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A STRUCTURED APPROACH TO DEVELOPING TEST PLANS

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I&M Category: ApplicationsThe Journal of the Quality Assurance Institute, 12(4), October 1998, 36-48.A STRUCTURED APPROACH TO DEVELOPING TEST PLANSbyEldon Y. LiCollege of BusinessCalifornia Polytechnic State UniversitySan Luis Obispo, California 93407U.S.A.Phone: 1-805-756-2964Fax: 1-805-756-1473E-Mail: [email protected]://www.calpoly.edu/~eliKeywords: Software testing, test plans, testing activities, structured process, systemsdevelopment life cycle, project management.March 4, 1997The Journal of the Quality Assurance Institute, 12(4), October 1998, 36-48.1A STRUCTURED APPROACH TO DEVELOPING TEST PLANSABSTRACTThis paper describes a two-stage structured approach to developing test plans during the systemdevelopment life cycle (SDLC). The first stage is to identify the test plans required at thedifferent phases of the SDLC and include them in the project test plan. The second stage is todevelop the contents of these test plans based on 8 W’s questions. The project test plandeveloped using this approach is relatively complete and comprehensive. It can serve as areference book for the future test activities. Moreover, the format of the project test plan asproposed by this paper can be tailored to different project environments and organizational needs.INTRODUCTIONSoftware testing is a critical process in a system development project. It is a necessary means fordetecting the number of errors made during the analysis, design, and implementation phases. Tohave an effective software testing process, we must have a carefully prepared test plan for theprocess. The purpose of a test plan is to provide guidelines for a project team to plan for the testsequence, test criteria, test schedule, and required supporting resources such as personnel,hardware, software, test methods, test tools, test room, test facilities, and available budget. It isnecessary for a project manager to use this plan along with the project (development) plan toallocate project resources and to manage and control the project activities.Many system professionals (e.g., Aron [1983], Beizer [1984], Glass [1979], Larson [1975], Li[1985], Myers [1976, 1979], Perry [1983], Pressman [1982], and Wooldridge [1977], amongothers) had suggested various formats for a test plan. However, none of their formats can beadopted directly as a test plan for the structured testing process [Li, 1989]. Nor do they provideany guidelines for developing a test plan.A structured testing process is a step-by-step procedure for assuring the quality of test plans,designs, execution, controls, and documentation throughout the entire system developmentprocess [Li, 1989]. A proper test plan in this process must address to all the questions of the 8W’s: what, who, which, when, why, where, how, and how much? To be more specific, it mustaddress to the following questions: Where are we now? Where do we want to go? Why shouldwe get there? How do we get there? When should we get there? Who will do it? How much doesit cost? and How much should we spend? Table 1 enumerates the questions or activities relatedto testing under each category of "W." These questions are the essential components of aneffective test plan. The purpose of this paper is to propose a structured approach to developing acomprehensive test plan in the system development life cycle (SDLC) which answers these 8 W'squestions.——— INSERT Table 1 ABOUT HERE ———The Journal of the Quality Assurance Institute, 12(4), October 1998, 36-48.2THE STRUCTURED APPROACHThe structured approach to developing test plans for a system development project as proposedby this paper begins with a time schedule when different test plans should be ready, followed bydeveloping the contents of the test plans.The Time Schedule of Developing Test PlansThe first stage of our structured approach is to develop an outline of the project test plan andidentify what specific test plans need to be included in this plan during the SDLC. The projecttest plan is the test plan for the entire system project. It consists of an overall test plan andseveral specific-level test plans, each prescribing guidelines for different levels of testing activitiessuch as module testing, integration testing, etc. The former should be developed before beginningthe development of any specific-level test plan. As the project progresses, the project test planwill be revised, expanded, and updated. More and more details will be added into the test plan.That is, one should start developing the project test plan early in the SDLC; as soon as the projectplan has been established, usually at the end of the project viability analysis (PVA) phase. Duringthe rest of SDLC, other test plans and test case specifications will be developed, and differentlevels and types of testing will be conducted. The resulting documents will be added to theproject test plan. The description of the sequence of developing test plans during the SDLCfollows. Figure 1 shows a Gantt chart summarizing the flow of various test plans and testingactivities.——— INSERT Figure 1 ABOUT HERE ———1. System Requirements Definition (SRD) Phase: During the SRD phase, the questionscommon to all levels or types of testing such as the testing goals, objectives, strategies,accountabilities, procedures, productivity tools, schedule, resource needs, etc., should beadded to the project test plan. The dates when each specific level of testing starts and endsare roughly estimated; so are the percentage of resources allocated to each of them. As theproject progresses, the schedules and resource allocations of the completed test activities willbe updated with the actual time and resource spending. This will help us in revising theallocations to the unfinished test activities. Therefore, there will be several versions of testmilestones and the personnel requirements included in the project test plan. In summary, theproject test plan will be periodically revised, expanded, and updated throughout the entireSDLC. Each update of the project test plan will increase its details by adding another testplan for a different level of testing or more information about testing activities. 2. System Design Alternatives (SDA) Phase: An initial schedule for various specific levels oftesting activities is added to the project test plan. Resource needs are updated during thisphase as well. At the end of the SDA phase, an initial


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