Home > Articles > Software Development & Management

Preface to Best Practices for the Formal Software Testing Process: A Menu of Testing Tasks

  • Print
  • + Share This
Roger Drabick introduces his book, Best Practices for the Formal Software Testing Process: A Menu of Testing Tasks, which provides a soup-to-nuts list of tasks and processes for a program of formal software or system testing.
This chapter is from the book

What is “the formal software testing process”?

One of the definitions the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Software Standards collection provides for process is “a course of action to be taken to perform a given task” or “a written description of a course of actions, for example, a documented test procedure.” Various editions of Webster’s Dictionary offer a series of definitions for process, including “a particular method of doing something, generally involving a number of steps or operations.”

A simpler definition of a process is “the way we do things.”

Thus, we could say that the “testing process” is “a course of action to be taken to perform formal testing,” or “the way we do testing here.”

But, how does “the way we do testing here” stack up against industry standards for best testing practices, and why did I go to all the effort to define a Formal Testing Process Model? Let me share a short personal retrospective.

I have spent twenty-eight years of a mostly exciting technical career testing and managing testing programs. These programs started out as hardware programs, and evolved into hardware and software systems programs in the mid-1970’s. I was lucky in some respects to work for a large company in the Department of Defense (DoD) area; thus, we were always in an environment that forced us to be rigorous and methodical, both in test execution and in test documentation. Note that being methodical didn’t always lead to delivering successful systems.

When I first began working in programs that were primarily software, I was looking for sources of material on “best practices” relative to the software testing process. Being in the DoD environment, our customers supplied Contract Deliverable Requirements Lists (CDRLs) that identified the documents we had to write. Thus, we had a framework for our programs. Later, I discovered a number of military standards (for example, DoD-Standards 2167A and 2168), and the IEEE Software Engineering Standards, which I continue to use to this day. Following the series of documentation contained in IEEE-Standard-829, the Standard for Software Test Documentation, suggested a standard process to utilize for software and systems test documentation.

In 1992, while working in the Commercial and Government Systems Division of the Eastman Kodak Company, my job was to develop a testing estimate for a program we were bidding for the Internal Revenue Service. Having built estimates previously for large, complex, testing programs, I knew that I needed a logical, structured list of tasks to form the basis of my estimate. I could then convert this task list into a work breakdown structure (WBS), and estimate the time to perform each task.

About this same time, I was reading Watts Humphrey’s fascinating book Managing the Software Process (Humphrey, 1989). Watts showed how to use Input-Process-Output (IPO) diagrams to document a process; I applied that technique to the testing process. That was the first formal documentation of the top levels of the model you will see described in this book. I published an article describing how aspects of this model could be used in estimating, in 1993 in the June issue of Ed Yourdon’s American Programmer newsletter (Yourdon, 1993).1 That’s one use of such a model. Over the years, I continued to refine the model until it became the fairly detailed model presented in this book.

Incidentally, our prime contractor accepted my estimate, and both it and the Internal Revenue Service accepted the overall estimate.

The first light bulb that lit as I began to learn about software testing is that testing has a life cycle that is closely linked to the software development life cycle. What seems like a logical truth in 2003 was a real revelation to many in the mid-1970’s. I still think that the “V-diagram” is a thing of beauty. The V-diagram is a means of illustrating the relationship between the concurrent software development and testing life cycles (see Figure 1-2 for one example of the V-diagram). Unfortunately, there are still a large number of people and corporations developing software who haven’t recognized this basic truth. We write a test plan while requirements are being developed. We then do test design and write test cases as the software design is being developed, and write test procedures during the coding phase.2 Execution of formal testing occurs following unit testing and integration testing.

The second light bulb that lit pertained to the critical importance of test planning, and the consequent need for “testable requirements.” Many good books have been written on these subjects (Gause and Weinberg, 1989; Wiegers, 1999), so I will not belabor the point here.

The third light bulb that was turned on was realizing that to properly estimate testing programs, we need a structured, internally consistent list of tasks that test engineers will perform on a specific program. Once such a list of tasks is in hand, we can then estimate each task individually to get a bottoms-up estimate for a testing program. And if we perform the same set of tasks (or a very similar set) on each program, we can begin to establish accurate metrics for how much our testing costs, and how long it can be expected to take.

In brief, what I am providing in this book is a soup-to-nuts list of tasks and processes for a program of formal software or system testing. If you are just starting to implement a testing process, you will not want to try to implement all parts of this model in one fell swoop; it would be too overwhelming and too costly. In later chapters, I suggest ways to implement this process in a prioritized, piecewise fashion.

Objectives

There is no “one true way” to test software, so the goal of this book is to provide you with information that you can use to develop a formal testing process that fits the needs of you, your customers, and your organization.

Glenford Myers woke up the testing community in 1979 with his book The Art of Software Testing; he stated that the purpose of testing is to find errors, rather than to prove that a system works. Regardless of what your opinion of his thesis is, we test to see if we can find any problems with developed systems. A best-practices test process is performed throughout the duration of the development process. The test process puts appropriate emphasis on requirements testability, documentation prior to test execution, review of the documentation, systematic interface with the development community, and test execution according to the approved documentation. A series of tasks to accomplish this testing process is presented in this book.

In addition to defining the sequence of tasks in the testing process, I address interfaces between the formal testing group and the other organizations involved in the software development life cycle, including development engineers, managers, software quality engineers, and software configuration management personnel. All of these people have significant roles that must be performed in a quality manner to make the software development process and the software testing process work. One of the primary purposes of test documentation is communication with the other groups on the program, so we as test engineers must be sure to make these intergroup interfaces work. All of us should be aware that there’s a Level 3 key process area (KPA) in the Software Engineering Institute’s Capability Maturity Model (SEI-CMM) for Intergroup Coordination. Early in the development life cycle, test engineers and managers review program-level plans, including the Program Management Plan (PMP), the Configuration Management Plan (CMP), the Software Quality Assurance Plan (SQAP), and the Software Development Plan (SDP), or whatever you call these documents in your environment. During the requirements phase of the software development life cycle, test engineers review the requirements. Later in the life cycle, the groups that authored these plans and the requirements get to return the favor by reviewing the test plan. Test engineers review software design (and sometimes code) for input to their test designs, test cases, and test procedures. Once again, development engineers, QA staff members, and CM personnel should review the test designs, test cases, and test procedures. As has been shown in other reference materials (Wiegers, 2002), peer reviews minimize defects and cost-of-quality by finding defects as early as possible in the life cycle.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020