Time for Test Management

May 7th, 2011 by Bill Echlin

We all know that there’s never enough time to execute all of the testcases defined in our test management system. You can’t do everything when you’ve only got a finite amount of time. For this reason experts always seem to recommend prioritising your testing. Whilst prioritising seems like the obvious thing to do, the concept of de-prioritising is never quite as obvious.

Some refer to this idea of de-prioritising as setting posteriorities. This is the concept of picking tasks that you consciously put at the bottom of your list. Tasks you plan to do later and which you may not even start. Essentially though the goal is to free you and your team up so that you can focus on what is important; testing.

You can only achieve this if you prioritise the important tasks and set your resolve to discontinue the lower-value tasks. And that means saying ‘no’. Say no to any task that will distract you from focusing on your high priority tasks. As QA specialists we have no spare time and saying no to tasks that aren’t important is the only way to concentrate on what is important. Consciously thinking about ignoring certain jobs helps you avoid time wasting distractions.

We’ve all been there. The project manager wants updates on the execution progress. Sounds simple but before you know it you’ve spent a couple of hours pulling out a report in the perfect format from your test management system. Just to provide the project manager with information that he’ll probably have forgotten about by tomorrow. Then there’s the demand you get from some product managers to help out with the beta testing activities. You (and he) know that it’s a task an administrator could manage. As the beta activities are related to our departement someone from the QA team gets pulled into help oversee the activities. Not a good use of a skilled QA engieers time and another distraction from the execution of testcases.

A good way to combat these non important requests is to have everything well organised in your test management system. Then when someone asks you to take on something new you can point out that this means you’ll need to put down something else. You can gently take them to your test management system and then show them all of your allocated testcases. Tell them that you’re happy to do what they ask but that you’ll need to remove all these essential tests from your schedule for this release. Then ask them if they’re happy with that. It will make it blatantly clear that something has to give. And that give is likely to be the quality of the product you’re working on.

The practice of prioritising helps you concentrate on what is important and helps motivate your team too (giving them a sense of achievement from completing all the highest priority tests). On the other side of the coin the practice of setting posteriorities is just as liberating. Saying no, not getting caught up in unnecessary distractions and avoiding being pulled away from what we should be doing. All of this helps us keep our focus. It helps us keep our focus on the test management operation.

Our goal is to follow the QA process and relentlessly focus on delivering to our commitments. Most things that take our attention away from following this process are likely to result in less testing and a poorer quality product release. It’s our obligation to concentrate on what is important, avoid distractions and ensure we have time for test management.

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