4 reasons why your test approach fails

What's something that’s used daily but which is not given enough attention? A test approach. Although it is a simple and straightforward document, it often gets neglected and considered as a waste of time.

The added value of context-driven testing

What's something that’s used daily but which is not given enough attention? A test approach. Although it is a simple and straightforward document, it often gets neglected and considered as a waste of time. However it can add lots of value when it's created based on the context where it will be used. Below you will find possible reasons why your test approach is failing and how you can apply a test approach based on the context for process improvement.

You're adapting your approach frequently

It's normal to experiment with approaches if your project just started and you find yourself between sprint 0 and 3 for example. However, finding yourself in sprint 5 and still looking for a proper way to test can be a sign that the strategy is not aligned with the context. Sometimes this is also reflected in the feedback of the project team. People like to understand how testing is carried out. A poor test approach can give them the feeling the test process isn't transparent or they doubt which tests are being executed.

💡 What's a good test approach?
  The test approach should be aligned with the overall project goals and describe how and when   testing will be done. It takes into account risks, resources, skills, objectives, etc but amongst all it's a   set of rules that are established through input from subject matter experts.

We are used to do it that way

Often in corporate environments, you will encounter legacy systems. In those environments it's easy to use a saying that will sound familiar; we've always done it this way. Often this means that tests are performed in the same way without regard to the context that may have changed over time. Although certain technologies and legacy systems give the feeling that time stood still, that is not true. Today there are even tools that can automate mainframe tests.

Just like a test plan, a test approach is a living document that needs to be reviewed and adapted from time to time. Maybe risks have been added over time? Or you have access to technology that wasn't there before? Only by regularly reviewing this against the current context, you will be able to implement a cost-effective and value adding test approach.

💡 What is a living document?
  A living document is a document that is continually edited an updated. Living documentation   provides information that is current, accurate and easy to understand because it gets updated as   soon as it's oudated.

The approach is too abstract

There should be a distinction between a test strategy and a test approach. A test strategy provides a generalized description of the test process, the test approach tailors the test strategy for a particular project or release. If the test strategy is too general or doesn't apply to all projects within the organization the test approach can't be tailored to the project. In this case a different test strategy for specific situations can do the trick.

    Let's have a look at this case:
    Company X has a solid and well documented test strategy and approach which covers most of the     projects. Most of these projects involve new applications or new functionalities that are added to     existing ones. However, there are also infrastructure projects that deal with e.g. adapting a JDK     version which affect several applications. These projects can't follow the traditional process     because maintenance projects generally need to be tested on regression only. This context     demands a different type of test approach such as: Regression Test Suite (RTS) approach.     Adapting this context will allow you to move forward faster.

Illustration of of regression testing cycle.

Testing is not giving the desired result

Finally, if testing is not giving the desired result this can indicate that the test approach should be adapted. A good test approach describes “how” a product should be tested. That “how” should be adapted to a context. Therefore; there is no added value in having a 10 pages test approach, if it doesn’t answer any questions. On the other hand, it should provide enough information, so that you are able to execute actions that give you an overview of the quality. Keep It Short and Simple (KISS) is always a good rule of thumb to create an effective test approach that's clear for the whole project team. The selected approach depends on the context, such as: risks, safety, available resources, skills, technology, the nature of the system, test objectives and regulations. If you take this into account you are definitely on the right track.