The ‘Last Boy Scout’ was a typical Bruce Willis movie packed full of action and coarse language, but how does this relate to testing? Apart from the fact that some projects I have worked on had plenty of action and coarse language, one of the mottos held dear to the scouts is: “Always be prepared”, and as a tester you should do the same. A lot of people believe having a plan “B” is sufficient and in some cases, this will get you through, but as a tester, you sometimes need to have plans “C, D, E….”.
This movie is a great example of when one problem is solved, it can just expose the next problem and the fact that you need to think on your feet. In an ideal world, you make a plan, people buy into it and all would go according to the plan. This rarely happens from start to finish in a typical project and you need to modify your thinking along the way.
Let’s start high level with the Test Strategy. Generally, you will get the overall approach right (Waterfall Vs Spiral Vs Agile, etc.) but what happens if you choose Waterfall and the requirements are late or need to be rewritten or there is a major issue with the platform chosen, but the delivery date stays the same? What’s plan “B”? Instead of looking at the options and casting off the options that aren’t the best, consider how they might be utilised when plan “A” doesn’t turn out to be the perfect option. Although it’s not strictly Agile, how can we break down the deliverables into smaller pieces that can be delivered and tested?
This concept can also be used at a lower level. If the schedule said we would test function “X”, but we encounter a showstopper defect; what do we do next? You cannot afford to have the Test Team sitting on their hands for next few days waiting for a fix. Break the testing effort into functional packages and allow yourself some room to move. Yes, it will all get done. It might not be in the most optimal manner, but it will get done. Look for a workaround because even though the test case may fail, there is a chance that another defect further in the flow could be detected and reported sooner, rather than later.
One suggestion is to utilise some of the points mentioned in our previous blogs on Risk Based Testing, but don’t limit yourself. Trust your gut instincts and put some tasks aside that are less important while prioritising your work load with the intention of addressing it if you encounter down time. The key here is to plan ahead. If you are not being micro-managed, then develop this skill as a good habit and manage yourself. If you are being micro-managed… well we’ll cover that in a future post!
If projects went by the book, then just about anyone could do the job of a test manager or a test analyst, given the right tools and training, but you will find throughout your career that this rarely applies. This ability is one of the many things that sets great testers apart.
If all else fails and you seem to have come to a stand-still, look at doing some house cleaning. The ideal outcome here is to speed up subsequent cycles. How can you improve the current test cases to make them easier to execute and maintain? Revisit any existing defects and see if they still exist, can be worked around, or detail added to assist the developers. Maybe even dig deeper to narrow down the root cause.
You’ve done the course but everything is not going to plan like the text book said it would; what happens next? As a testing resource, there is never any excuse to be doing nothing. The least you could be doing is looking at learning something new or refreshing an existing skill that could aid you and the project you are working on in succeeding. Some suggestions on what skills you could focus on will appear in a future post, so come back and visit us soon. In the mean time do some research on “MacGyver” and you’ll get an idea of how versatile we need to be. Until then I suggest you take some advice from Joe Hallenbeck, the character played by Bruce in the movie: “Be prepared, son. That’s my motto. Be prepared”.
By Peter Bolin, Senior Consultant – Revolution IT