Chapter 1

Defining What's on Your Plate: The Foundation of a Test Project

Testing requires a tight focus. It's easy to try to do too much. You could run an infinite number of tests against any nontrivial piece of software or hardware. Even if you try to focus on what you think might be “good enough” quality, you can find that such testing is too expensive or that you have trouble figuring out what “good enough” means for your customers and users. Before I start to develop the test system—the testware, the test environment, and the test process—and before I hire the test team, I figure out what I might test, then what I should test, and finally what I can test. Determining the answers to these questions helps me plan and focus my test efforts.

What I might test are all those untested areas that fall within the purview of my test organization. On every project in which I've been involved, some amount of the test effort fell to organizations outside my area of responsibility. Testing an area that another group already covered adds little value, wastes time and money, and can create political problems for you.

What I should test are those untested areas that directly affect the customers' and users' experience of quality. People often use buggy software and computers and remain satisfied nevertheless. Either they never encounter the bugs or the bugs don't significantly hinder their work. Our test efforts should focus on finding the critical defects that will limit people's ability ...

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