Critical Testing Processes

First published in Software Quality Professional Vol 6, Issue 3, June 2004

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Author Rex Black
Publisher Addison-Wesley
Published 2004: Boston
ISBN 0-201-74868-1
# of Pages 544, including extensive bibliography
CQSE BOK Test Planning and Design; Test Execution and Evaluation;
Process and Product Measurement

The advance reviews, primarily from other authors of books on testing and test managers, might lead the reader to believe that this book is the best book on the subject that has ever been written. The reviewers point to it as an “enlightened read” and “address(ing) personal and interpersonal issues” while at the same time providing kudos for the information on estimating the test resources and adapting the process model to one’s own project. I would add that the book also is fun to read.


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author addresses the testing process and the eleven critical processes within the testing process. Each of the four sections of the book covers two or more of the eleven critical processes and the culmination of the sections describes the testing process. The four sections reflect the themes of Plan, Prepare, Perform and Perfect. These are the verbs that improve the testing process.

Section 1: Plan

  1. Understand the operational and organizational context of the testing to be performed.
  2. Define and prioritize the risks to system quality, and obtain stakeholder consensus on the extent of testing to
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    mitigate these risks.

  3. Estimate and obtain management support for time, resources, and budget required to perform the testing agreed upon.
  4. Develop a plan for the actions, participants, and dependencies required to perform the testing, and obtain stakeholder support for this plan.

Section II: Prepare

  1. Hire and grow a team of test professionals with the appropriate skills, attitudes and motivation through staffing and training.
  2. Design, develop, acquire, verify, and validate the test
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    system that the test team uses to assess the quality of the system under test.

Section III: Perform

  1. Acquire and install a test release, which includes some or all of the components in the system under test.
  2. Assign, execute, track, and manage the set of tests to be run against each test release.

Section IV: Perfect

  1. Document the bugs found during test execution.
  2. Communicate test results to key stakeholders.
  3. Adjust to changes in the project context, and refine the testing process.

Each critical process requires a plethora of tasks before the process has been completed. The tasks are identified in the absorbing case study that follows a structured and well-documented approach. Throughout, it is illustrated with tables and figures from the project documents. The project documents and the templates that were used to create them are available for download.

Each chapter first uses the case study to describe and discuss the process. Following the process narrative are three sub-sections. The first sub-section is called, ‘Recognize Good Processes’. This discussion focuses on behaviors and achievements will indicate the degree of success of the process being described. The second is ‘Handle Challenges’ because understanding challenges to a particular process and coming up with ways to handle those challenges is essential to creating change in the organization, and the last is ‘Implement Improvements’. If done right – processes are enablers of change. If done wrong – processes can become cumbersome and consume a lot of resources and time on paperwork.

The last part of the book may be the best part. It is here that the author talks about how to plan appropriate changes to the processes that most need to be changed. And it is here that he ends on a note of caution, acknowledging “that there is no magic in process by itself.”

I agree that this book is for everyone and anyone who is interested in improving their work as a test professional. It is for those doing testing and those responsible for testing. Most especially, it is for test organizations that have some basic processes in place. For those who are

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looking for a book on the nuts-and-bolts of testing I would recommend Practical Software Testing by Ilene Burnstein. And for those who are looking for a book with a focus on managing the test process I would recommend Managing the Testing Process by Rex Black.