21. What is SEI? CMM? ISO? IEEE? ANSI? Will it help?
- SEI = 'Software Engineering Institute' at Carnegie-Mellon University; initiated by the U.S. Defense Department to help improve software development processes.
- CMM = 'Capability Maturity Model', developed by the SEI. It's a model of 5 levels of organizational 'maturity' that determine effectiveness in delivering quality software. It is geared to large organizations such as large U.S. Defense Department contractors. However, many of the QA processes involved are appropriate to any organization, and if reasonably applied can be helpful. Organizations can receive CMM ratings by undergoing assessments by qualified auditors.
- Level 1 - characterized by chaos, periodic panics, and heroic efforts required by individuals to successfully complete projects. Few if any processes in place; successes may not be repeatable.
- Level 2 - software project tracking, requirements management, realistic planning, and configuration management processes are in place; successful practices can be repeated.
- Level 3 - standard software development and maintenance processes are integrated throughout an organization; a Software Engineering Process Group is is in place to oversee software processes, and training programs are used to ensure understanding and compliance.
- Level 4 - metrics are used to track productivity, processes, and products. Project performance is predictable, and quality is consistently high.
- Level 5 - the focus is on continuous process improvement. The impact of new processes and technologies can be predicted and effectively implemented when required.
- Perspective on CMM ratings: During 1997-2001, 1018 organizations were assessed. Of those, 27% were rated at Level 1, 39% at 2, 23% at 3, 6% at 4, and 5% at 5. (For ratings during the period 1992-96, 62% were at Level 1, 23% at 2, 13% at 3, 2% at 4, and 0.4% at 5.) The median size of organizations was 100 software engineering/maintenance personnel; 32% of organizations were U.S. federal contractors or agencies. For those rated at Level 1, the most problematical key process area was in Software Quality Assurance.
- ISO = 'International Organization for Standardization' - The ISO 9001:2000 standard (which replaces the previous standard of 1994) concerns quality systems that are assessed by outside auditors, and it applies to many kinds of production and manufacturing organizations, not just software. It covers documentation, design, development, production, testing, installation, servicing, and other processes. The full set of standards consists of: (a)Q9001-2000 - Quality Management Systems: Requirements; (b)Q9000-2000 - Quality Management Systems: Fundamentals and Vocabulary; (c)Q9004-2000 - Quality Management Systems: Guidelines for Performance Improvements. To be ISO 9001 certified, a third-party auditor assesses an organization, and certification is typically good for about 3 years, after which a complete reassessment is required. Note that ISO certification does not necessarily indicate quality products - it indicates only that documented processes are followed.
- IEEE = 'Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' - among other things, creates standards such as 'IEEE Standard for Software Test Documentation' (IEEE/ANSI Standard 829), 'IEEE Standard of Software Unit Testing (IEEE/ANSI Standard 1008), 'IEEE Standard for Software Quality Assurance Plans' (IEEE/ANSI Standard 730), and others.
- ANSI = 'American National Standards Institute', the primary industrial standards body in the U.S.; publishes some software-related standards in conjunction with the IEEE and ASQ (American Society for Quality).
- Other software development process assessment methods besides CMM and ISO 9000 include SPICE, Trillium, TickIT. and Bootstrap.
22. What is the 'software life cycle'?
The life cycle begins when an application is first conceived and ends when it is no longer in use. It includes aspects such as initial concept, requirements analysis, functional design, internal design, documentation planning, test planning, coding, document preparation, integration, testing, maintenance, updates, retesting, phase-out, and other aspects.
23. Will automated testing tools make testing easier?
- Possibly. For small projects, the time needed to learn and implement them may not be worth it. For larger projects, or on-going long-term projects they can be valuable.
- A common type of automated tool is the 'record/playback' type. For example, a tester could click through all combinations of menu choices, dialog box choices, buttons, etc. in an application GUI and have them 'recorded' and the results logged by a tool. The 'recording' is typically in the form of text based on a scripting language that is interpretable by the testing tool. If new buttons are added, or some underlying code in the application is changed, etc. the application can then be retested by just 'playing back' the 'recorded' actions, and comparing the logging results to check effects of the changes. The problem with such tools is that if there are continual changes to the system being tested, the 'recordings' may have to be changed so much that it becomes very time-consuming to continuously update the scripts. Additionally, interpretation of results (screens, data, logs, etc.) can be a difficult task. Note that there are record/playback tools for text-based interfaces also, and for all types of platforms.
- Other automated tools can include:
- Code analyzers - monitor code complexity, adherence to standards, etc.
- Coverage analyzers - these tools check which parts of the code have been exercised by a test, and may be oriented to code statement coverage, condition coverage, path coverage, etc.
- Memory analyzers - such as bounds-checkers and leak detectors.
- Load/performance test tools - for testing client/server and web applications under various load levels.
- Web test tools - to check that links are valid, HTML code usage is correct, client-side and server-side programs work, a web site's interactions are secure.
- Other tools - for test case management, documentation management, bug reporting, and configuration management.
24. What makes a good test engineer?
A good test engineer has a 'test to break' attitude, an ability to take the point of view of the customer, a strong desire for quality, and an attention to detail. Tact and diplomacy are useful in maintaining a cooperative relationship with developers, and an ability to communicate with both technical (developers) and non-technical (customers, management) people is useful. Previous software development experience can be helpful as it provides a deeper understanding of the software development process, gives the tester an appreciation for the developers' point of view, and reduce the learning curve in automated test tool programming. Judgment skills are needed to assess high-risk areas of an application on which to focus testing efforts when time is limited.
25. What makes a good Software QA engineer?
The same qualities a good tester has are useful for a QA engineer. Additionally, they must be able to understand the entire software development process and how it can fit into the business approach and goals of the organization. Communication skills and the ability to understand various sides of issues are important. In organizations in the early stages of implementing QA processes, patience and diplomacy are especially needed. An ability to find problems as well as to see 'what's missing' is important for inspections and reviews.
26. What makes a good QA or Test manager?
A good QA, test, or QA/Test (combined) manager should:
- be familiar with the software development process
- be able to maintain enthusiasm of their team and promote a positive atmosphere, despite what is a somewhat 'negative' process (e.g., looking for or preventing problems)
- be able to promote teamwork to increase productivity
- be able to promote cooperation between software, test, and QA engineers
- have the diplomatic skills needed to promote improvements in QA processes
- have the ability to withstand pressures and say 'no' to other managers when quality is insufficient or QA processes are not being adhered to
- have people judgment skills for hiring and keeping skilled personnel
- be able to communicate with technical and non-technical people, engineers, managers, and customers.
- be able to run meetings and keep them focused
27. What's the role of documentation in QA?
Critical. (Note that documentation can be electronic, not necessarily paper.) QA practices should be documented such that they are repeatable. Specifications, designs, business rules, inspection reports, configurations, code changes, test plans, test cases, bug reports, user manuals, etc. should all be documented. There should ideally be a system for easily finding and obtaining documents and determining what documentation will have a particular piece of information. Change management for documentation should be used if possible.
28. What's the big deal about 'requirements'?
One of the most reliable methods of insuring problems, or failure, in a complex software project is to have poorly documented requirements specifications. Requirements are the details describing an application's externally-perceived functionality and properties. Requirements should be clear, complete, reasonably detailed, cohesive, attainable, and testable. A non-testable requirement would be, for example, 'user-friendly' (too subjective). A testable requirement would be something like 'the user must enter their previously-assigned password to access the application'. Determining and organizing requirements details in a useful and efficient way can be a difficult effort; different methods are available depending on the particular project. Many books are available that describe various approaches to this task.
Care should be taken to involve ALL of a project's significant 'customers' in the requirements process. 'Customers' could be in-house personnel or out, and could include end-users, customer acceptance testers, customer contract officers, customer management, future software maintenance engineers, salespeople, etc. Anyone who could later derail the project if their expectations aren't met should be included if possible.
Organizations vary considerably in their handling of requirements specifications. Ideally, the requirements are spelled out in a document with statements such as 'The product shall.....'. 'Design' specifications should not be confused with 'requirements'; design specifications should be traceable back to the requirements.
In some organizations requirements may end up in high level project plans, functional specification documents, in design documents, or in other documents at various levels of detail. No matter what they are called, some type of documentation with detailed requirements will be needed by testers in order to properly plan and execute tests. Without such documentation, there will be no clear-cut way to determine if a software application is performing correctly.
29. What steps are needed to develop and run software tests?
The following are some of the steps to consider:
- Obtain requirements, functional design, and internal design specifications and other necessary documents
- Obtain budget and schedule requirements
- Determine project-related personnel and their responsibilities, reporting requirements, required standards and processes (such as release processes, change processes, etc.)
- Identify application's higher-risk aspects, set priorities, and determine scope and limitations of tests
- Determine test approaches and methods - unit, integration, functional, system, load, usability tests, etc.
- Determine test environment requirements (hardware, software, communications, etc.)
- Determine test ware requirements (record/playback tools, coverage analyzers, test tracking, problem/bug tracking, etc.)
- Determine test input data requirements
- Identify tasks, those responsible for tasks, and labor requirements
- Set schedule estimates, timelines, milestones
- Determine input equivalence classes, boundary value analyses, error classes
- Prepare test plan document and have needed reviews/approvals
- Write test cases
- Have needed reviews/inspections/approvals of test cases
- Prepare test environment and test ware, obtain needed user manuals/reference documents/configuration guides/installation guides, set up test tracking processes, set up logging and archiving processes, set up or obtain test input data
- Obtain and install software releases
- Perform tests
- Evaluate and report results
- Track problems/bugs and fixes
- Retest as needed
- Maintain and update test plans, test cases, test environment, and testware through life cycle
30. What's a 'test plan'?
A software project test plan is a document that describes the objectives, scope, approach, and focus of a software testing effort. The process of preparing a test plan is a useful way to think through the efforts needed to validate the acceptability of a software product. The completed document will help people outside the test group understand the 'why' and 'how' of product validation. It should be thorough enough to be useful but not so thorough that no one outside the test group will read it. The following are some of the items that might be included in a test plan, depending on the particular project:
- Identification of software including version/release numbers
- Revision history of document including authors, dates, approvals
- Table of Contents
- Purpose of document, intended audience
- Objective of testing effort
- Software product overview
- Relevant related document list, such as requirements, design documents, other test plans, etc.
- Relevant standards or legal requirements
- Traceability requirements
- Relevant naming conventions and identifier conventions
- Overall software project organization and personnel/contact-info/responsibilties
- Test organization and personnel/contact-info/responsibilities
- Assumptions and dependencies
- Project risk analysis
- Testing priorities and focus
- Scope and limitations of testing
- Test outline - a decomposition of the test approach by test type, feature, functionality, process, system, module, etc. as applicable
- Outline of data input equivalence classes, boundary value analysis, error classes
- Test environment - hardware, operating systems, other required software, data configurations, interfaces to other systems
- Test environment validity analysis - differences between the test and production systems and their impact on test validity.
- Test environment setup and configuration issues
- Software migration processes
- Software CM processes
- Test data setup requirements
- Database setup requirements
- Outline of system-logging/error-logging/other capabilities, and tools such as screen capture software, that will be used to help describe and report bugs
- Discussion of any specialized software or hardware tools that will be used by testers to help track the cause or source of bugs
- Test automation - justification and overview
- Test tools to be used, including versions, patches, etc.
- Test script/test code maintenance processes and version control
- Problem tracking and resolution - tools and processes
- Project test metrics to be used
- Reporting requirements and testing deliverables
- Software entrance and exit criteria
- Initial sanity testing period and criteria
- Test suspension and restart criteria
- Personnel allocation
- Personnel pre-training needs
- Test site/location
- Outside test organizations to be utilized and their purpose, responsibilities, deliverables, contact persons, and coordination issues
- Relevant proprietary, classified, security, and licensing issues.
- Open issues
- Appendix - glossary, acronyms, etc.
31. What's a 'test case'?
- A test case is a document that describes an input, action, or event and an expected response, to determine if a feature of an application is working correctly. A test case should contain particulars such as test case identifier, test case name, objective, test conditions/setup, input data requirements, steps, and expected results.
- Note that the process of developing test cases can help find problems in the requirements or design of an application, since it requires completely thinking through the operation of the application. For this reason, it's useful to prepare test cases early in the development cycle if possible.
32. What should be done after a bug is found?
The bug needs to be communicated and assigned to developers that can fix it. After the problem is resolved, fixes should be re-tested, and determinations made regarding requirements for regression testing to check that fixes didn't create problems elsewhere. If a problem-tracking system is in place, it should encapsulate these processes. A variety of commercial problem-tracking/management software tools are available. The following are items to consider in the tracking process:
- Complete information such that developers can understand the bug, get an idea of it's severity, and reproduce it if necessary.
- Bug identifier (number, ID, etc.)
- Current bug status (e.g., 'Released for Retest', 'New', etc.)
- The application name or identifier and version
- The function, module, feature, object, screen, etc. where the bug occurred
- Environment specifics, system, platform, relevant hardware specifics
- Test case name/number/identifier
- One-line bug description
- Full bug description
- Description of steps needed to reproduce the bug if not covered by a test case or if the developer doesn't have easy access to the test case/test script/test tool
- Names and/or descriptions of file/data/messages/etc. used in test
- File excerpts/error messages/log file excerpts/screen shots/test tool logs that would be helpful in finding the cause of the problem
- Severity estimate (a 5-level range such as 1-5 or 'critical'-to-'low' is common)
- Was the bug reproducible?
- Tester name
- Test date
- Bug reporting date
- Name of developer/group/organization the problem is assigned to
- Description of problem cause
- Description of fix
- Code section/file/module/class/method that was fixed
- Date of fix
- Application version that contains the fix
- Tester responsible for retest
- Retest date
- Retest results
- Regression testing requirements
- Tester responsible for regression tests
- Regression testing results
A reporting or tracking process should enable notification of appropriate personnel at various stages. For instance, testers need to know when retesting is needed, developers need to know when bugs are found and how to get the needed information, and reporting/summary capabilities are needed for managers.