Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Stackify Blog, Pat Romanski, Shelly Palmer

Related Topics: Microservices Expo, Java IoT, Industrial IoT, Microsoft Cloud, Agile Computing, Cloud Security

Microservices Expo: Article

Building Good Tests: Why, What, How?

Good testers and good tests always retain and use an awareness of what the intended audience wants and expects

Tests are an investment in the quality of any given system. There's always a cost to build, run, and maintain each test in terms of time and resources. There's also a great deal of value to be extracted from running the right test at the right time. It's important to remember that for everything you do test, there's something else you're not testing as a result.

Understanding that some tests are more important than others is vital to creating a useful and fluid test plan capable of catering to modern software development techniques. Traditional waterfall development - where everything is delivered for a specific release date in a finished package - has been succeeded by continuous feature roll outs into live systems. This necessitates a different approach from QA departments.

How Do You Build Good Tests?
You can't design or execute the right tests without understanding the intended purpose of the system. Testers need to have an insight into the end user's expectations. Communication between the product people at the business end, the engineers working on the code, and the test department enables you to score tests in terms of their importance and work out where each test cycle should be focusing.

We can break it down into three simple queries: why, what, and how.

"Why" is a higher level overview that really ties into the business side. It's the big-picture thinking that reveals why you're building the software in the first place. What audience need is your product fulfilling? For example, we need to build an e-commerce website to sell our product to the general public.

"What" is really focused on individual features or functions of a system. Using a shopping cart analogy for an e-commerce website, you might say that users must be able to add and remove items from their shopping cart, or that they shouldn't be able to add something that's out of stock.

"How" relates to the practical application of your testing. How exactly is the software going to be tested? How is the success and failure measured?

Good tests are always going to cover our trio, but it can be a useful exercise to break things down.

The Why
If you get too caught up in the "what" and the "how," it's possible to miss the "why" completely and it's the most important element because it dictates that some tests are more important than others. The business case for developing your software in the first place has to remain front and center throughout the project. If you begin to lose sight of what the end user needs, then you could be focusing your efforts in the wrong places. Delivering value to your customers is critical. Good testers and good tests always retain and use an awareness of what the intended audience wants and expects.

One technique we can employ is risk-based analysis of tasks. With risk-based analysis, we can arrive at a numerical value for each test, which gives you a sense of its importance. We can assign a score of between 1 and 9 to each test. At the top end, a score of 9 would be a critical test, and at the other end of the spectrum a score of 1 might indicate a test that only needs to be used sparingly. The value is determined by multiplying two factors:

  • Impact to the user: What are they trying to accomplish and what would the impact be if they couldn't? How critical is this action?
  • Probability of failure: How likely is it that this code will fail? This is heavily influenced by how new it is and how much testing it has already undergone.

If we return to our e-commerce website analogy then we could take the action of being able to buy goods, clearly that's essential, so it would be assigned a 3. However, the functionality for adding goods to the basket and checking out has been there since day one so it has already been tested quite extensively; however, some new features have been added that could impact the code, so that might result in a score of 2. Multiply the two together and you've got a 6. This figure will change over time, because probability of failure will go up if this part of the system is significantly altered, and it will go down over time if it isn't. There's also a discretionary factor that might lead you to bump that 6 up to a 7 if you feel it's merited.

The What
Testers come up with specific scenarios of how an end user might interact with the software and what their expected outcome would be. A typical test might consist of many steps detailed in a script, but this approach can cause problems. What if a new tester comes in to run the test? Is the intent of the test clear to them? What if the implementation of the feature changes? Perhaps the steps no longer result in the expected outcome and the test fails, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the software is not working as intended.

The steps and scripts are delving into the "how," but if the "what" is distinct from the "how" then there's less chance of erroneous failure. Allow the tester some room for an exploratory approach and you're likely to get better results. If something can be tightly scripted and you expect it to be a part of your regression testing, then there's an argument for looking at automating it.

Adopting a technique like Specification by Example or Behavior Driven Design, you're going to lay each test out in this format:

  • Given certain preconditions
  • When one or more actions happen
  • Then you should get this outcome

Regardless of the specifics of the user interface, or the stops along the way between A and Z, the "Given, When, Then" format covers the essential core of the scenario and ensures that the feature does what it's intended to do, without necessarily spelling out exactly how it should do it. It can be used to generate tables of scenarios that describe the actions, variables, and outcomes to test.

The How
Getting down to the nuts and bolts of how testers will create, document, and run tests, we come to the "how." Since projects are more fluid now and requirements or priorities can change on a daily basis, there needs to be some flexibility in the "how" and a willingness to continually reassess the worth of individual tests. Finding the right balance between automated tests, manually scripted tests, and exploratory testing is an ongoing challenge that's driven by the "what" and the "why."

Traditionally, manual tests have been fully documented as a sequence of steps with an expected result for each step, but this is time-consuming and difficult to maintain. It's possible to borrow from automation by plugging in higher-level actions, or keywords, that refer to a detailed script or a common business action that's understood by the tester. There's also been a move toward exploratory testing, where the intent of the test is defined but the steps are dynamic. Finally, there's a place for disposable testing where you might use a recording tool to quickly document each step in a manual test as you work through it. These tests will need to be redone if anything changes, but as it's a relatively quick process and you're actually testing while you create the test, that's not necessarily a problem.

Continuous Assessment
Each individual test should be viewed as an investment. You have to decide whether to run it, whether it needs to be maintained, or if it's time to drop it. You need to continually assess the value and the cost of each test so that you get maximum value from each test cycle. Never lose sight of the business requirements. When a test fails, ask yourself if it's a problem with the system or a problem with the test, and make sure that you always listen to the business people, the software engineers, and most importantly the customer.

More Stories By Sellers Smith

Sellers Smith is Director of Quality Assurance & Agile Evangelist for Silverpop of Atlanta, GA, a digital marketing technology provider that unifies marketing automation, email, mobile, and social for more than 5,000 global brands.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
BnkToTheFuture.com is the largest online investment platform for investing in FinTech, Bitcoin and Blockchain companies. We believe the future of finance looks very different from the past and we aim to invest and provide trading opportunities for qualifying investors that want to build a portfolio in the sector in compliance with international financial regulations.
Imagine if you will, a retail floor so densely packed with sensors that they can pick up the movements of insects scurrying across a store aisle. Or a component of a piece of factory equipment so well-instrumented that its digital twin provides resolution down to the micrometer.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
We are given a desktop platform with Java 8 or Java 9 installed and seek to find a way to deploy high-performance Java applications that use Java 3D and/or Jogl without having to run an installer. We are subject to the constraint that the applications be signed and deployed so that they can be run in a trusted environment (i.e., outside of the sandbox). Further, we seek to do this in a way that does not depend on bundling a JRE with our applications, as this makes downloads and installations rat...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
Digital Transformation (DX) is not a "one-size-fits all" strategy. Each organization needs to develop its own unique, long-term DX plan. It must do so by realizing that we now live in a data-driven age, and that technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, the IoT, Cognitive Computing, and Blockchain are only tools. In her general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rebecca Wanta explained how the strategy must focus on DX and include a commitment from top management to create great IT jobs, monitor ...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is ...