As a software tester or a test manager, you might have come across a situation where you found yourself in a tight spot of whether you need to create a test plan for a project or you can simply do away with it. While this has never been an easy decision to make, but here are a few quick checkpoints that can help you plan better.
What is a Test Plan?
A “Test Plan” in software testing defines the complete testing process, used to verify, and ensure that a system or a product meets the requirements and design specifications. A standard template contains sections such as product description, objectives, testing strategies, scope, schedule, procedures, testing resources, and deliverables. It serves as a grail for the testing teams and helps them to ensure that all functional and design requirements are planned, managed, and monitored.
Based on the usage, a test plan is categorized into certain types such as master test plan and phase test plan. Most of the traditional testing methodologies like waterfall, iterative, etc. follow a test plan as the base document.
Over the years, with the advancement and implementation of new testing strategies such as projects adopting Agile, Scrum, Kanban, etc., the need for creating a test plan document has reduced. So, most of the time, even if the test plan has been written, it may not be looked so often. In the case of projects, where the requirements constantly change, maintaining an updated test plan document can be very tedious. Also, for projects with strict timelines, it is always challenging to accommodate more document work along with the existing testing process.
This conflicting behavior makes you think that do you really need a test plan for software testing? To answer this let us get into a detailed analysis of the benefits of having a test plan vis-à-vis the drawbacks of having a test plan.
Benefits of having a test plan
- A test plan acts as a roadmap, having details on the testing process and necessary information to implement the process.
- It acts as a communication medium between the team members and project stakeholders and keeps everyone on the same page.
- As the strategy and schedule are defined ahead of testing, implementation is smooth, and the challenges/risks are addressed effectively.
- It gives a clear picture of the effort, resources (environment and team structure) needed, number of features that are to be tested along with timelines, etc.
- It also helps in prioritizing the features and plan the execution sequence accordingly.
- It helps in knowing the test coverage, scope of testing, risks, and mitigation steps.
Drawbacks of having a test plan
- A test plan consumes a lot of time and effort. These can be spent on preparing quality scenarios that can uncover defects.
- A lot of rework effort is required in-case of any change in the project. This includes updating the document to incorporate any new changes in the product.
- A pre-defined test plan follows a fixed approach. This makes testers follow the same process and prevents them from accommodating the timely/frequent changes in a creative way.
- Sometimes the flexibility reduces due to the fear of avoiding changes when deviated from the original plan, which might add more value to the product.
These are a few challenges one faces while following a test plan. The only potential challenge we see is when a project demands a change in volume. However, one can easily overcome these challenges if they follow certain guidelines while documenting a test plan.
Test Plan guidelines for Agile/Dynamic scope projects
Several categories in a traditional test plan document must be defined including the scope, schedule, and responsibilities within the project. While these elements are identified in an agile test plan, some other differences are worth looking at. Below are a few such guidelines that we can follow:
- Since the concept of sprint execution comes into the picture, it is always wise to have an ‘Open and Continuous Feedback loop’ apart from the above mentioned three categories.
- Having a loop allows a user to identify the changes and modify the plan according to the new ideas and processes.
- It is always beneficial to have a plan with combined information on all the sprints rather than preparing an individual plan for each sprint.
- Each sprint should have the details of the changes planned for the respective sprint release, timelines, and other additional testing information. In case if there is any change in the requirement, the details of the sprint can be easily changed instead of modifying the whole test plan document, thereby simplifying the job.
- In short, if a test plan for the Agile process is more like a test strategy, it enhances smooth development and execution processes.
A test plan does not always have to be in the IEEE 829 standard. It can be a simple guideline that accommodates the process of testing. It can also be any project management tools such as ‘Confluence’, ‘Zenkit’, ‘Scoro’, and many others based on the requirement and usage.
Here is a sample test plan template, which can be used for Agile and does not take more than 10 minutes. While this might not be useful for all project types, but it can be customized according to the project needs.
Finally, it is always beneficial to have a test plan keeping in mind the above guidelines for any project. Instead of turning things chaotic and clumsy without having a test plan, one can create a precise yet simple and flexible test plan, which allows users to incorporate changes and help them in a successful and smooth delivery.
At ZenQ, we offer a standardized and customized approach to our client requirements. While we focus on delivering quality results always, we also try to achieve them efficiently. Contact us to know more about our projects, detailed test references, and the various recommendations we have provided to our clients.
By: Silpa Vajja and Rutwija Lammata