Thursday, October 16, 2014

Purpose, Mission and Vision keep testers self focused on things that matter

Purpose, Mission and Vision may sound like pointy hair  mumbo jumbo to you but what if it isn't?. In fact I believe it applies to testing and, specifically to Context Aware Testing.

To be context aware means to adapt according to the location, the collection of nearby people, and accessible resources as well as to changes to such things over time. To be a context aware tester means that you have the capabilities to examine the computing and human environments and react to changes to the environments that may affect the product under test.

To help guide us in our journey the Context Aware Tester always lays out his "Test Pact" from the onset. The pact includes the Purpose (the why), Mission (the how) and Vision (the what) for her testing. Lets review an example:

As a contractor she bids for and wins an assignment to test Widget A (an address book application for Windows). During a meeting with the stakeholders you find out this application is for internal use only, their main concern is stability and don't want the app to crash and cause loss of contact information.

From this bit of information we can begin to define our Test Pact:
  • You start with your purpose. To make sure the contacts application is stable by testing it using real world scenarios.
  • We then lay out what it is that we anticipate when we're done, our vision. This is our definition of done. In this case we anticipate application stability.
  • Next we state the mission. How are we going to accomplish our goal of verifying the state of the application stability. Load testing, stress testing, volume testing.
By defining your purpose, mission and vision before starting your testing project (no matter how small) you'd have given yourself a road map as well as a set of constraints to wrap around your testing effort to help keep you focused on the things that matter most (i.e. what's important). Once you start working, this is also a great way to gauge if what you are being asked to do now (an interruption) interferes with or contradicts any of the Test Pacts you are currently working on.

In nutshell Test Pacts encapsulate the definition of testing for its specific context in the form of purpose, vision and mission. This implies that for a context-aware tester, the definition of testing is not only depending on context, but also possibly different each time.

To a context aware tester, purpose (why) is her guide while the mission (how) is what drives her towards the vision (what). This keeps us closely and tightly aligned with, not only the technical aspects, but also the vision, of the stakeholders as captured in the Test Pacts.

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