November 30, 2020

The Four Pillars of Quality Testing: Creating a Solid Foundation

by Brian Kottenstette

Testing is at the core of our business at MAKE Solutions, and it is our goal to help our clients make their testing process accountable, repeatable, standardized and consistent.

Through our experience, we’ve identified four pillars that hold up a quality testing strategy for any information systems.

Pillar 1: Test Scripts

Test scripts are the bedrock of a testing strategy, and the one that absolutely needs to be correct for everything else to fall into place. There are different types of test scripts that are used in a project including unit, functional/system, regression, integration, and user acceptance being the most common. Depending on the size and scope of impact to the end users, either some or all types of testing can occur in a project.

Regardless of the type of testing that needs to be done, creating accurate test scripts isn’t easy; they’re a combination of workflow, technical, and functional elements that all need to be included in the right order and with enough detail for the script to make sense.

How do you know if your test scripts make sense?

Ask yourself, if you gave your test script to someone with no knowledge of your organization or system being tested, would he/she be able to walk through all the steps and understand when a step failed?

If you answered No, then your scripts probably need additional details to make them more robust. For more information, review our in-depth article to understand how to create robust Integrated Test scripts.

One of the biggest hurdles to reviewing test scripts for accuracy is producing the test scripts. Many test scripts simply do not exist. Analysts have test scripts in their head instead of written down, so the “script” changes each time, which means outcomes also vary.

If test scripts are written down, the next hurdle is finding out where they are located. Are they on a local PC, a SharePoint site, or a vendor portal? Also, when was the last time the scripts were updated?

By getting all your scripts written down and stored in a standardized location that all involved users can access, you greatly increase your ability to review, update, and manage your test scripts.

Pillar 2: Testing Coordinator

A testing coordinator is a key role to making sure the appropriate level of testing is integrated into every project, upgrade, or process that happens in IT.

The testing coordinator runs the testing events for major projects and helps ensure that analysts are keeping test scripts up to date in your testing tool. In an organization without a testing coordinator, the responsibility of testing falls to either a project manager or an architect-type role.

While these roles are perfectly capable of running a testing event, there is a lack of consistency in how testing events are coordinated and reported on across different projects.

While it may seem that there is not enough work for a full-time testing coordinator to manage between testing events, this person should also be owning the other pillars of testing: scripts, plan, and tool. They should: 

  • be tuned into the work analysts are doing to remind them if test scripts need to be updated or if testing needs to occur before moving something into a production environment
  • be included in the correct change control meetings to confirm fixes or enhancements have gone through the proper testing
  • own and maintain the Testing Management plan and orient new team members to the plan and its importance
  • own and maintain the testing tool and ensure it is used across all projects and all scripts are included within it.

In short, if you are using your testing coordinator appropriately, it should be a full-time and valuable role within your organization.

Pillar 3: Testing Management Plan

A testing management plan is important because it guides how the entire organization approaches testing and weaves it into their operational and project plans.

Testing management should clearly lay out how testing needs to occur, by whom, and what tools will be used for testing. This plan is in place to ensure that everyone runs from the same playbook and there is no ambiguity in those plans.

The testing management plan should not be considered standalone, but one that functions alongside change control, training, change management, program management, and other IT functional plans.

The testing management plan will help serve as a definition of what the testing coordinator is responsible for overseeing, along with how analysts, clinical informatics, and others are expected to operate.

It is also important for when resources outside of IT need to be engaged in testing, as it can help guide the organization on what to expect. For a full definition and additional guidance, review our guidance on the testing management plan.

Pillar 4: Testing Tool

A testing tool is the most frequently overlooked pillar when it comes to creating a full-fledged testing strategy. The purpose of a testing tool is to be the place where all your test scripts are held and maintained, and where every testing event is executed.

This allows you to have a standardized tool for managing a round of testing, a repeatable method for testers to follow, a common place to track issues related to testing, and a way to hold the team accountable for testing outcomes.

If implemented properly, a testing tool will be something that all of IT will use for any round of testing, and where analysts will update and modify scripts to match the current workflows. The testing coordinator will be the administrator of the tool and help the team with managing the rounds of testing that are run from it.

Ideally, any issues that come out of a round of testing would be logged and managed from within the testing tool. This would be both functional issues arising from application build and issues with the script that need to be resolved. This again improves the standardization of testing events and makes a repeatable process for everyone.

 If you’re interested in learning more about a robust testing tool that does everything mentioned above and would serve as the fourth pillar of your testing strategy, go learn more about TransIT from MAKE Solutions.

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Brian Kottenstette

About the author

Brian has over 16 years of experience helping ensure that projects succeed.
His passion is in leading organizations through major transformations. He helps them optimize their business processes, improve efficiencies, implement IT Management, and improve clinical technology adoption. He co-founded MAKE Solutions because he wants to help companies successfully transition to better solutions.

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