Why You Need A Test Plan: 3 Reasons For Creating A Test Plan

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Starting a testing project with writing a test plan is old school, I guess. Still, I see a lot of value in defining a thorough test plan first. But I wonder how many of us in the test community value writing a test plan in these agile ages. My views on the value of a good test plan are described in this post. I am curious to see your views on this topic. So please leave a comment if you agree or disagree.

Value of A Test Plan

Most important, the value of at test plan is that it makes you think about all the important stuff beforehand. It is the design of what you think should be done, whom is involved, when things will take place and why or why not. Therefore a test plan, should clarify at the least these topics:

  • test objects and the objectives: what are you going to test (and what not);
  • test approach: how are you going to test and why;
  • resources: who do you need for which activity;
  • planning: when will you be carrying out which test activities and who do you need.

So I think of the test plan as a design. The design provides the structure of what has to done and how it is done. Keep in mind that testing, like software development, needs a good structure too. Within a good structure you can work efficiently and effectively, provide prove of your results and save items for reuse.

test plan
A Good Test Plan Can Prepare You for Unexpected Problems

Test Plan is Communication

Furthermore, I think of the test plan as a means of communication with your stakeholders, testers and anyone else of interest. Let me elaborate on that, because I believe it is utterly important aspect of the rest plan.

Your stakeholders must be informed and must get the reassurance that the testing is in good hands. A solid test plan helps you to gain their trust. Seen from the outside, testing is all about trust. As a test manager you must come across as reliable and assure the testing will be reliable too and that it will result in a trustworthy information system. As a test manager you’ll need to clarify with your stakeholders what trustworthy means is in the context of your assignment. And to get there: get their view on their needs and potential risks. This all is input for the test plan. The plan will help to manage their expectations of what testing can contribute to the end result (and what not).

What to Expect

Next, your testers must know what is expected of them. Depending on the testers in your team, you’ll need to inform them in more or less detail. When you work with inexperienced testers or end users it is even more important to be clear on how you work. You don’t want to start off with coincidences and chaos. Most people like to get provided a clear picture and don’t want to figure things out themselves, especially if they have no experience or time doing so.

Estimation of Testing

And lastly, another important aspect of the test plan is that it should indicate the duration, costs and efforts of testing. From a management perspective testing is often seen as costly, too much time consuming and not adding value. So a good test plan provides the structure (the what and how) and defines which efforts are required by whom and when and the justification of all that (the why).

Of course a plan is a bunch of bits and bytes and things will turn out differently in practice. But only because I have a well-thought-out test plan, I am able to anticipate and adjust the course of the test trajectory and prevent chaos, because the structure still holds.

About the Author

Petri Matthesius

Petri's testing career started somewhere in 2000 at ABN AMRO bank. By coincidence Petri found herself testing a complex risk system and  liked it so much that she got stuck in this field of expertise ever since. Since there’s so much about testing, then and still now, it has never been boring. Petri’s interests are currently focused on organising and managing the testing competence in organisations. Petri typically takes a pragmatic approach and looks for opportunities to make things work out. Being positive, having fun and work hard, characterise her attitude towards work.
Find out more about @petri-matthesius

2 Responses to “Why You Need A Test Plan: 3 Reasons For Creating A Test Plan”

  1. Test planning absolutely can be a valuable aid, especially when driven by informed motivated testing specialists with a product/project perspective. However, what often is called test planning in fact can sow the seeds of its own demise. The more useful view of a test plan is as a project plan for the testing project, or sub-projects. What the example instead describes as a test plan actually is essentially a test case, mainly inputs/conditions and expected results; and lots of folks resist writing test cases, even in as light weight a format as the example. Resistance increases as those folks are oriented toward and informed about development rather than testing, are dogmatic about Agile or exploratory or whatever, and take a very narrow typically sprint-based perspective. Perhaps calling it a “testing roadmap” would make it more palatable to the resisters.

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