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How do you adjust your test plan when scope and time are cut short? These tips will help you manage rapid test cycles effectively and still ensure a high-quality application release for customers.

Testing rapidly or testing within shortened test execution cycles is not new. Rapid cycle testing has been around for as long as software testing has existed but increases when a product release is imminent, strained or behind schedule. Regardless of the software development methodology used, anytime a release is behind schedule, the QA testing execution time ends up getting reduced.

What can be done as a QA tester when your planned test executions are forced into a rapid testing cycle? The keys to testing effectively in rapid cycles depend on test case maturity, the application user or customer, test priority, the testing technique and the ability to design and organize tests effectively.

Key Takeaways

  • What are rapid test cycles?
  • What to do when your testing cycle is reduced to less than you need?
  • How to decide which tests to include in a reduced testing cycle?
  • Learn how to best manage rapid test cycles while keeping the customer experience the priority.
  • Implement continuous testing principles for manual and automated testing.

This guide describes how QA testers can manage rapid test cycles effectively and still ensure a high-quality application release for customers.

What are Rapid Test Cycles?

Rapid test cycle testing is essentially ramping up the speed and efficiency of both manual and automated test execution for a planned regression test execution. Essentially, rapid test cycles occur when the release is behind schedule and in danger of missing the release date. Rapid test cycles are manageable, but the reality is not all the planned regression testing will be executed.

Rapid test cycle testing is similar but not the same as rapid testing. Rapid testing is a decision-making framework that’s associated with a continuous testing approach. Rapid testing is largely concerned with unit and other developer-based testing that is built and executed during each Agile iteration.

For the QA software tester, rapid test cycle testing requires an organized and planned approach to ensure the application is as fully tested as possible for a positive customer experience. That’s great—but how can a testing team condense regression test suites designed to run within 4-5 days and execute them effectively in 1-2 days or less?

What to Do When Your Testing Cycle is Reduced to Less Than You Need

It’s highly likely during a QA testing career you’ll experience the joy of having to re-plan regression testing to fit into a timeline that’s far less than you need for thorough application testing. QA testers can manage rapid test cycles by planning for them. Managing test cases is an essential skill and key to developing and organizing effective tests for rapid test cycles.

Start by organizing test cases into groups and ensuring the following:

  • Tests are valuable to known customer workflows or preferred functionality.
  • Tests are reliable (up to date and accurate).
  • Tests are designed for rapid test execution. Pick a test technique that increases test execution speed.
  • Implement parallel testing where possible to test similar application components at the same time.
  • Integration and connectivity verification are incorporated into the test design. Rather than skip complex integration and backend tests, incorporate them into rapid test cycle test design.

Each test group needs to include functional test coverage from end to end. Additionally, consider the test priority to decide which tests to include. Test priorities may be defined differently depending on the team or organization. The test priority should reflect how critical the feature or functionality is to customers for rapid cycle testing.

Consider which testing technique provides testing speed improvement but still results in finding critical defects. For example, consider creating a rapid test cycle suite made up of user stories or use cases built into exploratory tests. Exploratory tests can be designed in a text or even graphical structure with light documentation but heavy on trusting the QA test creativity to find all the paths to test.

Optionally, if a more formal test design is needed, consider a checklist of critical functions that must function for the application to be usable for customers. Test one piece at a time until all the critical functions are tested. A test matrix may also be handy for performing rapid testing cycles effectively. A test matrix looks complex, but it can be created to directly specify what inputs, outputs or connections should be tested from end to end.

How to Decide Which Tests to Include in a Reduced Testing Cycle

Most QA teams that conduct regular regression testing have a strong test case repository of existing manual and automated test cases. For effective rapid cycle testing, test organization is key. The best approach involves creating a specific test suite suitable for rapid cycle testing.

Rapid cycle test suites may include smoke tests but should focus on full regression test cases if possible. Smoke tests are valid and useful but don’t guarantee an application functions well enough to satisfy a customer’s needs. Successful smoke tests merely indicate the application pages open in a readable state. Most customers will demand more from the application than simply opening all the windows and links.

Imagine you’re getting ready to file government taxes using a cloud-based website. As a customer, you’ve entered in all your financial and tax data and scanned in your receipts, only to find out you can’t submit or save. All the work you’ve put in is now useless and you lose all the data as soon as the application closes. Smoke testing wasn’t enough to catch this major bug.

To organize the best value for rapid cycle testing suite pick tests with the following:

  • Provide end-to-end functional test coverage
  • Include testing backend functions including APIs, database interactions and messaging systems
  • Test high-priority customer functionality

Implement Continuous Testing for Manual and Automated Regression Suites

Continuous regression testing offers distinct advantages. First, there’s no separate test effort to plan and schedule so no need for rapid test cycles. Your test execution speed is faster because planned test sessions no longer exist. QA testers continue executing regression test suites between user story and new feature testing tasks.

Continuous regression testing covers testing for fixed defects, integration issues and connectivity problems on an ongoing basis. The more defects caught during the entire development cycle, the fewer defects released to customers and the higher the application quality.

Benefits of using continuous testing include:

  • Works with sprints and iterations of any size
  • Increases QA testing team agility and flexibility
  • Keeps test cases up to date continuously, no need for ongoing test maintenance
  • Supports any testing technique or style
  • Covers both front- and back-end testing needs
  • Causes less disruption and lost execution time for the QA testing team

Redesign the tests into a format that can be executed quickly either with an exploratory type test, test matrix, checklist or mind map. Whatever is the simplest and quickest way for testers to understand what to test, where and how deep.

Regardless of how rapidly test execution must occur, performing simple superficial testing does not serve the organization or the customer. Releases produced with superficial testing will expose defects and lower the customer experience. Instead, create a valuable suite of tests designed for rapid test cycle execution.

Another option is to implement continuous testing. Continuous testing eliminates the need to schedule regression test executions and saves test execution time without sacrificing test quality or coverage.

Are you part of a QA team that needs better testing tools to organize work and keep testing flowing? Consider tools for managing tests and creating automation. Testing tools like Test Studio keep QA test teams organized and productive.

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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