This article was originally written for the QA on Request blog and was first published here.
Working with the right testing partner is important, but working effectively and efficiently with that testing partner is just as important. It is how you’ll be able to make the most of the service being provided to you.
When working with external testing partners, keep in mind that the really good ones don’t just think of themselves as your “testing partners”; their actions should reflect it as well. They’ll regularly communicate important testing updates and results with you, and work with you to help you get the information you need. But it’s not all just on your testing partners, there are things that you can do as well to get the most value out of testing.
Additionally, when working with your test partners – each test request, information need, client, and situation is different – meaning that what you do and to what degree, to get the most out of testing, will vary.
Communicate your information needs
Clearly communicate what it is that you’re looking for from your testing partner for each of your test requests. What does this mean? Testing is an information providing service that is designed to provide you with quality related information about your product based on your needs. Are you interested in knowing about the bugs in your product so that you can focus on fixing them? Are you interested to know the state of your product so that you can make a good decision about releasing it to market? Do you want to know how your product stacks up to your competition? Do you want to know how your product will behave during daily business usage? It’s these questions that you have – your information needs, that testing will provide you with details about so that you can make good, informed decisions regarding your product. It’s also both possible and perfectly normal that at different times throughout the development of your product, your information needs will be different, so let your testing partners know what your needs from testing are at different times within your product development lifecycle.
Good testing partners will work with you to prioritize areas of your product that you require information about. Take the time to work with your partners to prioritize features and areas that should be covered. Testing can be an infinite activity but budget isn’t – it’s to everybody’s advantage to focus on the highest priority areas first. Your priorities can change as well throughout the course of a longer test period.
In the case of test requests that last a longer, there may be types of important information and bugs that testing has uncovered that gives you an insight about your product that you didn’t have before. Consequently the focus of what you’d like your testing partners to work on can change as well – let them know in these cases.
High risk areas
A good tester and test team will consider what your product is, what it’s meant to do, who your user base is, and based on the answers to these questions, can begin to define the high risk areas of your application. Nonetheless, external testing partners are often not present in product development and status meetings and may not always have the most up to date business, industry, and market information as quickly as your internal team. Work with your testing partners to review high risk product areas, and to give them this insight so that they consider it in their test design.
Now perhaps you are aware that the development of the latest and newest features of your product, which you’ve asked your test partners to focus on, has likely resulted in some important and previously functional areas of your product to become unstable or nonfunctional. In this case, let your testing partners know about this now high risk area.
Platforms and devices
With the emergence and popularity of mobile devices, and the abundance of software platforms that users will expect your product to work on, and making decisions about which platforms and devices to test on have that much more significance. Are there particular platforms and devices that you absolutely want covered during testing? Let your testing partner know. Are you interested in learning more about platform and device market share information so that you can make a good decision about which devices to cover during testing? Speak to your testing partner and let them work with you to help provide these statistics.
Features that aren’t ready to be tested
Software product development is a continuous task and a good development methodology will often incorporate testing efforts as part of the development activity. If testing in this scenario is being done by an external testing partner, keep them in the loop about what features are not yet ready to be tested, as the developers may still be working on them. This will save you the time of having to go through bugs that aren’t valid from your perspective, but may be valid from the tester’s perspective if they are not aware of features or dependent features that are not yet ready to be tested.
Are there specific requirements, specifications, or user flows that are important to your business for which you have documentation? If yes, it will be a good idea to provide these details to your testing partners so that they can account for these scenarios and provide you with information and cases where they may not work as desired.
Do your specifications documents consist of hundreds of pages? Unless for some reason there is value to have your testing partners go through it all, give them the essentials they need to do their job well – which is to provide you with important information about your product so that you can make good decisions about how to proceed with it. After all, you’re paying for actual testing, not having your test partners read tons of pages that will have no value or impact on testing, and will only eat up your testing budget. Keep in mind, each situation is different so consider your needs and what works in each particular situation.
To wrap it up
These are a few tips you can apply to improve the working relationship you have with your testing partners so that you are able to get the most of your testing budget with the information that testing will uncover about your product. Your testing partner is not just there to find bugs in your product, they should be a valuable member and contributor to your team, and help you quickly find bugs and other important things that matter the most to you.