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This is a guest post by Raj Subrameyer.

The testing phase is a critical step in the software development lifecycle. Companies of different sizes, from large enterprises to startup companies, invest heavily in this phase. They want the features to match customer expectations so that more people will want to use their products. As a result, the company gets more revenue for the effort it put into delivering high-quality software.

Like other phases of the development process, effective test planning needs a lot of attention so that defects can be caught as early as possible. A good way to develop a test plan is to get clarity on different aspects of the testing phase.

Here are six ways to come up with a solid test strategy and flush out ambiguities in the testing process.

1. Get clear on the modules to be tested

One of the biggest causes of confusion during the testing process is teams not having a common understanding of what modules to test. Each one has different interpretations of how a feature works and what modules are critical to the application. This is a recipe for disaster.

To prevent conflict and confusion from happening, teams should collaboratively identify different features of the application that need to be tested during the planning phase. This shared understanding prevents gaps in communication during the testing process.

2. Identify associated risks

In addition to the happy path flows, teams must think of various failure scenarios in the application. One way to do this is for the business representative, a developer, and a tester to collaboratively come up with different risks associated with each module. Based on the risks, teams can then develop a test strategy to effectively analyze the system in various states.

3. Gain clarity on the timeline and resource availability

Teams are under pressure to develop and test features at a rapid pace to meet growing customer demands. They often work under tight timelines and do not have time to waste. This being the case, planning testing within the available time frame is always going to be a challenge, but the strategy should shift based on the time available. For example, the testing strategy will vastly differ between a release that happens within two weeks and one that happens in two months.

The availability of resources to perform testing also makes a huge impact on the amount of work that can be completed within a given time frame. If there are more resources, there could be more opportunities to perform different types of testing and use various tools to get more information about the product.

4. Standardize processes and tools

Before testing starts, the team must agree on a common set of processes and tools. This includes the story testing process, defect templates, test planning templates, automation tools, frameworks, artifact repository systems, and communication tools. Having a common understanding helps for more effective collaboration and testing.

5. Define clear roles and responsibilities

Every testing activity should have a point person — a person for automation, manual testing, test planning, and the overall testing effort, as well as someone who will serve as a liaison among different teams, often the test lead. Having distinct responsibilities prevents unnecessary confusion in completing tasks on time and prevents gaps in communication.

6. Come up with the definition of done

One of the biggest reasons there are unnecessary defects and rework is not having clear requirements and a definition of done for user stories. When is a story deemed complete? If we cannot answer this question, it is a sign that there is a big problem. 

The team has to collaboratively discuss what things have to be completed to earn points from a story. In other words, when do we decide a story is fully complete? These items to be completed may include having the Three Amigos meeting or each story having unit tests, automated tests, and QA testing done. Finally, demoing the story to the product owner or business representative ensures features were implemented according to expectations.

As the saying goes, a goal without a plan is just a wish. The same concept applies to testing as well. There should be a solid test strategy before teams even start the development and testing process. The more clarity in the initial phases, the better the overall testing effort will be.

Raj Subrameyer is an international keynote speaker, writer, and tech career coach with a rich technical background. In his blog, rajsubra.com/blog/, he posts inspirational news, resources, and updates to help his readers lead a better life.