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How to write a software testing plan document

Posted on: August 16th, 2017 by Simon Swords

Software Testing Plan Finding Bugs

A software testing plan is a vital document that you should produce every time you’re testing how a piece of software works – an essential step before releasing it to your customers. It explains the full process of what you’re going to do to put the software through its paces, in a step-by-step format. This way it can easily be referenced at a later date, should you need to see what bugs were thrown up during testing or consider any further tests that still need to take place.

However, as they’re such comprehensive documents, there’s a fair amount to consider when you’re putting a software testing plan together. You want something that is clear and as concise as possible, and something that is simple to navigate for any stakeholder who wants to review it. This guide tells you the key information you need when writing your software testing plan.

The essential elements of any testing plan

Ultimately, what ends up making the cut for your software testing plan will depend on the type of software and the type of testing you’re undertaking. User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is completely different to stress and load testing, so you’ll want to make sure your plan is tailored to the testing you need. Unnecessary information only muddies the water and, when you’re potentially dealing with quite tricky subject matters, you want a plan that’s as straight-forward as it can be.

Broadly speaking, there are three main subjects that you’ll include in a software testing plan, and these should form the backbone of the document when you write it. These are; what exactly are you testing, how are you going to carry out the tests, and how will you define the outcomes. Beyond these, you’ll make the decision based on the specific test.

You’ll also want to include an introduction to the document. This should just be a brief summary of the plan, and any relevant appendices or supplemental information that might be needed, like a software brief or specification. You may wish to include a contents section at the start of the document, to help improve readability. You’ll also want to complete the document with a sign-off. This lets anyone involved in the project – senior staff or customers – agree to the testing plan.

Defining exactly what will (and won’t) be tested

Following the introduction, you need to clearly set out what it is you’re going to be testing in this instance. You need to fully scope out the different tests you’re carrying out, and also why you’ve established these criteria. Equally as important is also what you aren’t going to test.

This is why the sign off of the plan is so important. By being as specific as possible, you ensure that any missed bugs or issues with the software further down the line can be investigated fully, and it’s immediately obvious why they were or were not tested, and whether that was agreed on.

For this same reason, you should use industry-standard terminology and testing modules. That way there’s no grey areas if the testing plan does need to be questioned in future. It needs to be watertight, and by using agreed terms and standards you can make sure you’re covered. You should make sure you’re compliant with standards established by The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

The methodology of your software testing plan

The next step is to make clear what your testing strategy is. You’ll want to go into a lot of depth for this section, outlining every process in as full a manner as possible. This helps staff know what needs to be done, and will also expose any gaps in your testing plan. Also, consider what risks your strategy involves, and how best these can be addressed. This will help inform the requirements of the plan and also what contingencies need to be put into place to help combat problematic areas. It may also highlight where training is needed.

What requirements you have as part of the plan

As part of the methodology, you need to make clear the resources that you’re going to need. Make a list of any hardware and software you’re going to need to carry out your test, and be as specific as possible. Also look at what human resources you’ll need, and again be specific on what expertise you require in order to ensure the testing is completed properly. It’s also good to assign tasks to people in this section so that responsibilities are clear.

The expected outcomes of the test

You then need to make clear what the outcomes of the testing are. You should explain what data you will be gathering, and how you’ll be compiling it – detailing the documentation that will be produced as a result of the tests. These are known as the deliverables, and it’s worth assigning an owner and a deadline to each deliverable as you would any software project, so that someone has a responsibility for making sure it’s compiled in good time. You should be clear on the criteria for a pass or a fail, and you may want to go into detail on what the next steps would be to rectify bugs if the software does fail the tests you’ve established.

Suspension and resumption of testing

There may be times, depending on your resources or the software tests you’re carrying out, where you need to suspend testing for a period of time. If that’s likely, it’s important you explain the steps for closing off testing and how to ensure test elements are left incomplete where that’s a risk. You should also explain the plan for resuming testing, including any reviews of what work has already been carried out to guarantee every bit of essential data is captured and nothing is missed.

Make use of Software Testing Plan templates

One of the easiest ways to make sure your software testing plan is up to scratch is to start with a template. These will keep you structured and help you make sure everything essential is included. Comprehensive templates that cover different testing models are ideal for ensuring your plan is robust.

How Atlas Can Help You

If you’re interested in finding out how Atlas could help you with your software testing call us on +44 (0)800 133 7948 for a free no-obligation consultation on how we can help you.

Simon Swords


Managing Director

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