Why is test planning important? (How to create a test plan)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Before a company launches new software, it puts it through extensive testing. The software testing life cycle is an important part of development, as it covers both validation and verification to ensure that the software is ready for launch. Understanding why companies make test plans for software, devices and machines can help you when creating your own. In this article, we focus on the importance of test planning and provide steps for creating an effective one.

What is test planning?

Test planning is an important activity that focuses on testing different features of the software before its release. To conduct thorough testing, test managers begin by writing a test plan. This is a comprehensive document that outlines the strategy, objectives, deadlines and nature of tests and any estimates for their planning. This document serves as a blueprint for carrying out different tests to determine the software's performance.

The test plan is highly dynamic, and the contents vary as the project progresses. Depending on the results and varying schedules, test managers regularly update the test plan. Most testing teams and developers consider the test plan as a reference point to determine the type of tests to carry out. Test managers share the plan with those involved, including development teams, business managers and project leads. This offers greater transparency to all stakeholders.

Related: How to plan a project in 10 simple steps (with tips)

Why is test planning important?

Writing a comprehensive test plan is the first part of planning a series of tests. Without a plan, development teams have no reference or concept about the scope of tests to conduct. The test plan is important for several reasons:

Increases transparency

A well-written test plan allows members and stakeholders who aren't part of the quality assurance (QA) team to understand testing parameters. It offers greater transparency to all parties about how managers intend to test the software or website. This is important for maintaining effective communication, as it informs business leads and managers exactly when and how the development teams plan to conduct tests.

If development teams share resources, the business managers can better prepare for testing by analysing the plan and determining the schedules. It allows you to plan your resources more efficiently to ensure there are no delays in testing. This also makes planning more effective, as all the key stakeholders know what the teams are working on.

Related: How to become a software development engineer in test: a guide

Guides planning activities to achieve goals

The test plan helps the engineers and developers plan testing activities better. The plan is quite thorough, focusing on the nature of the tests and their expected outcomes. It also highlights the scope of testing, since most software solutions contain too many features to test simultaneously. QA engineers plan specific tests, targeting different aspects of the software. For instance, some tests may focus on network connectivity and data processing, whereas other sessions may focus on stress testing.

The engineers can refer to the test plan when reviewing the test's objectives. This makes it easy for QA teams to plan different tests and identify as many bugs as possible before the initial release. The plan helps the engineering teams improve the quality of testing and lets them plan tests that effectively use the company's resources to achieve the expected outcomes.

Simplifies the review process

The managers create the test plan before planning any activities. The developers and engineers use it as a guide to plan different activities and to determine the allocation of resources. By collating all the information in a single document, you can gain a better understanding of the effectiveness of the testing activities.

When conducting a more comprehensive review later, you can refer to the plan to compare its expected outcomes with the actual results. This gives you a better understanding of how to plan testing activities and allows for more accurate estimates in the future. You can also evaluate the consumption of resources during testing activities and plan efficient budgeting for future tests.

Related: Project management skills and how to improve them

The main attributes of well-written test plans

Here are the main attributes of well-written test plans:

  • They are concise. Well-written test plans are generally concise, as test managers seldom expect stakeholders to read through the entire plan. Since most people usually scan documents, well-written test plans are usually short and direct, and often have bullet points instead of long paragraphs.

  • They are easy to read. Readability is important for test managers writing a plan so that the test plan is easy to understand, especially for stakeholders with minimal technical knowledge. Most test managers prefer to use plain language and avoid acronyms, as it's also important to provide some basic information before explaining more complex concepts.

  • They are dynamic. Test plans change quite frequently throughout the testing activities, and a highly detailed test plan changes more often than one that focuses on key project variables. When writing a test plan, it's important to plan for changes and adapt the plan accordingly.

  • They are accurate. A well-written test plan is highly accurate and includes an efficient framework for reporting errors to ensure accuracy. Many stakeholders in the company may refer to the information in the test plan, so it's important that the plan is up to date and accurate.

  • They are straightforward. Like most business documents, a test plan may include a basic introduction and the main body that offers more details, and also sub-topics and numbered lists. Also, using a test plan template that starts with a summary and then focuses on the scope of the testing makes the plan easy to read for third parties.

How to create a test plan

Here are the steps to follow when creating a test plan:

1. Analyse the product

The first step is to analyse the product carefully to determine its main purpose and end-users. Test managers require a comprehensive understanding of the product and its specifications. By analysing the software carefully, the test managers can gain a better understanding of the different elements that may require further attention.

2. Define the scope of the testing

Once the test managers understand the software, they can define the scope of the testing activities. This falls within the compass of the test strategy and elaborates on the software or hardware components that the company intends to test. The scope of the testing may change, but the initial plan highlights the original strategy that the developers plan to follow. It also highlights the components that the company doesn't intend to test.

Related: Project scope: definition, importance and how to develop it

3. Highlight the risks and objectives

The next step is to highlight the perceived risks of the testing and outline the objectives. This step is important since it provides a detailed description of the objectives that the company plans to achieve by running these tests. For instance, the company may run testing activities on new software to identify and patch a specific number of bugs, or it may run tests to determine whether a newly added feature works correctly. Managers can specify ideal results and specific benchmarks that they expect as an outcome of the testing.

4. Allocate resources

Allocating resources for the test is also important, and the test managers can include an estimate in the plan. A separate section can provide details about the expected resources, identifying specific team members to work on particular tasks and the resources that the company may require. The manager can provide specific requirements, including the number of testers and the equipment they need and obtain the necessary permissions and approvals before testing begins.

5. Test the deliverables

The final step is to highlight and test the deliverables. These include documents and tools that the teams maintain to support the testing activities. The test managers may update deliverables regularly, depending on the equipment the teams require. They can use initial test data to optimise and change the requirements as necessary. The development teams also maintain reports on defects, bugs, error logs and overall performance.

Once testing is complete, the test managers compare the deliverables to their original expectations. They use this information to determine whether the testing activities were successful and also to compare the teams' actual usage with the initially allocated resources. This improves resource planning and the effectiveness of testing activities.

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