Writing a test plan can seem like a monumental task…or a simple one. It depends on your concept of how large the test plan needs to be. Certainly, the test plan for building an airplane will be drastically bigger than for making some interface changes to a modest web site! Writing an effective test plan depends a great deal on the type of project…in terms of where the project falls on the scale from waterfall to agile.
How will you know if your product is good enough to satisfy the objectives of the project? There can be too little – or too much – quality baked into the product if you don’t think it through carefully. In fact, you can have too much or too little quality in each component or sub-part of the product if you do not carefully define your test criteria. It’s not just a matter of listing out the requirements; it’s a matter of looking at the totality of what will make up the product and distill it down to digestible parts – and defining the criteria there.
While testing is a subset of a larger project, it is also a project unto itself. The testing effort needs to be far more than an afterthought or side activity! It is a vital effort that requires judicious use of physical, virtual, and human resources. It is well worth the effort to think through just what resources you will need for the testing and place every bit as much emphasis there as you do on any other aspect of the project.
The first thing in writing a test plan may seem obvious – to study the product and identify the objectives of the test. However, this seemingly obvious step can be elusive if you are steeped in process, especially from past approaches. You must first seek to understand the unique attributes of the product at hand before considering just how to test if it meets requirements and works as intended. So, lean back a bit from your past experience…and lean in toward the product at hand and understand its nature – the nuances, unique requirements, and critical characteristics.
Innovation is not just about breakthroughs and high level thinking! It can – and must - be applied at the human level to increase personal effectiveness. Everyone says that the most important thing on the project, in the organization, or indeed in life is the people! That observation alone is enough motivation to apply innovative thinking to all things related to ‘people’! The idea is to think creatively – innovatively – about how to help people achieve their goals, improve their skills, elevate their level of satisfaction, and enable them to increase their contributions.
Some people think that all of the innovative thinking is up front, and that once a project is moving, there’s little more room for innovation. While there is a lot of innovative thinking up front, it is of a strategic or tactical nature. Once the project or initiative is underway and has some momentum, there may seem to be limited room for innovation…but I think there is plenty of opportunity for innovation to produce incremental benefits – sometimes even significant breakthroughs.
Innovation is not just strategic or technology based, but rather can be very effectively applied at the tactical level. It requires accepting the strategic direction as a way to focus thinking. But once that is done, it takes the same out-of-the-box thinking that any other type of innovation requires. The focus on tactical innovation is about how we can most effectively get the strategic initiative done. It requires a lot of team management and communication skills, domain knowledge and expertise, and leadership.
When it comes to innovation, it’s not just about a major technology breakthrough or giant paradigm shift! More often than not, it’s about shifting mindset and performing sound strategic thinking. At the strategic level, it’s about taking a holistic and high level view and thinking about direction, and all the factors that influence direction. It’s about daring to recognize where you are, but also to think as if nothing was there to constrain you…and then to marry the two.
It feels great when your presentation is beginning to come together and look…’presentable’. But it won’t be done until you have done some substantial rehearsal, going through all of the materials in order. You may find that certain parts don’t flow as well as you thought…and you need to make some changes. You may find that your explanations of the slides need to be honed a bit…to make them flow better to communicate the ideas and complement the visuals.
Think about your entire ecosystem for a moment – those that are deeply involved, and those that are involved in your project but more on the periphery. Often those on the periphery are vendors – not the biggest ones, but maybe smaller but not insignificant. What they do is often taken for granted; it is assumed that everything will be okay. What they do, and how they do it, is well worth thinking about.