Test planning is one of those critical test activities that benefits from collaboration. While the test leader or manager is typically responsible for the creation and finalization of a test plan, there can be many contributors.
Simply put, if a test plan is written in isolation, some information will be missed and others in the organization will have little interest in the plan because they have no investment in it.
Who are Typical Stakeholders?
Stakeholders can include people from all across the organization that have an interest or stake in a project. Don’t limit your thinking to the people with an interest in testing. You want to find the people who have a vested interest in the outcome of the project. They should be motivated enough to help you plan for evaluating its success.
These people might include:
• Test team members (especially specialists like performance and security testers)
• Test automation specialists and technical testers
• System, database, security and network administrators (for test environment design and setup)
• Development staff (including managers, developers, architects)
• Project leadership
• Corporate leadership (even in the C-suite)
• User experience analysts
• External consultants and subject matter experts
• End-user management
• Technical writers
• Operations personnel
And there could be more!
Why Involve Stakeholders in Test Planning?
A typical test plan has several sections, each with a different major topic and sub-topics. As the writer of a test plan, there may be times when you are at a loss as to where to find the needed information for parts of the test plan.
Stakeholders often know this information. In fact, stakeholders are often very willing to share their knowledge, provided it is appreciated and valued.
Without stakeholder input, it is easy to have invalid assumptions and areas of inaccuracy in the plan.
When to Involve Stakeholders
There are some critical times at which stakeholder input is needed:
• At the very start of a project to help define the test strategy
• As the project plan is more fully defined to start contributing to the test plan contents
• During editing and drafting to answer questions.
• As the test plan is being finalized to help review it
It is common for the information needed in a test plan to emerge as the project unfolds. So, it is good to stay in close contact with the stakeholders to make sure you get new information as it is learned.
How to Get Stakeholder Involvement
The first thing you will hear from many of the people you invite to working groups is that they don’t have the time to meet. Here are some tips to help increase engagement:
• Emphasize there involvement is for their own benefit. Project success equals their success. Vice-versa, project failure or problems will cause problems in their work life.
• Get a mandate from senior management that involvement is expected, not voluntary. No one likes a captive audience. However, if something is seen as not important to management, the people won't see it as important, either.
• Get management in some of the working meetings. They will say they do not have time, either, but managing and leading quality is part of their job – and planning is part of quality!
• Be courteous of everyone’s time by keeping the working sessions short and to the point.
• Delegate, if needed. You may decide that it is better to “divide and conquer” by delegating members of your team to work with individual stakeholders to gather their input where larger collaboration is not essential. For example, end-users would likely not be needed in the design of the test environment.
• Keep emphasizing the value of the test planning effort. People need to know why they are needed and the value of their effort.
The value of test planning is in the knowledge that is uncovered in the planning, and the ability to communicate that knowledge to the rest of the organization. Sometimes, the communication is needed outside of the organization.
Stakeholder input is often overlooked for the sake of expediency in writing the plan. However, this is done at the risk of missing important information.
The next time you write a test plan, take a few minutes and consider the stakeholders. Invite them to participate in your test planning efforts and your test plans will benefit from the wider input of many stakeholders.