ONE GOOD IDEA
Put on Your Business Hat
Broaden your perspective during a software testing project
by Vikas Raina
Having worked in software testing for nearly 13 years, the single biggest issue I consistently hear is that business requirements for the software are incompletely or inadequately met. During a project, teams are consistently faced with constraints that may affect how business requirements are met, but as quality professionals, we have the ability to ensure any project is delivered with acceptable quality level (AQL).
All too often, quality teams grow accustomed to being introduced to a project relatively late in its life cycle, and they miss hearing the business user’s perspective. That viewpoint is important to understand because it lets you know how they are going to use the system, so it is incumbent on the quality team to embed itself with business users early in the project life cycle.
First, focus on the big picture before diving deep into details. This broadened perspective will help focus the testing approach and allow it to be much more effective than it would be with the level of understanding developed by simply reading the functional specifications.
To achieve the expected AQL, the following seven-step approach can be helpful:
- Understand the needs of the project. It’s always a good idea to understand the overarching goals and objectives of a project. Take a look at the project charter and the business case. Understanding the overall vision will enable you to put your contributions into perspective.
- Get subject matter experts (SME) involved. Get involved with SMEs or business users to better understand the requirements. No other group will better understand the intent of the requirements or what they are trying to achieve with the particular requirement.
- Analyze the requirement. After steps one and two are achieved satisfactorily, analyze the requirement. You should now have a thorough understanding of it. Optimize your testing artifacts based on your latest findings, and make sure these artifacts are reviewed by all the stakeholders.
- Avoid reinventing the wheel. Continuing with the theme of open communication and broadened perspectives, ask yourself if others would benefit from your work. If the answer is "yes," share the information proactively with the team. But even if the answer is "no," it may be a good idea to share your findings with the team to get a second opinion.
- Look for the cause, not the symptom. As testing begins, taking ownership of the results is a good idea, but it’s also important to keep focus on scope creep—uncontrolled changes or continuous growth in the project’s scope. It’s critical to be aware of changes late in the project cycle. Be proactive in maintaining communication among the business users, project team and quality assurance team. Similar to debugging software, focus on the cause, not the symptom, to improve communication.
- Don’t get carried away. I have seen many testers get carried away with emotions after their logged defect is dropped from the project. In the professional world, every issue must be placed in the proper business context. Not doing this will likely result in the defect being labeled as out of scope. Defects that are critical to the go-live of the project are worth pursuing, and everything else should be relegated to the parking lot.
- Revisit your testing approach. Last but not least, every time you find a defect, make sure to update your testing artifacts to reflect that change. Even if there is no impact on your approach, a one-line note mentioning, "No impact with this change," will do wonders in later stages when the fix to the defect goes live in the functionality.
Following these steps will help quality teams maintain a broader business view when testing software and help them to contribute more effectively to the project. This is essential for success in taking a project live, and it will help keep business users satisfied.
Vikas Raina is senior test manager at Citi Financial in Baltimore. Raina has a master’s degree in computer science from Maharishi Dayanand University in India. He is a Project Management Institute-certified project management professional and a Scrum Alliance-certified scrum master.