy mainly serves as a standard document for developers, testers, and stakeholders.
Broadly, it comprises data including the type and approach of testing chosen by the team, the test-level risks for the organization and stakeholders, the roles of every individual tester in the process, the test execution tools incorporated, etc.
With such intricate and advanced information, writing the test strategy is not much of a cakewalk; it's more of a niche. However, with a well-organized plan and greater understanding, even a skill as complex as creating a test strategy can be accomplished quickly.
Importance of a Good Test Strategy
Unlike a test plan, a test strategy is also a relevant document on the organizational level since it has a holistic reference to the testing methodologies taken by the organization. In addition, at the project level, it is a great savior from extra cost, inconsistencies, and time. It is an ideal way of providing relevant information systematically to the stakeholders. A good test strategy allows the involved parties to comprehend the range of the software product while also underlining the details of the inputs and requirements of the project.
The role of test teams can be compared to that of a quality assurance department in a business or an industry. And while assuring the standards of the software product, test strategy plays a key role. It consists of the set of rules and regulations that the project needs to clear throughout the SDLC, especially testing.
With such a plethora of functionalities, building a systematic test strategy to the point is essential. A shabby arrangement of information, redundancy, lack of information, or unclear presentation dramatically reduces the impact of the test strategy in the software development life cycle and, in turn, creates unwanted inconsistencies.
It is imperative to choose the right type and arrange the data honestly without underestimating the advantages this document brings.
Types of Test Strategies
Test strategy is a rather compiler-specific document. It largely depends on the particular testing approach used for the project and is, thus, entirely subjective. However, since precise categorization is essential, the ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualification Board) divides test strategies into seven broad types.
A point of classification of testing strategies can be the chronology of defining and utilizing the approach. The methodical strategy works with predefined ordinances. The product has to pass all the specified standards and regulations related to the project.
Checklists are an apt example of a methodical strategy, as they comprise a list of conditions and standards that need to be cleared by the project. ISO2500, in particular, is a well-known methodical testing and inspection procedure. This test strategy is often used in security testing.
In analytical testing, the approach and requirements of the project are analyzed by the developers in the initial stage and then incorporated into the test strategy. This strategy is especially relevant when the software product involves specific risks and requirements. Notably, in analytical testing, the preparation of strategy and the record of outcomes is based on needs.
A chronological counterpart of the methodical testing strategy is the reactive strategy. While methodical testing allows the testing engineers to adhere to predefined conditions, reactive testing comes into play after the software gets released. It is a fluid and lenient approach that becomes operational when defects are found in the running software.
There is no set of regulations to abide by, nor is there a need for long analytical studies or other prerequisites in this type of testing. A typical example of a reactive strategy is exploratory testing. This testing approach has a clear objective to explore an irregularity in the software and focus on its solution if/when found. Reactive Strategy naturally has a dynamic structure as it updates recurrently after every defect identification.
As the name suggests, a model-based strategy moves around a model, which can be a logical/mathematical set of arguments, organizational notions, business procedures, etc. This model is created by testers while considering the conditions and requirements of the project. It incorporates the standard computational facets, including the inputs, processes, outputs, etc., regarding the product.
The model imitates the conditions and ambiance in which the project works and offers a virtual testing approach. Models can be created through various channels. These include modeling languages like UML/SysML, mathematical specification languages like Alloq, Coq, Event B, etc., or even standard programming languages. Due to the broad scope of test automation in this approach, model-based strategy is constantly advancing.
The consultative strategy revolves around the ideas and regulations consulted by knowledgeable stakeholders. Suggestions directly coming from the clients who generally have expertise in different aspects of the product are given higher priority. Non-complex testing facets like operating systems, browsers, programming languages, connections, etc., are usually a part of directed testing strategies. Though testing teams still contribute through their inputs to some extent, their primary role in this testing approach is to abide by the clients' suggestions.
Regression Averse Strategy
Going by its name, regression averse strategy prominently focuses on eliminating the risks of regression in the project. It is usually a highly automated testing approach wherein the testing engineers craft the self-testing exception handlers. The automation to target both functional and non-functional shares is done before the delivery of the product.
However, test teams may also use a suitable Graphic User Interface (GUI) to prevent further regression risks once the software updates/changes. The developed testware can be re-used or periodically changed per the project requirements.
Process/Standard Compliant Strategy
In process-compliant testing, the test teams must abide by the terms, policies, conditions, and regulations standardized by an authority or a panel of authorized specialists.
A typical analogy of this testing approach can be seen in the food and pharmaceutical industries, where the teams accountable for quality assurance have to strictly follow the directory of testing methodologies defined by authorities like the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration), ISO (International Organization for Standards), etc. ISO norms also ensure the standards of testing procedures and the performance of software products.
While categorizing testing strategies is essential for maintaining a systematic index of these approaches, the choice and usage depend entirely on the test managers and engineers based on what suits the project best.
There is no definitive procedure for using the approaches, and a product may require more than one or none of these test approaches to perform desirably. To choose the type of testing strategy that best matches the project requirements. To make the right decision, we suggest pondering a few criteria.
- The validity time: Depending on the genre of the software product, the testwares can be required for a single time or recurrently for a longer time.
- The directives, types, and scope of the organization: The policies, division, and size of the accountable organization play an important role in choosing the testing approach.
- Specific risks and security: It is crucial to incorporate the risks and safety points involved with the product.
Apart from contemplating these factors while choosing the type of strategy, testers must also consider some other aspects before crafting the ideal strategy.
Things to Consider Before Designing Test Strategy
The standard of a test strategy is one of the most vital aspects of the project's performance. Thus, consideration of all aspects related to testing becomes exceptionally crucial. These aspects may be fruitful in improving the quality, finding flaws, or even easing the testing process.
Following are some of the essential things to consider before writing the test strategy:
- Use templates: Like any other important document, using a template in the test strategy is advisable. Not only does a template create consistency throughout the report, but it also makes it easier for the interpreter to understand the intricate processes involved in testing.
- Assign wisely: Every software product has its specific requirements. Therefore, it is vital to select highly skilled software testers with suitable technical expertise. A test team must consist of an experienced team leader with significant command of different aspects of the strategy and general supervision.
A product manager with complete knowledge and information regarding the software; a quality analyst manager to ensure the fulfillment of all standards and conditions; and a development manager to take user inputs and aim for every possible improvement. Moreover, other general prerequisites like tools, testwares, and interfaces should also have the correct relevance concerning the project.
- Enlist responsibilities: A jargon of responsibilities creates unnecessary confusion at the time of outcome. Thus, the facets of the software that come in the scope of the particular testing strategy must be enlisted. Besides, it is recommended to mention separately the features that remain beyond the responsibility/range of testing. This gives an idea of responsibilities to the stakeholders and developers and averts chaos.
- Change perspective: Before creating the strategy, one must displace their perspective from a testing engineer to that of a consumer. This helps prevent any compromises with the quality of testware and the system under test. In addition, this will also eradicate redundancy in the document while simplifying the data to a large extent.
- Recognize risks: Risk management is a fundamental aspect of test strategies. Test teams must have complete information about the risks and security facets. They must also know and consider the organization's approach toward these risks and have a proper record of those policies and conditions. Product and failure risks involved with the system under test play a critical role in identifying the dimensions of the strategy.
- Prioritize the components: Spending too much time testing components with little or no risk or bug likelihood is not the right approach. Therefore, prioritizing the software modules while considering their different facets makes the strategy more efficient. Testers must realize that it is impossible to test every single component of the project deeply; thus, chopping some of them out of the scope of testing is essential. An organized priority chart with adequate knowledge about every project section makes this elimination process much easier.
- Plan resources: Letting aside from creating a test strategy, assembling and registering the resources required to execute any process is universally a crucial aspect of preparation. The individual in charge of documentation must record the number of technical experts employed, the hardware equipment & devices used, the commercial software incorporated, and every other integrant purchased. Resource planning is an essential practice, especially from the point of view of the stakeholders and clients.
- Prepare systematically: An aspect often underestimated and ignored by testing teams is the organized preparation of creating a strategy. It is important to follow a step-by-step prefatory process.
- Analyze every component of the product and do thorough research about them. Testers being nescient about any aspect of the project is an alarming sign for the managers and leaders.
- Choose the right approach and shape it according to its suitability with the product. Being extremely rigid or flexible with the type of strategy is not an ideal place to be in. Test teams must be fully aware of the reasons for choosing every aspect of the particular approach.
- Schedule the process of research and documentation seriously. A process not bounded by time resembles instability; this reduces the quality of work.
- Plan the resources properly. The resource management team must communicate appropriately with the clients/stakeholders/organization and the testing teams simultaneously.
Documenting a test strategy is an intricate and advanced activity. And it is essential to make this process as smooth and systematic as possible with some relevant preparatory actions. After considering all the factors mentioned above and implementing them wisely, the complicated process of designing a strategy becomes highly hassle-free to a great extent.
How to Create a Test Strategy
Once you are prepared on the grounds of team and data and ready to start creating the test strategy, promise to continue with the same zeal throughout this long process; dividing a methodology into smaller sections makes it seamless and effortless simultaneously while also giving periodic boosts to the team after reaching every checkpoint.
Below is the conventional and established format of an organized strategy:
General Overview/ Scope of Project
To start with, test engineers should mention the level of testing assigned to the team. The process of testing is generally done in four degrees which go by:
- Unit testing: The most primitive form of functional testing performed on all of the components of the software product. This level of testing is executed on the minor inaccessible unit components of the code. It is also a valuable source of information for testers to understand the complexity and range of the system under test.
- Integration testing: This is the second level of testing that deals with the inter-module flow of data in the system. In this extent of testing, engineers need to make sure that all the relevant connections and communication systems between various components (whose functioning is tested at the unit level) work expectedly.
- System testing: As the name suggests, system testing checks the system's functionality. This penultimate degree of testing requires the testers to create a test environment similar to the actual delivery environment. The engineers test the net input-output performance, and the data flow lacks defects, and the end-to-end process works as expected.
- Acceptance testing: The final testing level is to give the project the green light, conclude that it has successfully cleared the above three levels, and allow it to be delivered. At this level, testers may spot a few bugs and errors while using it from the users' perspective. Acceptance testing is alternatively mentioned as user acceptance testing.
After describing the level of testing, it is advised to mention the functional and non-functional components for which the tests are being carried out. Also, referring to the modules and facets excluded from testing helps remove unnecessary uncertainty in the future.
Clearly citing the scope of the strategy is a crucial aspect of taking a systematic approach while designing the document. After that, provide details, including the responsible authority to review the document and the people authorized to approve it.
Type/Approach of Test Strategy
As mentioned earlier, choosing the suitable approach for the test strategy is essential. And after selecting the right type, it is important to describe it precisely. Since going with one of the seven types enlisted by ISTQB is not necessary, and the approach may differ depending on the product requirements and conditions, testers must mention the specific approaches and the reasons for going with them for testing each aspect at each level.
In addition, complete detail of the testing process, including the policies and conditions at the organizational level, should be distinctly described. This is the most critical data in the document from the point of view of the stakeholders and clients and needs attention accordingly.
Succeeding this, testers should mention the roles and responsibilities of each individual. This is a piece of crucial information that needs systematic documentation. The respective roles of each team leader and manager succeeded by a description of responsibilities handled by every engineer working under them can be a general format.
The environment in which the system under test is placed plays a significant role in defining the testing standards. 'Environment' in software development is the hardware on which the application runs. A testing environment, in particular, may also be expected to imitate the users' hardware or basic software set-ups, which include drivers, memory, network connections, operating systems, etc.
A typical example of such an environment is the fourth level of testing, known as the user acceptance test described above. Apart from the users' perspectives, test teams may also be required to test the product in the development and production environment. A development environment is the developers' ambiance where the project goes through the process of generation and programming, while a production environment is where the project is shifted to go through updates or changes.
Tools run all the tasks for engineers in a test strategy. Thus, choosing and adequately describing the tools incorporated in the document has great significance. Following are some of the most commonly used automated testing tools with different facets suitable for different genres of software projects.
- Selenium: It is an open-source test automation framework that supports almost every popular programming language and operating system. However, with such a broad spectrum of functionalities, building the framework for Selenium concerning the project requires advanced programming skills and, most importantly, time.
- Katalon Studio: A simple tool ideal for testing API, web, and mobile applications. Katalon Studio also supports all the commonly used languages and OS and is easy to design, even for budding computer geeks.
- Unified Functional Testing Tool (UFT): Especially suitable for requirements like risk and regression testing, UFT is an easy-to-use and broadly functional testing tool.
- Appium: Though a bit tricky in terms of CI/CD integration, Appium is one of the most flexible mobile automation testing frameworks. This testware supports cross-platform programming under the same API for Android, iOS, and Windows.
Despite the abundance of automation testing solutions on the market, you need to choose one that streamlines your responsibilities and provides you with a much-needed break.
In general, testing tools are used to test websites and mobile apps. However, on-premise testing poses several significant challenges, including in-house infrastructure, cost, maintenance, and scalability. An effective solution to eliminating such pain points associated with on-premise testing is to harness the capabilities offered by cloud-based testing tools.
The release control section contains every piece of information related to the successive update releases of the product. This information must include the proper history of the testing process, the authorities and teams responsible in every case, the components subjugated to the test, the modifications done, the defects encountered for the first time, and the measures taken to avert them.
This crucial data is essential not only for the reviewers, approvers, and clients but also for the test engineers to refer to the inputs and procedures that have been followed before in the previous release.
Describing the version and highlighting the changes chronologically is the most crucial aspect of documenting release controls. In addition, testers should also explain the differences in methodology incorporated along with the degree to which testing is performed.
Risk analysis is a must-do consideration before initiating the documentation and implementation of the testing strategy. On the other hand, risk analysis involves understanding the project's different facets and the recognized risks that come with them and arranging them in a priority testing chart. To be more organized, testers may also categorize the risks based on causes, such as the arrival of a new hardware/software component, change in automation tool, altercations in the code arrangement, or the difference in the accessibility of a particular test resource.
Risks may also be classified based on likelihood and tolerability. This classification is beneficial since it indicates the reasons for mitigation priorities. It is even better to describe the enlisted risks based on some general points like their effects, probability, and root causes.
Last but not least, state the plan and approach that the team has taken or will take to mitigate these risks. A well-described plan and execution is the most prominent aspect of risk management; therefore, you must always address it.
Reviews and Approvals
This document section must be dedicated to the authorities or individuals responsible for reviewing and approving the entire test strategy. The quality assurance managers and team leaders assess the document on various standards, which include its reliability, programming quality, resource planning, scope, risk mitigation, and general performance expectations.
Succeedingly, it should be evaluated by the product management and development team to check its relevance with respect to the product. And finally, it needs to be approved by the administrative authorities for the clearance of the client's/company's policies and terms and conditions. Authorized individuals/team leaders should record and sign off on this process.
Test Strategy Summarization
A test summary is a frequently overlooked yet essential aspect of a strategy document. It is the final crux of the entire approach and aspects of the strategy, which is a handy piece of information for consumers and stakeholders. It thus requires the distinct skill of packing more information in fewer words. Moreover, summarization may also include the visual representation of data (like pie charts, bar graphs, etc.) for encapsulating extensive numeric data in a more understandable and precise manner.
To simplify it, it is recommended to break the summary into subheadings covering a short paragraph of information. Following are some of these captions and subheadings to get a broader idea of the format for a test strategy summary:
- Purpose: A rough synopsis of the overview of the document.
- Scope: General description of the components under the scrutiny of the strategy and the level of testing they are examined at. If possible and applicable, it is recommended to mention the components out of the scope of this strategy as well.
- Software outline: The test summary must also include a short precis about the software product, i.e., the system under test (SUT).
- Type: A brief explanation of the type(s) of strategy picked or fabricated from the seven standard types.
- Data: Arguably, the most critical part of the summary. This section comprises all the metrics related to the testing process. Visual tools like graphs and charts, along with a tabular data entry, is the most systematic approach to present this data. Information like the number of passed/failed components, net defects, defects resolved, type and level of errors, etc., must be mentioned under this heading.
- Tools and environment: It is essential to mention the tools and environments incorporated in different stages of testing. The different environments and the software's performance can be arranged systematically in a table, while the tools must also be separately mentioned.
- Exit criteria: This is a type of final checklist created to ensure the completion of all the planned testing procedures within the conditions defined.
- Conclusive remarks: The result on the report card. This remark is the final statement to declare whether the product fulfills all the criteria before delivery.
- Acronyms/Abbreviations used: Without any requirement of description, this section must contain the acronyms and abbreviations used by the documenter (if any) along with their meaning right at the end of the document.
How to Create a Killer Test Strategy Document
There is an ordinary and good strategy, and then there is a killer test strategy. But what exactly makes a killer strategy different from an ordinary one? Well, a few factors or practices lead the test strategy from being just another document to something special. And what are these practices? Let's find out.
Open the Compendiums
Nothing beats thorough research. Testing teams, including all the managers and engineers, must have every bit of information, especially regarding the product. And the testers, even if they are inexperienced, should ideally have complete knowledge about the process of testing a software project.
Sustaining a proper system for a longer duration can test an individual or group's patience. And this is where the difference between a good and a killer test strategy, as mentioned earlier, widens. To avoid hindering communication levels within the team, you should be patient.
Arrange Quality Resources
The quality of assets used in the process significantly impacts the outcomes. Obviously, with organizational restraints, the accessibility of world-class resources may be uncertain. Thus, while remaining within the boundary of the policies, it is vital to integrate the best possible assets like hardware equipment, drivers, network connections, testing tools, technicians and experts, etc.
Test Strategy Best Practices
Below is a list of recommended practices that can significantly improve the strategy's quality, performance, and implementation.
Excessive rigidity with the testing approach is inadvisable. Product development is a rather dynamic process, and test managers must be completely aware of it. Various factors, such as newly discovered defects, input from users/stakeholders, new updates, etc., may lead to the need for changes in approach.
Communication skills are the central aspect of almost every team activity, and creating a strategy is no different. Proper coordination among the test managers and engineers remarkably improves the quality of the codes and testwares since the transition between various project components organized by different individuals or groups remains smooth. In addition, an established network within the test team leads to quicker apprehension of errors in the document.
Record Lead Time
If a testing approach similar to the reactive testing strategy is chosen, testing occurs periodically, even after the product is released. In such cases, test teams have a recurring role with each new update in the software. To make this repetitive task more effective and effortless, recording the time taken to meet the product requirements and delivering it is a crucial activity. This helps the team to eliminate redundancy in the process and encourages testers to find quicker solutions to the errors.
Enlist the estimated schedule of every measure taken in the process of strategy. Add details as to which team or individual is responsible for the competition of the particular task in that given schedule. Leave a column for the actual duration taken for its execution and the difference from the estimated time. This process systematically shapes the team's approach.
Shift-Left testing approach is among the most pertinent ambassadors of this saying. In this pattern, the testing strategy is initiated in the initial stages of software development. This makes it easier to spot bugs & exceptions in the product and fix them with reduced time and cost consumption.
Another prominent advantage of incorporating the strategy in the primitive stages of software is the scope of using the trial-and-error method with fewer stakes involved. Furthermore, it allows testers to record the entire product history and organizes the error-handling process.
Nothing surpasses the accuracy of a computer. Automation testing tools play a central role in the process of testing. Though adjusting a tool in relevance to the product requirements is a complex task, and the cost of such programs might exceed the organization's restraints, involving automation in the broadest possible range is the most efficient way to perform testing.
Carry Out FTRs
Conducting Formal Technical Reviews (FTRs) more frequently in the initial phases makes it easier to spot and resolve defects and build a rigid base for the system. Formal technical reviews are mainly of three types.
1. Walkthrough: For error handling and detection.
2. Formal: For suggesting changes in the code.
3. Inspection: To retest the previously handled errors and change testing standards. Details of these review sessions must be recorded in the strategy document.
As already mentioned, the testing environment is essential to the process. And it is crucial to imitate the developer and end-user environment accurately. This will significantly impact software quality since the difference in the product's performance would make it much easier to spot bugs and defects.
Practice Regression Testing
In the later stages of development of the product, perform a regression cycle. If a product will be subjected to frequent updates and changes, regression testing while the development phase and the record of the results smoothen the testing process in the future. With hardly any changes remaining to be included in the code in the later stages, performing and registering a regression cycle is a healthy practice.
The test strategy document is accountable for consistency in the process of testing. It is a pretty rigid document but has an enormous scope of flexibility at the microscopic level. With such intricacies, designing the strategy becomes a seemingly formidable task. However, if ideal considerations, proper procedure, and expert recommendations are followed tenaciously, this complex task can become surprisingly effortless.
Published at DZone with permission of Harshit Paul, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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