You will become better at planning your test cycles the more often you execute them. There is no substitute for experience.
A plan is basically a prioritized list of tasks assigned to a resource. A plan is like a noun. It describes but accomplishes nothing. It is the schedule that moves your plan into action. Scheduling is influenced by more factors than can be put into this essay, however two important items should be mentioned. The first is the talent of your team. The amount and the quality of their work depends on their training and motivation. Both of these are the responsibility of the quality assurance manager. It is your responsibility to insure each team member is working to their full potential.
Secondly, the quality assurance manager must understand the culture and goals of his or her enterprise. The schedule must be in sync with the stated goals of the organization in regard to customer service and quality. There is of course, the stated goal and the actual goal. However, a statement of quality to a customer is a not only a statement about the quality of the software, but the quality of the enterprise. If the stated goal is “most excellent” then the schedule must accommodate this goal. If such a schedule is not possible then use your critical numbers to explain the risk. Once the risk has been explained the responsibility for the decision passes to those who made the judgment.
As stated earlier, experience is applied to planning through learning from failures. Along with this teacher, there is likewise a profit. This knowledge of the future comes through knowing and managing your critical numbers. The two I mentioned earlier are the percentage or ratio of bugs to use cases and the percentage of decline over a given time in reported bugs after a release. There are any number of critical numbers which can be identified and reported, these are two I find extremely important. Reliable schedules are the result of having reliable numbers and the experience to understand and communicate them.
The quality assurance manager must avoid the temptation of getting involved in the tasks of his or her team. The manager’s primary responsibility is to manage the team by training, motivating, helping to resolve issues and staying ahead of the team by having a clear understanding of the requirements of the next cycle. A manager cannot lead if he or she does not know where they are going.
At times it may appear that the art of quality assurance is a “no win” game. You never have enough time to test and each bug that finds its way into production is found to be the fault of the quality assurance team. However, having a strong plan rooted in tempered experience and a corporate culture supported by critical numbers should at least make the process manageable.
I have noted here the lessons I have learned through hard wrought experience. I hope they prove to be of assistance as you plan your test cycles.
I wish you the best of luck!
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