Building a test plan helps QA and development teams ensure effective and comprehensive testing of their software. With a software test plan, engineering departments can manage and track their testing and ensure their test scripts are built to meet their product objectives. In this blog post, we explain the role of test planning in the SDLC and how to approach building your software test plan.
Table of Contents:
What is a Software Test Plan?
A test plan is a strategic document that contains every piece of relevant information that’s related to testing the software for the current release or sprint.
A comprehensive test plan will guarantee the timely release of the software without having to compromise on the overall quality. This is done by:
- Defining the testing strategy and objectives
- Deciding on the testing scope
- Determining the testing schedule
- Defining the core responsibilities of every individual in the testing team
- Determining the effort and resources required for carrying out a systematic test cycle.
- Listing expected deliverables
- Providing results estimations
- Helping the QA and developer teams identify and overcome any potential hurdles or challenges they might face during the actual testing phase.
The software test plan is often shared with the Project Manager, Developers, Business Analysts, and other stakeholders to provide insights into the testing strategies to be used and to ensure that everyone associated with the project is on the same page. The test manager, who is sometimes also the QA manager, is responsible for monitoring all the activities defined in the test plan.
SDLC, STLC, and Test Planning
Software development is the process of designing, creating, and deploying a successfully crafted software product or application. To manage the phases of software development, engineering organizations leverage a Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) framework. The SDLC framework divides software development into phases, enables tracking each one, and provides visibility into all the involved development tasks and their owners. This helps ensure that the final product meets the defined business requirements.
The SDLC usually comprises eight different phases: Planning, Requirements, Design, Building, Documentation, Testing, Deployment, and Maintenance. Each phase has its own set of techniques and best practices. The “Testing” phase is no different, and it even introduces its own comprehensive life cycle, known as the Software Testing Life Cycle (STLC).
The STLC aims to ensure that all the quality standards for the developed application are met. It also guarantees that the designed software has no unresolved bugs or fixes left so that releases can be rolled out more frequently and smoothly.
The STLC commonly has six phases: Requirements Analysis, Planning, Test Case Development, Environment Setup, Execution, and Reporting and Analysis.
The following image outlines the relationship between the SDLC, the STLC, and the test plan:
The Importance of Test Planning
Testing has a key role in software development. By shifting left testing and testing code before production, engineering departments ensure their code is high quality and reduce the chance of errors and bugs.
Bugs, errors, and bottlenecks impact user satisfaction and negatively impact development velocity. Designing a well-crafted and thorough test plan is the baseline of an effective testing methodology.
A test plan ensures all testing activities are managed and carried out so that code is released only after being tested and fixed. Without a well-organized test plan in place, the testing objectives can’t be clearly identified, the testing steps aren’t monitored and crucial features and characteristics of the software product might not be effectively tested.
In addition, a systematic, detailed, and effective test plan will help the testing team in prioritizing their tasks but also ensure that no time is wasted in preparing unnecessary test cases.
How to Write a Comprehensive Test Plan
Below is a list of steps that you can follow to write a detail-oriented and comprehensive test plan for your testing projects:
Step 1: Analyze the Software Product
An in-depth analysis of the software product that is going to be tested is the first item on the checklist for writing a good test plan. Before you plan on writing even a single test case, it’s crucial to have a solid understanding of the application’s features and behavior. You should be aware of how the end users intend to use the software and the user expectations from the product.
Reviewing the software product documentation, if available, is the best way to gain insight into an application’s features and aspects. If there is no documentation (and even if there is), speak with the engineering team and Product teams and play around with the product yourself. Sometimes, holding meeting sessions with the users can also lead to a better understanding of the product in less time.
With a clear mindset regarding the product, the QA team can now move towards writing a thorough test plan while keeping all requirements under consideration.
Step 2: Define Your Testing Strategy
The testing strategy details the project’s goal and objectives and how they relate to the business and development efforts. A strategy could also include mentions of the effort and responsibilities. This is a short section, and its main goal is to prepare stakeholders for the next step, which details the scope and methodologies that will be used to achieve the strategy. In addition, this section is used to ensure alignment.
Step 3: Determine the Testing Scope and Methodologies
This step involves defining the testing scope and then deciding which testing methods are to be used. The testing scope of a software application generally refers to the system components that must be tested in order to ensure a properly functioning application.
Identifying which items lie within the testing scope and which ones are out of scope is important for ensuring testing answers business needs and for setting expectations with all stakeholders. The analysis obtained from steps one and two plays a crucial role in defining the exact testing scope.
Once the scope is clearly defined, the next step is to identify the right testing methodologies for your project. Your testing methods define ways to achieve your testing objectives, based on your strategy.
Although there are various types of testing methodologies that can be utilized, there are a few major categories that need to be prioritized in the test plan, such as unit testing, stress testing, system testing, performance testing, and regression testing.
Defining the scope of testing and devising core testing methods facilitates the testing team when conducting thorough testing later on as the testing team becomes aware of the items they need to cover when performing testing.
It is recommended to effectively communicate with the development team during this stage. Developers, at times, might suggest ways to test a functionality in a better manner as they are involved in the development of each product feature and know the ins and outs of core functionalities.
Step 4: Define the Test Criteria
The test criteria refer to the set of metrics that serve as the basis for evaluating the test results. When determining the success or failure ratio of your test cases, you need to assess your test results in terms of two main factors – The Exit Criteria and the Suspension Criteria.
- The Exit Criteria marks the completion of a testing cycle by referring to a set of predefined activities or specific criteria that are mandatory for carrying out a successful test cycle. For instance, in a test cycle that involves executing 100 test cases to test a software module, you might want to mark the end of the testing cycle when 80 out of 100 test cases are successfully passed. In this case, your exit criteria define that at least 80% of test cases must be accurately passed.
- The Suspension Criteria refers to conditions under which further testing needs to be suspended. Generally speaking, suspension criteria define the failure threshold beyond which it is impractical to proceed with testing due to the presence of defects. For instance, you may want to suspend the current test cycle if at least 10 major defects with blocker-level severity have been reported. Likewise, another example of suspension criteria would be when the software module fails to pass even 25% of the test cases successfully.
Precisely speaking, this step clearly sets the pass and fail criteria for every aspect of the application to be tested. It’s important to set some sort of base criteria figure for both Suspension and Exit criteria, otherwise, the testing team will never know when to stop the iteration of test cycles.
Moreover, it is also crucial to note that the definition of success can vary from test case to test case depending upon the test strategy. For instance, in the case of compatibility testing, success would mean that software functions seamlessly on different platforms, OS, and environments.
Similarly, for load testing scenarios, performance testing metrics such as response time and the number of requests handled per second will play an essential role in determining the success rate of a software product.
Step 5: Prepare the Test Environment
This step mainly involves preparing all the resources that will be required for the successful execution of the testing project. The term “resource” is used in a broader sense here and can include the OS, the server, the software resources, and the hardware requirements for the project. The decision should be based on the project requirements as well as the project budget. A well-constituted test plan entails all these details in a comprehensive manner.
Having all these requirements in your test plan makes it easier for the test manager and development to set up all the resources that will be required before beginning the testing phase.
Step 6: Create a Test Schedule
One of the concluding phases of preparing your test plan is to determine the testing schedule for the entire testing project. The ideal approach to creating a test schedule is to divide the testing project into sub-tasks and activities. After that, you can distribute those individual tasks among your team members and determine deadlines.
The project schedule will help the test manager and organizational leadership in tracking and monitoring the progress of the testing project. Therefore, it’s important that a project schedule sets reasonable deadlines for testing tasks. It’s also important to anticipate factors such as potential hurdles, employee schedules and leaves, and project deadlines when building a testing schedule.
Step 7: Identifying the Test Deliverables
Software testing deliverables are the list of artifacts and documents that the testing team designs and maintains throughout the entire testing project. These deliverables are further categorized into three main types, depending on the phase in which they are created:
- Deliverables that are delivered prior to testing
- Deliverables that are prepared during testing
- Deliverables that are submitted after testing
For instance, the test plan is a consolidated document that is prepared prior to testing as it assists the team in understanding the overall scope of the testing project. Similarly, before beginning the actual testing phase, the team needs to create a suite of well-defined test cases that meets the requirements of the projects.
During the testing phase, one of the core actions is the creation of test data to efficiently test the software components. Moreover, the testing team also generates documented logs for all the bugs and issues that were discovered during the testing phase.
Watch: Learn how BlazeMeter helps make the test data creation process simpler than ever >>
Once the testing phase is concluded, the QA team needs to create a comprehensive test report document that elaborates on the testing results. This document is the most important deliverable and is used by management and stakeholders to review the concluding outcome of the testing project and determine their next steps for developing the product.
This test report should include a list and summary of the metrics and KPIs used to evaluate the success of your testing project. Some of the most popular testing KPIs include, but are not limited, to the following:
- Issue Severity: For instance – Major, Minor, Critical, and Blocker.
- Active Number of Issues: Defines the number of issues that are currently open and haven’t been fixed yet.
- Coverage: Defines the ratio of requirements mapping to test cases. Generally, each requirement must be mapped to at least one test case.
- Issue Resolution/Turnaround Time: Defines the time that it takes for the development team to resolve issues.
- Testing Time: Defines the time that it takes for the QA team to completely test and report issues for a specific software module.
Doing comprehensive and thorough test planning is one of the cornerstones of building a successful software product. Software test plans help teams oversee and document the entire testing process. This is essential for delivering a user-friendly and top-quality application. While the process might seem to be resource-consuming, it actually helps save resources later on, when executing the plan and consequently when pushing features to production.