In our Sailing with Testers series of posts, we’ve talked about how to choose the relevant items from the long pre-sailing check-list, and the similarities to selecting the right tests to run, out of the full repository. We then explored the different preparations one can consider, in order to be ready for possible problems and accidents during a sail, and how it can be done in a testing project. The last post in this series, was all about the attention the skipper (QA manager) needs to give his crew (testers) while sailing (testing).
Let’s see now, how different it can be to get ready for a long sailing journey (long-term, big testing project) than it is to a few hours sail just off the dock and back (short-term, small, testing project).

Crossing the ocean

When planning a long sailing journey, days or even weeks long, a skipper needs to prepare for it – starting from the boat itself and its condition, moving to the gear, equipment, safety items on board, and all the way to assembling a crew that will cope with the distance, the sea, and any problems that may occur.
The list of things to consider is long, here are just a few examples:

  • A Life raft is a must
  • Experienced crew members are crucial
  • Emergency fixing materials (for holes and other damage) are necessary
  • Paper maps and navigation instruments (to replace electronic devices, if needed)

Even the planning of the course is meaningful, and can have a big impact (sea conditions, time to destination, etc.).

Handle with care

It’s very much the same, when you are handed your next big testing project. You face a long ride, complicated testing, involving many other groups, and requiring the right tools.
You must first come up with the proper team of testers. A combination of experts in different areas of the tested software, probably some with automated testing skills, with additional testers, perhaps less experienced, but able to work for a long period of time and deliver the execution you need.
Then, there’s the planning. How to test (methodologies, techniques, work flows), which procedures should be agreed on (internally, and with the other groups in the project, mainly developers) and what would be the schedule and time frames.

It continues with the selection of tools to work with – test management tool, automation tool, bug tracker, etc. And it doesn’t end here: you’ll need to set expectations right, make sure you are involved in the first stages of the product planning and design, communicate with other groups, to make sure the sailing is smooth even in high seas… we all know that, at times, there will be difficulties and problems. Why not prepare in advance?
You want to be part of the team that discusses the customer’s requirements, so that you’ll better know how to test, which tests to write and what’s important. All this is required before the project starts – as we mentioned, we are only preparing our journey.
Now, is it always the same? For all testing?

Bay ‘stroll sailing’

There are other types of sailing, more common probably for most of us. These are the times when you just go out for a couple of hours, stay close to the marine or dock you came from, usually not far from shore. This calls for a whole different sort of preparations.
You don’t have to bother with a life raft, if it’s not there anyway. You can sail with your family and friends, even if this is their first time (just be more assertive with your operation commands ☺). Paper maps are not required, as you are in sight of your docking place, and you won’t be planning any special route.
Of course, you still need to verify the basics. You need safety gear, and the engine needs to be checked for fuel and oil. And you have to review the weather forecast, always a smart move.

Get the job done

This applies to the short-term, small testing projects. Testing of a minor version, an easy-to-test new product, or a testing task due in a couple of days, no matter the product or version.
You can skip methodology selection, and there won’t be a need for complicated procedure nor work flows. Prior communication with other groups is less relevant, and you may want to devote less attention to your tools, or if already using such tools, avoid their unnecessary parts (i.e. requirements, or cycle planning).
Your focus becomes the tests and their executions. Maybe even write some tests while executing them. And your team of testers can be temporary testers. Even a remote group, ad-hoc for this assignment.
As with our short sailing round, we do have to attend the basics in these smaller projects as well. We’re still professional testers, making sure the testing is done in a professional manner, covering the code required to be tested, bugs reported in a way that developers can understand them and move on to fixing them without delays.

You don’t want to drown, even if you are very close to shore…