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Managing Testing Resources: Five Suggestions for the Project Manager – Assessing the Risks Associated with the Testing (#3 in the series Managing Testing Resources: Five Suggestions for the Project Manager)
By Cem Kaner and Johanna Rothman

Assessing the Risks Associated with the Testing

The testing part of your project plan has serious risks. Some of our favorite risk questions are:

  1. How non-negotiable is the ship date?
  2. Are there fixed dates that must be met for milestones or components of the product?
  3. How likely is it that the test group will get the software on schedule? What are their contingency plans if they get incomplete software, less stable than promised, late? For example, can they add staff (competent staff) late in the project?
  4. What technical areas of the product do the current members of the test group not understand? Can they achieve a sufficient understanding of them in the time available? If not, what is your plan to ensure that those areas will be effectively tested?
  5. Which areas of the program must be well tested? Where can you not afford to cut corners, and why?
  6. Are there regulatory or legal requirements that the product must meet?
  7. Is the project design rooted in customer research? Is there room for legitimate argument about the goodness of design of individual features? If so, how will you and the test group manage the inevitable wave of design suggestions that come from testers who are often more attuned to customer requirements than many software developers?
  8. Some features are so important that shipment will stop if they are not working well. When will the test group do its most powerful pass with these features? Are they planning an intense enough effort? Do they have time to conduct it?
  9. Is your test group focused on improving the quality of the product or on proving that you’re stupid?
  10. How attentive to detail and design are your programmers? Can they accept criticism and use it effectively? What has to be done to make them more productive in their dealing with testers? (We measure productivity in terms of the speed with which you get the right product out for the right customer, at the right quality level.)

Discovering and facing issues like these is just one step in running a successful project. You aren’t going to solve them just by listing them. And you won’t solve them all at the start of the project. (Or, for some of them, ever.) Having them clear, though, will help you understand where to focus your managerial attention, money, and time. If you want to ship the right quality product within budget and on time, then you have to protect your project from the defects, delays and overruns posed by these risks.

You have to work closely with the test manager in assessing these risks. Otherwise, you are thinking in a vacuum. Even if you have years of project management and testing experience, you are working in a vacuum if you aren’t working with the people who will have to face the risks that you are trying to manage. You and the test manager may not agree on these risks, on how important they are, or on who should do what to manage them. However, it is very valuable for you to understand each other’s assessment and management approach.

Original article can be found at: http://www.jrothman.com/Papers/Managingtestingresources.html

Johanna Rothman consults, speaks, and writes on managing high-technology product development. Johanna is the author of Manage It!’Your Guide to Modern Pragmatic Project Management’. She is the coauthor of the pragmatic Behind Closed Doors, Secrets of Great Management, and author of the highly acclaimed Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets and Science of Hiring Technical People. And, Johanna is a host and session leader at the Amplifying Your Effectiveness (AYE) conference (http://www.ayeconference.com). You can see Johanna’s other writings at http://www.jrothman.com.

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