Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Elizabeth White, AppDynamics Blog, Liz McMillan, John Basso, Igor Drobiazko

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
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, will provide tips on how to be successful in large scale machine lear...
The IoT has the potential to create a renaissance of manufacturing in the US and elsewhere. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Florent Solt, CTO and chief architect of Netvibes, will discuss how the expected exponential increase in the amount of data that will be processed, transported, stored, and accessed means there will be a huge demand for smart technologies to deliver it. Florent Solt is the CTO and chief architect of Netvibes. Prior to joining Netvibes in 2007, he co-founded Rift Technol...
The increasing popularity of the Internet of Things necessitates that our physical and cognitive relationship with wearable technology will change rapidly in the near future. This advent means logging has become a thing of the past. Before, it was on us to track our own data, but now that data is automatically available. What does this mean for mHealth and the "connected" body? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Lisa Calkins, CEO and co-founder of Amadeus Consulting, will discuss the impact of wea...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
We’ve worked with dozens of early adopters across numerous industries and will debunk common misperceptions, which starts with understanding that many of the connected products we’ll use over the next 5 years are already products, they’re just not yet connected. With an IoT product, time-in-market provides much more essential feedback than ever before. Innovation comes from what you do with the data that the connected product provides in order to enhance the customer experience and optimize busi...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Klein, CEO and Co-founder of Rachio, will discuss next generation communities that are using IoT to create more sustainable, intelligent communities. One example is Sterling Ranch, a 10,000 home development that – with the help of Siemens – will integrate IoT technology into the community to provide residents with energy and water savings as well as intelligent security. Everything from stop lights to sprinkler systems to building infrastructures will run ef...
Digital payments using wearable devices such as smart watches, fitness trackers, and payment wristbands are an increasing area of focus for industry participants, and consumer acceptance from early trials and deployments has encouraged some of the biggest names in technology and banking to continue their push to drive growth in this nascent market. Wearable payment systems may utilize near field communication (NFC), radio frequency identification (RFID), or quick response (QR) codes and barcodes...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Stratoscale, the software company developing the next generation data center operating system, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Stratoscale is revolutionizing the data center with a zero-to-cloud-in-minutes solution. With Stratoscale’s hardware-agnostic, Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) solution to store everything, run anything and scale everywhere...
Angular 2 is a complete re-write of the popular framework AngularJS. Programming in Angular 2 is greatly simplified – now it's a component-based well-performing framework. This immersive one-day workshop at 18th Cloud Expo, led by Yakov Fain, a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay, will provide you with everything you wanted to know about Angular 2.
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
Increasing IoT connectivity is forcing enterprises to find elegant solutions to organize and visualize all incoming data from these connected devices with re-configurable dashboard widgets to effectively allow rapid decision-making for everything from immediate actions in tactical situations to strategic analysis and reporting. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Shikhir Singh, Senior Developer Relations Manager at Sencha, will discuss how to create HTML5 dashboards that interact with IoT devic...
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to massively disrupt IoT. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond AI, will discuss what the five main drivers are in Artificial Intelligence that could shape the future of the Internet of Things. AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond AI. He has over 20 years of management experience in the fields of artificial intelligence, sensors, instruments, devices and software for telecommunications, life sciences, environmental monitoring, process...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ericsson has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Ericsson is a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility. Some 40 percent of global mobile traffic runs through networks we have supplied. More than 1 billion subscribers around the world re...
There is an ever-growing explosion of new devices that are connected to the Internet using “cloud” solutions. This rapid growth is creating a massive new demand for efficient access to data. And it’s not just about connecting to that data anymore. This new demand is bringing new issues and challenges and it is important for companies to scale for the coming growth. And with that scaling comes the need for greater security, gathering and data analysis, storage, connectivity and, of course, the...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DatacenterDynamics has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DatacenterDynamics is a brand of DCD Group, a global B2B media and publishing company that develops products to help senior professionals in the world's most ICT dependent organizations make risk-based infrastructure and capacity decisions.
Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, will discuss how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to im...
This is not a small hotel event. It is also not a big vendor party where politicians and entertainers are more important than real content. This is Cloud Expo, the world's longest-running conference and exhibition focused on Cloud Computing and all that it entails. If you want serious presentations and valuable insight about Cloud Computing for three straight days, then register now for Cloud Expo.