Don’t wait for problems to emerge, take action now
Post mortems and root cause analysis can be effective ways of identifying what went wrong with a project, but all too often a majority of the lessons learned are not applied to the next project (due to time constraints or projects already in-flight), or they’re deemed irrelevant. Why wait? It shouldn’t take a major outage, a show-stopping bug, or a flood of customer complaints to prompt you to search for gaps in your testing coverage.
The problem with the term post mortem, is that it implies that the subject is already dead. You should really be working on improving things while it’s still alive, when it’s cheaper and easier to fix issues. Here are five tips that will help you to do exactly that.
Get testers involved early
When your test team is late to the party and expected to hit the ground running, you inevitably end up with misunderstandings. They’ve missed out on the planning discussions, they probably don’t fully understand the objectives of the software, and they may lack domain knowledge. If you include them from the beginning, then they’ll have an understanding of why certain decisions were made, and they’ll have an opportunity to prepare.
It can save a great deal of time down the line, when everyone is feeling the pressure of a timely release, and result in much more comprehensive test coverage. You also boost your chances of finding serious defects earlier and fixing them before they become entrenched.
Understand the intent of the software feature
Part of the benefit of involving testers early is that they gain a greater understanding of the feature within the software under development. If they don’t know what the business value is, or what end users are looking for in terms of functionality, then they can’t be expected to understand validation and testing priorities.
Regardless of when testers come onto a project, they should always take time to understand the intent of the software feature. Why is it being developed? What are the core functionalities? What pain points is it attempting to solve? The better they understand it, the more thorough their test coverage will be.
Open communication channels
In order to understand the software features, to design a comprehensive test suite, and to plan ahead properly, testers need to be in constant communication with the development and business teams. They must have that insight into the business aims, and the thinking behind each new iteration of the software, so they can focus on testing the right functionality with the right business impact.
Face-to-face (video or in-person) meetings and direct communication is most effective. Don’t allow messages to be buried in bureaucracy. Why send an email through two managers if a quick chat will suffice? Properly managed, open lines of communication can dramatically boost collaboration, and overall software quality.
It’s cheap and easy to collect data on your testing efforts. Repetitive manual testing workflows can go on to serve as the basis for automated tests, while additional high-impact tasks identified during exploratory testing can also add to the automated suites. The more data you collect, the better your picture of your overall test coverage will be. You’ll be able to fully audit your process and drill down into greater detail when you need to.
Analyze your efforts
It’s one thing to collect and aggregate data, but if you want to realize real benefits then you have to cast an analytical eye over it. Employ a tool capable of generating reports or visualizations automatically and use it to guide your test strategy. If you can see a spike in defects in a particular area of the software, or you find testers are making the same suggestions, then it might be time to investigate more deeply.
Analyzing all the data about your testing efforts continually throughout the project is the best way to understand where to refocus your efforts. You’ll see potential gaps before they form, and you’ll be able to assess whether your responses are working. Instead of reacting to issues and putting out fires, you’ll be looking ahead and smoothing the path.
Any of these tips can help you find and close gaps in your testing coverage, but for the best results, take them together and apply a proactive approach.