What is a test plan?
A test plan is a test item that we use to describe the test. It can contain topics on ‘what do we need to test’, ‘who will test what, and at what moment’, ‘how will we test’, ‘how much time will testing take’, ‘when is the test done’, ‘how can we organize and manage testing’, … and many more.
We use the test plan to communicate the test planning to the stakeholders for the test. It can have many different shapes and sizes, as long as it solves the problem at hand: describing the test approach and building support from the stakeholders for this approach.
The value of test planning lies in communicating about these topics with relevant stakeholders. The essence of ‘a test plan’ are the topics, not the tangible form.
When putting together ‘the test plan’, ask yourselves the questions:
- Why are we writing this plan: does the team need it carry out its work?
- For whom are we writing plan: do the stakeholders have to know this?
So, depending on its target group and purpose the form of a (part of a) test plan varies from a sketch on a whiteboard via a section with test topics integrated in an overarching project or sprint plan to a comprehensive, separate document with many pages. So sometimes there is no separate, tangible plan at all.
All stakeholders of testing can be involved: the client, end-users, accepting parties, developers, suppliers of test environments and tooling and the testers. Make sure that the content of your communication is relevant to the recipient. If this means splitting up your test plan in several distinct artifacts, then do so!
Without being exhaustive, the test plan can consist of any and all of the following:
- Test assignment
- Test strategy
- Test approach
- Test organization
- Test estimates
- Test planning
- Test resourcing
- Test environment requirements/design
- Test tools
- ...and more
A test plan is a means for communication, so all the ‘usual’ success factors for effective communication apply:
Know what you want to achieve with your communication and accommodate your content with it
Empathize with the receiver, include his perspective in your own
Assure all of the content is relevant for the receiver, if it’s just a small part, chances are it will be overlooked