3 Fundamentals of a Successful Testing Team

Fundamental building blocks for a test team

A three-inch binder, ever growing in test cases, seems the norm by which many testing organizations measure a QA engineer’s capabilities and success. The first reaction to new functionality is often to write endless test cases, contributing to the already bloated test suite. Is this really an accurate indicator of an effective test team?

It’s odd, the things we let drive the direction of our quality organizations. If asked, countless QA engineers would likely say that test plans, test cases, and requirements are the weapons in their testing arsenals.

These and other tools are undoubtedly part of the quality landscape, but do they each hold the same value and produce worthwhile results? Which, if any, equip a QA team to reduce risk, test quality, and deliver world-class products?

There are more important things than tools. I’ve identified some fundamentals essential to great testing teams.

A common language: Do bug and defect mean the same thing? A good QA team has a common vocabulary at its foundation. Communication is one of the most important tools a QA engineer has, so we must understand the products we’re testing and share our findings in a meaningful way.

Pick a few key terms, such as what you call a “found issue.” Is it a bug, a defect, or something else? Align your team with a common vocabulary and use it consistently across your test organization.

Core testing concepts: Have a common testing approach across your team, and make sure team members have been instructed in sound testing concepts, such as positive, negative, and boundary testing. These three testing fundamentals should be something your testers can perform in their sleep. Each team member also should be able to teach these core testing concepts to others, promoting solid testing practices while developing a common language across your organization.

A smart automation strategy: With more than thirty years of automated testing experience, I’m passionate about test automation. I’m also aware that test automation can be one of the biggest costs in time and money if you don’t have a game plan in place.

First, be tactical in your adoption and implementation of test automation. Don’t be lured into using tools simply because they’re free. Nothing in test automation is free, even if the tool appears to cost nothing. Second, watch out for test automation snake oil. It typically shows up in the form of “record and playback.” Successful test automation efforts are built on sound testing fundamentals and software development skills.

Also, never get conned into the idea of automating everything. A wise approach to test automation recognizes the benefits of where automation shines and where you need to keep human eyes and brains engaged. Automation is not a substitute for manual testing; it is a tool to complement a great manual test strategy.

Establishing a solid foundation, based on these and other fundamentals, will set up your testing team for success.

Greg Paskal is presenting the session Seven Fundamentals of a Successful Testing Team at the STAREAST 2017 conference, May 7–12 in Orlando, FL.

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