For those of us on the Western calendar, we have some holiday time coming soon, including the December break. Many of us will spend this time relaxing, which is always good. However, why not invest a little of your holiday time in improving your testing operation? After all, if you’re like most testers, you are time constrained and need to make improvements quickly that show fast results. So here are three practical ideas which you can put into action before January arrives, which will make a noticeable difference when you start to take on the projects that await in 2011.
Get Hip to Risk-Based Testing
I’ve gone on quite a bit in this blog about risk based testing, but let’s keep it short and sweet here. I have a simple rule of thumb for test execution: Find the scary stuff first. How do we do this? Make smart guesses about where high-impact bugs are likely. How do we do that? Risk-based testing.
In a nutshell, risk-based testing consists of the following:
1. Identify specific risks to system quality.
2. Assess and assign the level of risk for each risk, based on likelihood (technical considerations) and impact (business considerations).
3. Allocate test effort and prioritize (sequence) test execution based on risk.
4. Revise the risk analysis at regular intervals in the project, including after testing the first build.
You can make this process as formal or as informal as necessary. We have helped clients get started doing risk-based testing in as little as one day, though one week is more typical. You can mine this blog for more ideas, check out a few articles on the RBCS web site (such as this one and this one), the year-long series of videos on our Digital Library, , or my books Managing the Testing Process (for the test management perspective) or Pragmatic Software Testing (for the test analyst perspective).
Whip Those Bug Reports into Shape
One of the major deliverables for us as testers is the bug report. But, like Rodney Dangerfield, the bug report gets “no respect” in too many organizations. Just because we write them all the time doesn’t mean they aren’t critical—quite the contrary—and it doesn’t mean we know how to write them well. Most test groups have opportunities to improve their bug reporting process.
When RBCS does test assessments for clients, we always look at the quality of the bug reports. We focus on three questions:
1. What is the percentage of rejected bug reports?
2. What is the percentage of duplicate bug reports?
3. Do all project stakeholder groups feel they are getting the information they need from the bug reports? If
the answer to questions one or two is, “More than 5%,” we do further analysis as to why. (Hint: This isn’t always a matter of tester competence, so don’t assume it is.) If the answer to question three is, “No,” then we spend time figuring out which project stakeholders are being overlooked or underserved. Recommendations in our assessment reports will include ways to gets these measures where they ought to be. Asking the stakeholders what they need from the bug reports is a great way to start—and to improve your relationships with your coworkers, too.
Read a Book on Testing
Most practicing testers have never read a book on testing. This is regrettable. We have a lot we can learn from each other in this field, but we have to reach out to gain that knowledge.
(Lest you consider this suggestion self-serving, let me point out that writing technical books yields meager book royalties. In fact, on an hourly basis it’s more lucrative to work bagging groceries at a supermarket. Other benefits, including the opportunity to improve our field, are what motivate most of us.)
There are many good books on testing out there now. Here’s a small selection, any one of which you could work your way through during a winter vacation:
- General tips and techniques for test engineers: Pragmatic Software Testing, Rex Black; A Practitioner’s Guide to Software Test Design, Lee Copeland.
- Object-oriented testing: Testing Object-Oriented Systems, Robert Binder.
- Web testing: The Web Testing Handbook, Steve Splaine
- Security testing: Testing Web Security, Steve Splaine; How to Break Software Security, James Whittaker
- Dynamic test strategies and techniques: How to Break Software, James Whittaker; Advanced Software Testing: Volume 1, Rex Black.
- Test management: Managing the Testing Process, Rex Black; Advanced Software Testing: Volume 2, Rex Black
- Test process assessment and improvement: Critical Testing Processes, Rex Black; Test Process Improvement, Martin Pol et al
- ISTQB tester certification: Foundations of Software Testing, Rex Black et al; The Testing Practitioner, ed. Erik van Veenendaal; Advanced Software Testing: Volumes 1, 2, and 3, Rex Black et al.
I have read each of these books (some of which I also wrote or co-wrote). I can promise you that, if you need to learn about the topic given, reading one of the books for that topic will repay you in hours and hours saved over the years, as well as teaching you at least one or two good ideas you can put in place immediately.