Test planning

Test planning involves scheduling and estimating the system testing process, establishing process standards and describing the tests that should be carried out.

As well as helping managers allocate resources and estimate testing schedules, test plans are intended for software engineers involved in designing and carrying out system tests. They help technical staff get an overall picture of the system tests and place their own work in this context. Frewin and Hatton (Frewin and Hatton, 1986). Humphrey (Humphrey, 1989) and Kit (Kit, 1995) also include discussions on test planning.

Test planning is particularly important in large software system development. As well as setting out the testing schedule and procedures, the test plan defines the hardware and software resources that are required. This is useful for system managers who are responsible for ensuring that these resources are available to the testing team. Test plans should normally include significant amounts of contingency so that slippages in design and implementation can be accommodated and staff redeployed to other activities.

Test plans are not a static documents but evolve during the development process. Test plans change because of delays at other stages in the development process. If part of a system is incomplete, the system as a whole cannot be tested. You then have to revise the test plan to redeploy the testers to some other activity and bring them back when the software is once again available.

For small and medium-sized systems, a less formal test plan may be used, but there is still a need for a formal document to support the planning of the testing process. For some agile processes, such as extreme programming, testing is inseparable from development. Like other planning activities, test planning is also incremental. In XP, the customer is ultimately responsible for deciding how much effort should be devoted to system testing.

The structure of a test plan

Testing in a plan-based software process (The V-model)


(c) Ian Sommerville 2008