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Improving Your Software Testing: Focus on the Testing Team

The capabilities of the testing team can greatly affect the success, or failure, of the testing effort. Elfriede Dustin explains how to get the most out of your team, by getting the right mix of people and evaluating the testers' effectiveness.
This chapter is from the book

The capabilities of the testing team can greatly affect the success, or failure, of the testing effort. An effective testing team includes a mixture of technical and domain expertise relevant to the software problem at hand. It is not enough for a testing team to be technically proficient with the testing techniques and tools necessary to perform the actual tests. Depending on the complexity of the domain, a test team should also include members who have a detailed understanding of the problem domain. This knowledge enables them to create effective test artifacts and data and to effectively implement test scripts and other test mechanisms.

In addition, the testing team must be properly structured, with defined roles and responsibilities that allow the testers to perform their functions with minimal overlap and without uncertainty regarding which team member should perform which duties. One way to divide testing resources is by specialization in particular application areas and nonfunctional areas. The testing team may also have more role requirements than it has members, which must be considered by the test manager.

As with any team, continual evaluation of the effectiveness of each test team member is important to ensuring a successful test effort. Evaluation of testers is performed by examining a variety of areas, including the types of defects generated, and the number and types of defects missed. It is never good practice to evaluate a test engineer's performance using numbers of defects generated alone, since this metric by itself does not tell the whole story. Many factors must be considered during this type of evaluation, such as complexity of functionality tested, time constraints, test engineer role and responsibilities, experience, and so on. Regularly evaluating team members using valid criteria makes it possible to implement improvements that increase the effectiveness of the overall effort.

Item 13: Define Roles and Responsibilities1

Test efforts are complex, and require that the test team possess a diversity of expertise to comprehend the scope and depth of the required test effort and develop a strategy for the test program.

In order for everyone on the test team to be aware of what needs to get done and who will take the lead on each task, it is necessary to define and document the roles and responsibilities of the test-team members. These should be communicated, both verbally and in writing, to everyone on the team. Identifying the assigned roles of all test-team members on the project enables everyone to clearly understand which individual is responsible for each area of the project. In particular, it allows new team members to quickly determine whom to contact if an issue arises.

In order to identify the individuals needed to perform a particular task, a task description should be created. Once the scope of the task is understood, it will be easier to assign particular team members to the task.

To help ensure successful execution of the task, work packages can be developed and distributed to the members of the test team. Work packages typically include the organization of the tasks, technical approach, task schedule, spending plan, allocation of hours for each individual, and a list of applicable standards and processes.

The number of test-engineering roles in a project may be greater than the number of test-team members. (The roles required depend on the task at hand, as discussed in Chapter 2.) As a result, a test engineer may "wear many hats," being responsible for more than one role.

Table 13.1 shows some example responsibilities and skills required for each test-program role.

Table 13.1—Test Program Roles

Test Manager



  • Liaison for interdepartmental interactions: Representative of the testing team

  • Customer interaction, if applicable

  • Recruiting, staff supervision, and staff training

  • Test budgeting and scheduling, including test-effort estimations

  • Understands testing process or methodology

  • Familiar with test-program concerns including test environment and data management, trouble reporting and resolution, and test design and development

  • Understands manual testing techniques and automated testing best practices

  • Test planning, including development of testing goals and strategy

  • Vender interaction

  • Test-tool selection and introduction

  • Understands application business area, application requirements

  • Cohesive integration of test and development activities
  • Skilled at developing test goals, objectives, and strategy
  • Acquisition of hardware and software for test environment
  • Familiar with different test tools, defect-tracking tools, and other test-support COTS tools and their use
  • Test environment and test product configuration management.
  • Good at all planning aspects, including people, facilities, and schedule
  • Test-process definition, training and continual improvement

  • Use of metrics to support continual test-process improvement

  • Test-program oversight and progress tracking

  • Coordinating pre- and post-test meetings

Test Lead



  • Technical leadership for the test program, including test approach
  • Understands application business area and application requirements
  • Support for customer interface, recruiting, test-tool introduction, test planning, staff supervision, and cost and progress status reporting
  • Familiar with test-program concerns including test-data management, trouble reporting and resolution, test design, and test development
  • Verifying the quality of the requirements, including testability, requirement definition, test design, test-script and test-data development, test automation, test-environment configuration; test-script configuration management, and test execution
  • Expertise in a variety of technical skills including programming languages, database technologies, and computer operating systems
  • Interaction with test-tool vendor to identify best ways to leverage test tool on the project
  • Familiar with different test tools, defect-tracking tools, and other COTS tools supporting the testing life cycle, and their use
  • Staying current on latest test approaches and tools, and transferring this knowledge to test team

  • Cunducting test-design and test-procedure walk throughs anad inspections

  • Implementing test-process improvements resulting from lessons learned and benefits surveys

  • Test Traceability Matrix (tracing the test-procedures to the test requirements)

  • Test-process implementation

  • Ensuring that test-product documentation is complete

Usability2 Test Engineer



  • Designs and develops usability testing scenarios

  • Administers usability testing process

  • Proficient in designing test suites

  • Understanding usability issues

  • Defines criteria for performing usability testing, analyzes results of testing sessions, presents results to development team
  • Skilled in test facilitation
  • Develops test-product documentation
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Defines usability requirements, and interacts with customer to refine them
  • Proficient in GUI design standards
  • Participates in test-procedure walk-throughs

Manual Test Engineer



  • Designs and develops test procedures and cases,with associated test data
  • Has good understanding of GUI design
  • Manually executes the test procedures
  • Proficient in software testing
  • Attends test-procedure walk-throughs
  • Proficient in designing test suites
  • Conducts tests and prepares reports on test progress and regression

  • Proficient in the business area of application under test

  • Proficient in testing techniques

  • Understands various testing phases

  • Follows test standards
  • Proficient in GUI design standards

Automated Test Engineer (Automater/Developer)



  • Designs and develops test procedures and cases based upon requirements
  • Good understanding of GUI design
  • Designs, develops and executes reusable and maintainable automated scripts

  • Uses capture/playback tools for GUI automation and /or develops test harnesses using a development of scripting language

  • Proficient in software testing

  • Follows rest-design standards
  • Proficient in designing test suites
  • Conducts/Attends test procedure walk-throughs
  • Proficient in working with test tools
  • Executes tests and prepares reports on test progress and regression
  • nProgramming skills
  • Attends test-tool user groups and related activities to remain abreast of test-tool capabilities
  • Proficient in GUI design standards

Network Test Engineer



  • Performs network, database, and middle-ware testing
  • Network, database and system administration skills
  • Researches network, database, and middle-ware performance monitoring tools

  • Develops load and stress test designs, cases and procedures

  • Supports walk-throughs or inspections of load and stress test procedures

  • Expertise in a variety of technical skills, including programming languages, database technologies, and computer operating systems

  • Implements performance monitoring tools on ongoing basis

  • Conducts load and stress test procedures

  • Product evaluation and integration skills

  • Familiarity with network sniffers, and available tools for load and stress testing

Test Environment Specialist



  • Responsible for installing test tool and establishing test-tool environment
  • Network, database and system administration skills
  • Responsible for creating and controlling test environment by using environment setup scripts
  • Expertise in a variety of technical skills, including programming and scripting languages, database technologies, and computer operating systems
  • Creates and maintains test database (adds/restores/deletes, etc)
  • Test tool and database experience
  • Maintains requirements hierarchy within test-tool environment
  • Product evaluation and integration skills

Security Test Engineer



  • Responsible for security testing of the application

  • Understands security testing techniques

  • Background in security

  • Security test tool experience

Test Library and Configuration Specialista



  • Test-script change management
  • Network, database, and system administration skills
  • Test-script version control
  • Expertise in a variety of technical skills including programming languages, database technologies, and computer operating systems
  • Maintaining test-script reuse library

  • Creating the various test builds, in some cases

  • Configuration-management tool expertise

  • Test-tool experience

It is important that the appropriate roles be assigned to the right people, based on their skill sets and other strengths. Individual testers can specialize in specific areas of the application, as well as nonfunctional areas. Assigning testers to specific areas of the application may enable them to become experts in those specific areas. In addition to focusing on particular functional testing areas, different team members should specialize in specific nonfunctional testing areas, performance testing, compatibility, security, and concurrency.

Teams that use automated test tools should include personnel with software-development skills. Automated testing requires that test scripts be developed, executed, and managed. For this reason, the skills and activities pertinent to performing manual testing differ from those required for performing automated software testing. Because of this difference, manual test roles should be listed separately in the definition of roles and responsibilities. This does not mean that an "automated test engineer" won't be expected to do some manual testing from time to time.

If multiple products are under test, testers can maximize continuity by keeping specific team members assigned to the same product domains for some period of time. It can be difficult for testers to switch between significantly different technical or problem domains too often. Testers should be kept on either the same type of products (e.g., Web vs. desktop applications) or in the same problem areas, depending on where their strengths lie. The most effective testers understand the business and system requirements, in addition to being technically adept.

Table 13.2 gives an example of a test-team structure. Basic skills are assumed and not listed. For example, if working in a Windows environment, it is assumed that the team members have Windows skills; if working in a UNIX environment, it is assumed the team members have basic UNIX skills.

Table 13.2 Example Test-Team Assignments



Duties /

Roles and Responsibilities

Test Manager

Desktop Web

Responsible for test program, customer interface, test-tool introduction, and sstaff recruiting and supervision Skills: Management skills, MS Project, Winrunner, SQL, SQL Server, UNIX, VC++, Web applications, test-tool experience

Manage test program

Test Lead

Desktop Web

Staff supervision, cost/progress/test status reporting, and test planning, design, development, and execution Skills: Team Test, Purify,Visual BAsic, SQL, Win-runner, Robot, UNIX, MS Access, C\C++, SQL Server

-[Reference the related testing requirements here] Develop automated test scripts for functional test procedures

Test Engineer

Desktop Web

Test planning, design, development, and execution Defect identification anad tracking Skills: Test-tool experience, financial system experience

-[Reference the related testing requirements here] Develop test harness

Test Engineer

Desktop Web

Test planning, design, development, and execution Defect identification and tracking Skills: Test-tool experience, financial system experience

-Performance testing [Reference the related testing requirements here]

Test Engineer


Test planning, design, development, and execution Defect identification and tracking Skills: Financial system experience

-Configuration testing, installation testing [Reference the related testing requirements here]

Test Engineer


Responsible for test tool environment, network, and middleware testing Performs all other test activities Defect identification and tracking Skills: Visual BAsic, SQL CNE, UNIX, C\C++, SQL Server

-Security testing [Reference the related testing requirements here]

Jr. Test Engineer


Performs test planning, designs, development nad execution Defect identification and tracking Skills: Visual Basic, SQL, UNIX, C/C++, HTML, MS Access

-[Reference the related testing requirements here]

Table 13.2 identifies test-team positions and their assignments on the project, together with the products they are working on. The duties that must be performed by the person in each of the positions are outlined, as are the skills of the personnel fulfilling those positions. Also noted are the products to which each position on the team is assigned.

Item 1 of this book emphasized the importance of the testing team's involvement from the beginning of the product's life cycle. If early involvement of testers has become an established practice in an organization, it is possible (and necessary) to define and document the role of the testing team during each phase of the life cycle, including the deliverables expected from the testing team upon completion of each phase.

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