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Test Planning: A Detailed Guide

By Shreya Bose, Community Contributor -

Table of Contents

Every Software Testing Life Cycle (STLC) begins with test planning. This article will go through the entire planning process and highlight all necessary to create result-oriented software tests, no matter the nature of the software or the project in question.

Explore the components of a test plan, what it needs to include, and how to create one from scratch. Follow these guidelines to create a test plan that yields quick results and drives efficiency in testing teams.

What is a Test Plan?

A Test Plan is a detailed document that catalogs the test strategies, objectives, schedule, estimations, deadlines, and resources required to complete that project. Think of it as a blueprint for running the tests needed to ensure the software is working correctly – controlled by test managers.

  • A well-crafted test plan is a dynamic document that changes according to progressions in the project and stays current at all times.
  • It is the point of reference based on which testing activities are executed and coordinated among a QA team.
  • The test plan is also shared with Business Analysts, Project Managers, Dev teams, and anyone associated with the project. This mainly offers transparency into QA activities so that all stakeholders know how the software will be tested.

The plan is built by QA managers or leads based on input from QA (and sometimes non-QA) team members. Creating it should not take more than 1/3rd of the time allocated for the entire project.

Why are Test Plans important?

  • They help individuals outside the QA teams (developers, business managers, customer-facing teams) understand exactly how the website or app will be tested.
  • They offer a clear guide for QA engineers to conduct their testing activities.
  • They detail aspects such as test scope, test estimation, strategy, etc.
  • Collating all this information into a single document makes it easier to review by management personnel or reuse for other projects.

Components of a Test Plan

  • Scope: Details the objectives of the particular project. Also, it details user scenarios to be used in tests. The scope can specify scenarios or issues the project will not cover if necessary.
  • Schedule: Details start dates and deadlines for testers to deliver results.
  • Resource Allocation: Details which tester will work on which test.
  • Environment: Details the test environment‘s nature, configuration, and availability.
  • Tools: Details what tools will be used for testing, bug reporting, and other relevant activities.
  • Defect Management: Details how bugs will be reported, to whom, and what each bug report needs to be accompanied by. For example, should bugs be reported with screenshots, text logs, or videos of their occurrence in the code?
  • Risk Management: Details what risks may occur during software testing and what risks the software itself may suffer if released without sufficient testing.
  • Exit Parameters: Details when testing activities must stop. This part describes the expected results from the QA operations, giving testers a benchmark to compare actual results.

How to create a Test Plan?

Creating an effective Test Plan involves the following steps:

  1. Product Analysis
  2. Designing Test Strategy
  3. Defining Objectives
  4. Establish Test Criteria
  5. Planning Resource Allocation
  6. Planning Setup of Test Environment
  7. Determine test schedule and estimation
  8. Establish Test Deliverables

1. Product Analysis

Start with learning more about the product being tested, the client, and the end-users of similar products. Ideally, this phase should focus on answering the following questions:

  • Who will use the product?
  • What is the primary purpose of this product?
  • How does the product work?
  • What are the software and hardware specifications?

In this stage, do the following:

  • Interview clients, designers, and developers
  • Review product and project documentation
  • Perform a product walkthrough

2. Designing Test Strategy

The Test Strategy document is developed by the test manager and defines the following:

  • Project objectives and how to achieve them.
  • The amount of effort and cost required for testing.

More specifically, the document must detail out:

  • Scope of Testing: Contains the software components (hardware, software, middleware) to be tested and those that will not be tested.
  • Type of Testing: Describes the tests to be used in the project. This is necessary since each test identifies specific types of bugs.
  • Risks and Issues: Describes all possible risks that may occur during testing – tight deadlines, poor management, inadequate or erroneous budget estimate – and the effect of these risks on the product or business.
  • Test Logistics: Mentions the names of testers (or their skills) and the tests to be run by them. This section also includes the tools and the schedule laid out for testing.

3. Defining Objectives

This phase defines the goals and expected results of test execution. Since all testing intends to identify as many defects as possible, the objects must include:

  • A list of all software features – functionality, GUI, performance standards- must be tested.
  • The ideal result or benchmark for every aspect of the software that needs testing. This is the benchmark to which all actual results will be compared.

4. Establish Test Criteria

Test Criteria refers to standards or rules governing all activities in a testing project. The two main test criteria are:

  • Suspension Criteria: Defines the benchmarks for suspending all tests. For example, if QA team members find that 50% of all test cases have failed, then all testing is suspended until the developers resolve all of the bugs that have been identified so far.
  • Exit Criteria: Defines the benchmarks that signify the successful completion of a test phase or project. The exit criteria are the expected results of tests and must be met before moving on to the next stage of development. For example, 80% of all test cases must be marked successful before a feature or portion of the software can be considered suitable for public use.

5. Planning Resource Allocation

This phase creates a detailed breakdown of all resources required for project completion. Resources include human effort, equipment, and all infrastructure needed for accurate and comprehensive testing.

This part of test planning decides the project’s required measure of resources (number of testers and equipment). This also helps test managers formulate a correctly calculated schedule and estimation for the project.

6. Planning Setup of Test Environment

The test environment refers to the software and hardware setup on which QAs run their tests.

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7. Determining Test Schedule and Estimation

For test estimation, break down the project into smaller tasks and allocate the time and effort required for each.

Then, create a schedule to complete these tasks in the designated time with a specific amount of effort.
Creating the schedule, however, does require input from multiple perspectives:

  • Employee availability, number of working days, project deadlines, and daily resource availability.
  • Risks associated with the project which has been evaluated in an earlier stage.

8. Establish Test Deliverables

Test Deliverables refer to a list of documents, tools, and other equipment that must be created, provided, and maintained to support testing activities in a project.

A different set of deliverables is required before, during, and after testing.

Deliverables required before testing

Documentation on

  • Test Plan
  • Test Design

Deliverables required during testing

Documentation on

  • Test Scripts
  • Simulators or Emulators (in early stages)
  • Test Data
  • Error and execution logs

Deliverables required after testing

Documentation on

Test planning in software testing is the backbone of the entire project. Without a sufficiently extensive and well-crafted plan, QAs are bound to get confused with vague, undefined goals and deadlines. This unnecessarily hinders fast and accurate testing, slowing results and delaying release cycles.

The guidelines in this article are meant to help test managers, and senior QA professionals construct a test plan that helps execute cleaner, faster, and more result-oriented tests.

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