Secrets to Setting Expectations for Exploratory Testing

If you adopt exploratory testing the right way, you’ll find the benefits are compelling. It can enable your test team to find defects earlier in production, boost their satisfaction levels and skillset as they’re afforded more responsibility, and result in a better quality product. But, it’s easier said than done. There may be resistance, or a lack of understanding – that’s why you have to set the right expectations and get the whole team to buy into a new mindset.

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Earlier results and less documentation

Exploratory testing is not akin to recklessly throwing the map out of the window and going off-road, but it does produce less documentation and gives testers more freedom. It’s important to show everyone on the team that its success still depends on proper planning.

Workflow charters and mind-maps allow testers to examine the flow of a product. This holistic approach tends to get results much more quickly than the traditional approach. It’s also more visual, as testers use recording tools to capture test sessions. Make sure there’s plenty of communication between the test department and development, so the new processes are clear.

Taking responsibility for results

Testers are expected to really push themselves with exploratory testing and go the extra mile. They have to think critically, explore new ideas, and track down problems wherever they may lie. It means shifting from following a rigid set of steps in a test case, to achieving the same goal by beating their own path.

Group evaluations are vital. Testers must discuss and analyze their findings to help each other set priorities, severities, and to evaluate the next plan of attack. That additional responsibility requires a proactive attitude. Self-directed testing will ultimately lead to a much deeper understanding of the product and greater job satisfaction, but there’s a learning curve there as testers adjust.

More coverage with fewer metrics

That traditional focus on documentation and the generation of statistics about the number of test cases passed and failed can be hard to let go of. Exploratory testing defines broad areas to be covered and produces fewer numbers. If there’s doubt, then the defect count is a good baseline and proof of its efficacy.

Serious defects are generally uncovered earlier in the process with an exploratory approach, and that gives developers more time to fix them. The earlier a defect is discovered, the cheaper and easier it is to fix. It also helps pave the way for a natural progression from bug fixing to polishing, and that results in a great end product.

In the right circumstances, exploratory testing really delivers results, but it’s important to set expectations at the outset and really explain the process. Educate and train your entire team about how this technique works, and encourage them to talk directly to each other. If your team can approach exploratory testing with the right attitude and a spirit of collaboration, it will lead to a better quality product every time.


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