Testing is an Investment in the Future of the Product


Software testing is the unsung hero of the various development disciplines. Often the testing is seen as ‘Complex!’ ‘Time-consuming!’ and ‘Tedious!’ But as a systematic part of your development processes, it makes developers’ work smoother, easier, and cost-effective while making your product solid, bug-free and future-proof. Here are some ways to leverage testing to improve your product and help your developers do their best work.

Here is a scenario:  

Your company is looking to launch a new product. To get moving, you make an investment to get the product out with the features you wanted the product to have. You might have had quite a tight schedule and to overcome that, you have an army of software programmers to implement your product.

All seems to go well; schedules are met, and features are integrated into the product on a regular basis. The product is released, and it works and serves users. After a while, there is nothing much to do, so you move your software programmers to different projects.

As time passes, new requirements for your product emerge, including requests for new features, hardware changes, and operating system updates. You bring in a new team of software programmers to address these needs.  

However, this team becomes confused, inefficient, and frustrated. You might realize that your new team has a challenging time integrating new features because after integrating new features, they cannot verify that the product's older features work as intended. Documentation, test plans, and test automation are outdated or, at worst, nonexistent.  

Build testing practices that suit your needs

Testing is usually associated with quality measures performed when new features are integrated into the product. However, the above scenario illustrates the wide-ranging effects of systematic testing, which improves many aspects of software development beyond quality assurance.

What you want from testing and different test activities differs. You should always consider the roadmap and future of your product when introducing test activities.    

Here is a brief list of examples of different test activities can be used and what they provide:

  • System Testing: Verification that system requirements and system-wide features work as specified. System testing is usually a testing activity performed manually, and with a full featured system at hand.
  • Usability Testing: Verification that solutions for an end user work as intended. Usability testing is usually manual testing which may require special arrangement.
  • Integration Testing: Verification that individual nodes in a system work as specified. Integration testing can be automated, although some systems may require manual testing activities through a simulated environment.
  • Unit Testing: Verification that an individual functionality works as it promises. Unit tests can be automated easily.  

This list is just scratching the surface – there are many aspects of testing that are left out. Of course, you do not always need all types of testing, and even with complex products you can steer the test effort to the most cost-effective testing activities.

Plans and reports make it real

To carry out systematic and valuable testing, you need plans and reports. Why?

In a nutshell: New products or applications are built because there is a need which needs to be solved. Testing verifies that the need is solved. The need is documented in a requirement specification or, if the requirement specification is not available, the need or solution is documented in a feature document. From these, you can create a testing plan.

Having a plan means that tests can be performed systematically at any time. There does not need to be a heavy process to change the plans; the key is to systematically keep plans and their results up to date. Even if you are in the middle of development, you should address gaps in the test arrangements.

In addition to plans, you need reports. It is not systematic testing unless you have them! Test reports enable you to gain concrete value from testing. To have test reports, you need either test plans or automated tests. (In a pinch, automated test cases work as a test plan, to an extent.)

Traceability is the result of a systematic testing approach

Interlinkage of requirements, features and test plans is what creates traceability. Test plans enable reports that can be used to verify that a need is met. Reports can also be used to verify that the product meets, for example, quality, safety, and security standards. This is usual practice in the machine industry, for instance, where testing activities range from testing whole systems to testing smaller units in the system.

Systematic testing goes a long way towards systematic development. where all the necessary documentation and test results are created alongside the actual development. You want systematic development.  

It is important to acknowledge the costs of test arrangements. It is equally important to understand that all features of the product can be tested in several ways. The effort to design an effective test environment is a development process itself, which should be part of the product development from the beginning.

You can reduce the costs of testing with good solutions, which require effort from the whole development team. I claim that the more time you invest in test arrangement development in the beginning, the better the results will be. Of course, the team needs knowledge of both the testing techniques and the application development.  

Better development, better product

To summarize the key tips in this article:

  • Invest in building a clear testing strategy, backed up with the tools and infrastructure to implement your strategy in practice.
  • Systematic testing makes your software development future-proof and transparent. New employees or even teams can jump on board with little difficulty, and revising old features is not a treacherous treasure hunt.
  • When building a team, you should demand a plan for a testing strategy at the preliminary stages of development.  
  • Plans and reports make testing real – without them, it is going to be cluttered and unsystematic.  
  • A report requires a plan, and the plan needs to interface with requirements, features, and the promises that your business units.
  • The testing plan can – and should – change over time; you cannot improve or change something that does not exist.
  • Automate whenever it makes sense: The less manual testing-related tasks you have, the better the development experience will be. In typical cases, significant parts of the testing process can and should be automated.

Of course, like all others, this investment involves a cost. However, it is well worth your time to consider the alternative and assess the risks of not investing in a proper testing strategy.

After all, testing is one of the key factors that make your software development systematic, enabling your developers to do their best work.

About the author
Jussi Ranta

Jussi has 20+ years of experience with software projects ranging from small PoCs to massively complex systems. Jussi is a C++ and software quality enthusiast, who wishes to learn from others and share his knowledge and experience to everyone willing to listen.

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