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Phase 4: Test Planning, Design, and Development

Test planning, design, and development is the fourth phase of the ATLM. These subjects are summarized in the following sections.

Test Planning

The test planning stage represents the need to review long–lead-time test planning activities. During this phase, the test team identifies test procedure creation standards and guidelines; hardware, software, and network required to support test environment; test data requirements; a preliminary test schedule; performance measure requirements; a procedure to control test configuration and environment; as well as defect-tracking procedure(s) and associated tracking tool(s).

The test plan contains the results of each preliminary phase of the structured test methodology (ATLM). The test plan will define roles and responsibilities, project test schedule, test planning and design activities, test environment preparation, test risks and contingencies, and acceptable level of thoroughness (test acceptance criteria). Test plan appendices may include test procedures, naming conventions, test procedure format standards, and a test procedure traceability matrix.

The test environment setup is part of test planning. It represents the need to plan, track, and manage test environment setup activities, where material procurements may have long lead times. The test team needs to schedule and track environment setup activities; install test environment hardware, software, and network resources; integrate and install test environment resources; obtain/refine test databases; and develop environment setup scripts and test bed scripts.

Test Design

The test design component addresses the need to define the number of tests to be performed, the ways that testing will be approached (paths, functions), and the test conditions that need to be exercised. Test design standards need to be defined and followed.

An effective test program, incorporating the automation of software testing, involves a mini-development lifecycle of its own, complete with strategy and goal planning, test requirement definition, analysis, design, and coding. Similar to software application development, test requirements must be specified before test design is constructed. Test requirements need to be clearly defined and documented, so that all project personnel will understand the basis of the test effort. Test requirements are defined within requirement statements as an outcome of test requirement analysis.

After test requirements have been derived using the described techniques, test procedure design can begin. Test procedure design consists of the definition of logical groups of test procedures and a naming convention for the suite of test procedures. With a test procedure definition in place, each test procedure is then identified as either an automated or a manual test. During the test planning phase, the test team gets an understanding of the number of test techniques being employed and an estimate for the number of test procedures that will be required. The test team also will have an estimate of the number of test procedures that will need to be performed manually, as well as with an automated test tool.

Much like a software development effort, the test program must be mapped out and consciously designed to ensure that test activities performed represent the most efficient and effective tests for the system under test. Test program resources are limited, yet ways of testing the system are endless. A test design is developed to portray the test effort, in order to give project and test personnel a mental framework on the boundary and scope of the test program.

Following test analysis, the test team develops the test program design models. The first of these design models, the test program model, consists of a graphical illustration that depicts the scope of the test program. This model typically depicts the test techniques required to support the dynamic test effort and also outline static test strategies.

Having defined a test program model, the test team constructs a test architecture, which depicts the structure of the test program and defines the way that test procedures will be organized in support of the test effort.

The next step in the test procedure design process (see Table 1) is to identify those test procedures that stand out as being more sophisticated, and as a result are required to be defined further as part of detailed test design. These test procedures are flagged and a detailed design document is prepared in support of the more sophisticated test procedures. Following detailed test design, test data requirements are mapped against the defined test procedures. To create a repeatable, reusable process for producing test procedures, the test team needs to create a document that outlines test procedure design standards. Only when these standards are followed can the automated test program achieve real efficiency and success, by being repeatable and maintainable.

Table 1 Test Procedure Design Process




Test Architecture Review. The test team reviews the test architecture in order to identify the test techniques that apply.


Test Procedure Definition (Development Level). A test procedure definition is constructed at the development test level, identifying the test procedure series that applies for the various design components and test techniques.


Test Procedure Definition (System Level). A test procedure definition is constructed at the system test level, identifying the test procedure series that applies for the various test techniques.


Test Procedure Design Standards. Design standards are adopted and a unique naming convention is adopted that distinguishes the test procedures on the project from test procedures developed in the past or on other projects.


Manual Versus Automated Tests. Test procedures will be depicted as being either performed manually or as part of an automated test.


Test Procedures Flagged for Detailed Design. Test procedures that stand out as more sophisticated are flagged. These test procedures are further defined as part of detailed test design.


Detailed Design. Those test procedures flagged as part of step 7 are designed in further detail within a detailed test design file or document. Test procedure detailed design may consist of pseudo-code of algorithms, preliminary test step definition, or pseudo-code of test automation programs.


Test Data Mapping. Test procedure matrix is modified to reflect test data requirements for each test procedure.

The exercise of developing the test procedure definition not only aids in test development, but helps to quantify or bound the test effort. The development of the test procedure definition involves the identification of the suite of test procedures that need to be developed and executed in support of the test effort. The design exercise involves the organization of test procedures into logical groups and the definition of a naming convention for the suite of test procedures.

At the system level, it may be worthwhile to develop a detailed test design for sophisticated tests. These tests might involve test procedures that perform complex algorithms, consist of both manual and automated steps, and test programming scripts that are modified for use in multiple test procedures. The first step in the detailed design process is to review the test procedure definition at the system test level. This review is conducted for the purpose of identifying those test procedures that stand out as being more sophisticated and that, as a result, are required to be defined further as part of detailed test design.

Detailed test design may take the form of test program pseudo-code, when test programming is required. The detailed design may be represented simply as a sequence of steps that need to be performed in support of a test. When programming variables and multiple data values are involved, the detailed design may reflect the programming construct of a loop supporting an iterative series of tests involving different values, together with a list or table identifying the kinds of data or ranges of data required for the test.

Following the performance of detailed test design, test data requirements need to be mapped against the defined test procedures. Once test data requirements are outlined, the test team needs to plan the means for obtaining, generating, or developing the test data.

The structure of the test program (test architecture) is commonly portrayed in two ways. One test procedure organization method involves the logical grouping of test procedures with the system application design components, and is referred to as a design-based test architecture. Another method represents a test technique perspective and associates test procedures with the various kinds of test techniques represented within the test program model, and is referred to as a technique-based test architecture.

An understanding of test techniques is necessary when developing test design and the test program design models. Personnel performing testing need to be familiar with the test techniques associated with the white box and black box test-approach methods. White box test techniques are aimed at exercising software program internals; black box techniques generally compare the application under test behavior against requirements that address testing via established public interfaces such as the user interface or the published application programming interface (API).

Test Development

For automated tests to be reusable, repeatable, and maintainable, test development standards need to be defined and followed.

After performing test analysis and design, the test team is now ready to perform test development.

Keep in mind that the test design and development activities follow an iterative and incremental approach, in order to address the highest risk functionality up front. Table 2 correlates the development process phases to the test process phases. The testing processes and steps outlined in the table are strategically aligned with the development process, and the execution of these steps results in the refinement of test procedures at the same time as developers are creating the software modules. Automated and/or manual test procedures are developed during the integration test phase with the intention of reusing them during the system test phase.

Table 2 Development/Test Relationship


Development Process

Test Process

Module (Unit) Development

Design module from requirements.

Perform test planning and test environment setup.


Code module.

Create test design and develop test data.


Debug module.

Write test scripts or record test scenario using module.


Unit test module.

Debug automated test script by running against module. Use tools that support unit testing.


Correct defects.

Rerun automated test script to regression test as defects are corrected.


Conduct performance testing.

Verify that system is scalable and will meet performance requirements.


Build system by connecting modules.

Integration-test connected modules.

Review trouble reports.

Combine unit test scripts and add new scripts that demonstrate module interconnectivity. Use test tool to support automated integration testing.


Correct defects and update defect status.

Rerun automated test script as part of regression test, as defects are corrected.


Continued performance testing activities.

Verify that system is scalable and will meet performance requirements.

System Test

Review trouble reports.

Integrate automated test scripts into system-level test procedures where possible, and develop additional system-level test procedures. Execute system test and record test results.


Correct defects and update defect status.

Rerun automated test script as part of regression test as defects are corrected.

Acceptance Test

Review incident reports.

Perform subset of system test as part of demonstration of user acceptance test.


Correct defects.

Rerun automated test script as part of regression test as defects are corrected.

Many preparation activities need to take place before test development can begin. A test development architecture is developed (described in the next section), which provides the test team with a clear picture of the test development preparation activities or building blocks necessary for the efficient creation of test procedures. The test team will need to tailor the sample test development architecture to reflect the priorities of their particular project. Part of these setup and preparation activities involves the need to track and manage test environment set up activities, where material procurements may have long lead times. Prior to the commencement of test development, the test team also needs to perform analysis to identify the potential for reuse of existing test procedures and scripts within the automation infrastructure (reuse library).

The test team needs to develop test procedures according to a test procedure development/execution schedule. This schedule needs to allocate personnel resources and reflect development due dates, among other factors. The test team needs to monitor development progress and produce progress status reports. Prior to the creation of a complete suite of test procedures, the test team performs a modularity relationship analysis. The results of this analysis help to incorporate data dependencies, plan for workflow dependencies between tests, and identify common scripts that can be applied repeatedly to the test effort. As test procedures are being developed, the test team needs to ensure that configuration control is performed for the entire test bed to include test design, test scripts, and test data, as well as for each individual test procedure. The test bed needs to be baselined using a configuration management tool.

Test development involves the development of test procedures that are maintainable, reusable, simple, and robust, which in itself can be as challenging as the development of the application under test. Test procedure development standards need to be in place supporting structured and consistent development of automated tests. Test development standards can be based on the scripting language standards of a particular test tool. For example, Rational's Robot uses SQABasic, a Visual Basic–like scripting language, and therefore the script development standards could be based on the Visual Basic development standards, outlined in a number of books on the subject.

Usually internal development standards exist that can be followed if the organization is developing in a language similar to the tool's scripting language. The adoption or slight modification of existing development standards is generally a better approach than creating a standard from scratch. If no development standards exist within the organization for the particular tool scripting language, it's important for the test team to develop script development guidelines. Such guidelines can include directions on context independence, which addresses the particular place where a test procedure should start and where it should end. Additionally, modularity and reusability guidelines need to be addressed.

By developing test procedures based on development guidelines, the test team creates the initial building blocks for an automation infrastructure. The automation infrastructure will eventually contain a library of common, reusable scripts. Throughout the test effort and in future releases, the test engineer can make use of the automation infrastructure to support reuse of archived test procedures, minimize duplication, and thus enhance the entire automation effort.

Test Development Architecture

Test team members responsible for test development need to be prepared with the proper materials. Test team personnel need to follow a test development architecture that includes, for example, a listing of the test procedures assigned to them and a listing of the outcome of automated versus manual test analysis. Also, test team personnel need to decide when to automate. At times a test team might want to avoid automating using a GUI testing tool before the interface—whether API, character UI, or GUI—is stabilized, to avoid having to reengineer the automated tests in response to non–bug-related changes. At other times, the test team might find workaround solutions when automating an unstable GUI, such as focusing automation on the known stable parts only.

The test engineer needs to adhere to the test procedure development and execution schedule, test design information, automated test tool user manuals, and test procedure development guidelines. Armed with the proper instructions, documentation, and guidelines, test engineers will have the foundation that allows them to develop a more cohesive and structured set of test procedures. Repeating a process and repeatedly demonstrating a strong test program depends on the availability of documented processes and standard guidelines such as the test development architecture.

Figure 2 shows an example of a graphical illustration containing the major activities to be performed as part of the test development architecture. Test development starts with test environment setup and preparation activities, discussed earlier. Once they're concluded, the test team needs to make sure that all pertinent information necessary to support development has been documented or gathered. The test team will need to tailor the sample test development architecture in Figure 2 to reflect the priorities of their particular project. Note that Figure 2 should be read from bottom to top.

Figure 2 Building blocks of the test development architecture.

Technical Environment

Test procedure development needs to be preceded by several setup activities. The test development activity needs to be supported by a technical environment, which facilitates the development of test procedures. As a result, the test environment needs to be set up and ready to go. The test environment includes the technical environment, which may include facility resources as well as the hardware and software necessary to support test development and execution. The test team needs to ensure that there are enough workstations to support the entire team. The various elements of the test environment need to be outlined within the test plan, as discussed earlier.

Environment setup activities can also include the use of an environment setup script to load test data or restore a drive image, and to calibrate the test tool to the environment. When test tool compatibility problems arise with the application under test, workaround solutions have to be identified. When developing test procedures, it's important that the schedule for developing test procedures is consistent with the test execution schedule. It's also important that the test team follow test procedure development guidelines.

The test team must ensure that the proper test room or laboratory facilities are reserved and set up. Once the physical environment is established, the test team ensures that all necessary equipment is installed and operational. The test plan defined the required technical environment and addressed test environment planning. Within the test environment section of the test plan, the test team has already identified operational support required to install and check out the operational readiness of the technical environment. The test team needs to ensure that operational support activities have been properly scheduled and must monitor progress of these tasks.

Specific tasks and potential issues outlined in the test plan should now have been addressed and resolved. Such issues could include network installation, network server configuration and allocated disk space, network access privileges, required desktop computer processing speed and memory, number and types of desktop computers (clients), video resolution requirements, and any additional software required to support the application, such as browser software. Automated test tools that apply should have been scheduled for installation and checkout. These tools now should be configured to support the test team and be operational within the test environment.

The test environment setup activity includes the need to track and manage test environment setup activities, where material procurements may have long lead times. These activities include the need to schedule and track environment setup activities; install test environment hardware, software, and network resources; integrate and test-install test environment resources; obtain/refine test databases; and develop environment setup scripts and test bed scripts.

The hardware supporting the test environment must be sufficient to ensure complete functionality of the production application. Test environment hardware needs to be sufficient to support performance analysis. In cases where the test environment utilizes hardware resources that are also supporting other development or management activities, special arrangements may be necessary during actual performance testing. During system test, the software configuration loaded within the test environment must be a complete, fully integrated release with no patches and no disabled sections. The hardware configuration supporting the test environment needs to be designed to support processing, storage, and retrieval activities, which may be performed across a local or wide area network, reflecting the target environment.

The test environment design also needs to consider stress testing requirements. Stress and load tests may require the use of multiple workstations that will run multiple test procedures simultaneously; some automated test tools include a virtual user simulation functionality that eliminates or minimizes the need for multiple workstations.

Test data will need to be obtained with enough lead time to support refinement and manipulation to support test requirements. Data preparation activities include the identification of conversion data requirements, the preprocessing of raw data files, loading of temporary tables—possibly in a relational database management system format, and the performance of consistency checks. Identifying conversion data requirements involves performing in-depth analysis on data elements, which includes defining data-mapping criteria, clarifying data-element definitions, confirming primary keys, and defining data-acceptable parameters.

During test planning, the test team defined and scheduled the test environment activities. Now the team needs to track the test environment setup activities. Resources need to be identified to install hardware, software, and network resources into the test environment and integrate and test installed test environment resources. The test environment materials and the application under test need to be baselined within a configuration management tool. Additionally, test environment materials may include test data and test processes.

The test team needs to obtain and modify test databases necessary to exercise software applications, and develop environment setup scripts and test bed scripts. The test team should perform product reviews and validation of all test source materials. The location of the test environment for each project or task should be defined within the test plan for each project. Early identification of the test site is critical to cost-effective test environment planning and development.

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