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Will we finish on time – Jesper Ottosen

  • 14/09/2010
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  • Posted by EuroSTAR
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Management will ask you, as a test manager again and again. Testing is indeed part informing the stakeholders, part fixing the defects and part evaluation the quality. If you do Agile development, you could be able to ship any time, as you evaluate the quality for each step or story. Still you probably dont’ ship until a number of features are done. If you do standard waterfall projects, you ship when the time is up. Michael Bolton has a range of other heuristics for when to stop a test (many variations available).

A back log of stories or a pile of testcases is a work effort that can be unpredictable – as the saying goes: “It’s hard to predict, especially about the future!” So we need a way to communicate how things are going – currently and in a proffesional manner. If you just found three ugly bugs, if you just missed your lunchbreak or you din’t sleep well the night before – you might be in a grim mood. A way to do it is to apply measurements on the progress.

Measurements and metrics go together, and metrics like “You must complete this much a day, or else you cannot go home” can have serious side effects. Here are a few good blogposts on metrics in software testing:

• The absolute pass rate does not matter, but the act of driving the pass rate up can yield benefits. (Steve Rowe)

• Two eyes on the current activity helps me achieve my goal than one eye on goal and one on path. (Ajay Balamurugadas)

• Code-coverage is more of a tool to improve testing, not a goal in it self (IM Testy)

• Being skeptical about metrics is not the same as dismissing all metrics (Jason Gorman)

Personally I prefer the term “to keep track of the testing” – like you keep track of your route to your destination when you travel. You can look on your GPS navigator to see where you are now, and based on the current information it predicts when you will be at your destination (and what turns to take to get there…). Obviously it cannot predict your detours, traffic jams or meal breaks. Still you can use it to track your progress, and you can then decide if you need to pick up speed etc.

Same thing with keeping track of testing – we must compare now and the expected path. If we are good we have a projected course (an s-curve, a ideal burn down etc) – if we are even better, the projected is based on on projects and tasks of similar nature. With test tracking you can reply “We usually do find three ugly bugs at this time” and “Yes! We will finish if we keep up the good work”.

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