Testing in a Squeezed, Squeezed World

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would it be? Then second, third etc. Always emphasize what you can do rather than what you cannot. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly some business managers backtrack when challenged over risk and priority. Sometimes I even wonder whether they deliberately overstate the risk just to make sure that we are kept on our toes although I’m sure that no reasonable manager would ever do this?!

However the risk analysis exercise doesn’t end there. You need to be constantly reviewing your priorities. Sometimes we can start out in a reasonably healthy position but for one reason or another find ourselves quickly behind. Re-assessing on a regular basis will keep your efforts focused on the real issues.

Prioritization doesn’t just apply to test requirements and cases. In fact it’s more commonly used in defect analysis. By using the same principles as above you can very quickly determine which problems really need fixing straight away and which don’t (and avoid the 'everything-is-a-P1 syndrome' that users are renown for). Re-assessing on a regular basis will ensure that only the really important bugs are focused on first.

You may find your prioritization criteria will change as the project progresses. Always ensure that you consult your wider project personnel (including your end-user) before this happens as they may have a different view than you as to what is important and what is not. And again you may find yourself having to challenge.

The simple message of risk analysis and subsequent prioritization whether it be for test requirements/cases or defects, is to make sure you do the important bits first and that the determination of what the important bits are, is tracked, managed and where necessary, challenged.

People
The key resource for testing. Without them, and this includes the testing manager , testing won’t happen.

However what if you haven’t got the right people or not enough of them or precious few people at all? What if you have a good team but your deadline is so tight that you’ll have to burn them out to get there.

If you have a people shortfall and your project manager cannot provide you with bucketfuls of cash for you to go and hire more, there are ways to plug the gap, albeit not necessarily ideal.

Firstly, make sure you are making the best possible use of the existing personnel in your team. Don’t always assume that if your test team is finding it tough going that more people is necessarily the answer. Some simple staff management techniques can be employed to determine if your team could be better deployed eg:

  • Meeting one-on-one regularly to discuss issues etc.
  • Regular team meetings for communication, airing issues etc.
  • Making sure objectives and roles are clearly defined
  • Delegating effectively
  • Ensuring that the appropriate effort is being expended
  • Implementing appropriate measurement and evaluation criteria

However, if its clear that more people would enhance your success potential and you need them in a hurry, there are a few good places to start:

  • Support Staff —if you can get management to buy into the idea (and wild promises of better quality software usually does the trick) these people know first hand what sort of problems are experienced by end users and where they’re likely to be found. Sometimes you might be able to secure their time on a partial basis only however it might be better than nothing especially if they’re prepared to work outside of hours.
  • End Users —there’s no better advocate for better quality software than a frustrated enduser. Again you may need to get management buy-in or accept only part

About the author

Geoff Horne's picture Geoff Horne

Based in New Zealand, Geoff Horne has more than thirty years of experience in software development, sales and marketing, and project management. He founded and ran two testing companies which grew to enjoy an international clientele. In 1994, almost by accident, Geoff found himself involved in testing a complex fault management system that led to further testing assignments covering a wide range of applications and tools. Of late, he has focused on a few select clients running complex test projects in a program test management capacity. Geoff has written a variety of white papers on the subject of software testing and is a frequent speaker at testing conferences worldwide.

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