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This guide describes why creating a test strategy is important, different approaches, key features to include, and tips for putting it into practice.

Writing an effective strategy provides the basis for your testing approach. The ideal test strategy is high-level, but not so high it’s no longer useful. A good test strategy document outlines the core tasks testing performs as well as how quality and performance are measured.

It’s important to note that an effective test strategy must be practical, achievable, and clear. Your test strategy must guide testers to achieve the objectives of the software testing process as outlined. Consider it a structured plan that determines how, where and what testing is performed.

This guide describes why creating a test strategy is important, different approaches, key features to include, and tips for putting it into practice.

Why Bother Writing a Test Strategy?

Why spend time writing a test strategy? A solid test strategy reduces testing chaos during difficult times and helps the testing team avoid experiencing “hair on fire” testing episodes. A test strategy provides a plan and direction for the testing team. A good test strategy also serves as test documentation for traceability and compliance. In case there’s ever a question about what was tested on project X six months ago, you’ll know exactly what was tested and how.

A test strategy is the testing map and guide to provide structured testing that increases both testing consistency and quality.

Test strategies define:

  • Customer-centric test objectives
  • Testing standards including testing types and techniques
  • Testing scope
  • Test prioritization
  • When to test
  • Where to test
  • Assigned resources
  • Risk identification and mitigation options
  • What tools to use
  • Reporting requirements
  • Continuous improvement suggestions

A good test strategy serves as a reference for all stakeholders involved in a project. Documenting scope, objectives and testing standard practices ensures testers understand the expected testing and deliverables.

A good strategy promotes test organization and enhances collaboration between testers while acting as a reference for future resource planning based on reported results. Test strategies also define when testing is done, including planned deadlines as well as tasks to complete.

Now that we understand the importance, there are options available for the type of test strategy you create for your team.

Types of Test Strategy Approaches

The most important rule of thumb when writing a test strategy is to avoid creating a door stop that no one reads. Time is of the essence for most software testing teams, so keep the document concise and easy to read or skim.

You can enhance readability by:

  • Creating lists in bullets rather than tables
  • Leveraging visual and semantic space
  • Never using all caps
  • Not underlining text, instead reserve for linked text
  • Using left-aligned text
  • Breaking paragraphs into chunks of 3-4 related sentences

Use the approach that works best for your organization and testing team. Remember team members need to use it as a source of truth, so understandability and clarity are crucial.

Test strategy methods and technique options:

  • Analytical
         ◦ Define the test coverage based on a risk analysis or risk assessment.
         ◦ Use tests to check each requirement based on risk.

  • Model-based
         ◦ This method relies on the experience of a tester in fully understanding application behavior and expected results.
         ◦ Models may include performance, hardware and data-processing speeds. The models depend on the requirements for each area or designated “model.”

  • Regression
         ◦ Tests focus on regressions or defects introduced by newly released code.
         ◦ Consider including a list of defects found during regression testing cycles including those found in testing or post-release by customers.

  • Methodical
         ◦ Create and execute tests that verify a specific quality standard or a designated set of test conditions.
         ◦ May include tests to verify regulatory compliance.

  • Customer workflows
         ◦ Testing focuses on verifying customer workflows are executed.
         ◦ Requires in-depth knowledge of all expected use case scenarios for a customer or customer set.

  • Reactive
         ◦ Testing is focused on defects reported after a designated release. In other words, defects that escaped testing.
         ◦ Ideally, a testing strategy should test and verify functionality before a release.
         ◦ In some circumstances, a reactive approach is useful to track and understand where defects are getting past QA test executions.

Keep in mind there’s no rule that you can only use one test strategy method or technique. Your project needs may require a combination of methods or possibly all of them. Which ones to use depend on the project, customers and whether the application is required to meet compliance or regulatory standards.

Be sure to also document any external testing teams used. For example, if you are outsourcing security or using crowd-testing, be sure to note the organization and the scope of their testing.

Key Elements to Include in Your Test Strategy

There are standard sections you can include in your test strategy to be sure to cover all the necessary points. However, include only the sections you need. Keep them brief and to the point. Consider using the journalist rule of only including the who, what, why, when and where information. Leave out the fluff, and keep it simple and direct.

Key elements to consider including in a test strategy include:

  1. Test Objective
  • Not a generic statement. Document customer expectations, requirements and business goals.
  1. Testing Scope
  • Specifically define test boundaries and include all the functionality to be tested. Also list all functionality testing that will not be executed.
  1. Testing Approach
  • Test techniques
         ◦ Manual scripts
         ◦ Automated scripts
         ◦ Exploratory

  • Test types
         ◦ Functional
         ◦ Regression
         ◦ Performance
         ◦ Security
         ◦ Compatibility
         ◦ Usability
         ◦ Accessibility

  • Test tools
         ◦ Defect tracking
         ◦ Test management
         ◦ Test case development

  • Test environment(s) details

  1. Test deliverables
  • Test result reports
         ◦ Include a link to the template format to use

  • Metrics and performance measures
         ◦ Define the metrics used. For example, defect density, release reported defects, test coverage or MTTF (mean time to failure), etc.

  • Risk Identification and Mitigation
         ◦ Includes a list of possible risks and a contingency plan to address them

  • Test Resources
         ◦ Assigned testers or testing teams

Yes, it’s a great deal of information. Hence the importance of making it concise and easy to read. Granted, you may find some of the key elements do not fit your organization or development methodology and you can leave them out. The purpose is to provide testers a structured plan to follow.

Putting a Test Strategy into Practice

You’re almost done. The last step is making sure the testing team understands the test strategy and puts it into active practice. It’s important to ask testers to review the document and consider any feedback. Additionally, all testers should fully understand all details. The best approach may be to review in a meeting or utilize an LMS or other training system.

Be clear on metrics and how they relate to tester performance. Without some level of accountability, some testers will ignore the strategy and go their own way. There’s no sense in creating a detailed document that testers don’t follow. Be sure to review the tester’s work and verify they understand and follow the strategy’s principles.

Writing an effective test strategy is crucial to planning a well-organized and standardized overall testing approach. Test strategy documents are important for both planning, resource allocation and ensuring test coverage. It’s not a specific set of tests to execute, but rather a high-level plan on how, when, where and what testing is performed.

Be sure to make the test strategy a useful document that people read. Disseminate the information and keep the team involved, checking that they understand the strategy for best results. There’s no rules about what you have to include, so include only the key elements or sections that apply to your organization and development methodology. Testing that’s organized and effective serves your customers by providing them with a reliable, well-tested product that’s as defect-free as possible.

About the Author

Amy Reichert

A QA test professional with 23+ years of QA testing experience within a variety of software development teams, Amy Reichert has extensive experience in QA process development & planning, team leadership/management, and QA project management.  She has worked on multiple types of software development methodologies including waterfall, agile, scrum, kanban and customized combinations. Amy enjoys continuing to improve her software testing craft by researching and writing on a variety of related topics. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, cat management and the outdoors.


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