I’ve wasted a lot of my time estimating future testing activities down to the number of days, for minor and major releases of complex systems. Now I’m considering a new approach.
I will review whatever materials are available for the project, speak to stakeholders about their primary values and concerns for the project, gauge the budget for number of test analysts and choose one of the following estimates:
– 6 weeks
– 3 months
– 6 months
The numbers may change slightly of course, but essentially this is the level of estimate breakdown that I’m prepared to provide at the outset.
My reasoning is that any up-front estimate will be rendered inaccurate due to a large number of unknown factors, and past experience at detailed estimation efforts have proven to be futile. I can continue wasting my client’s time and money, or we can take a broader view of estimation and revise that estimate when I’m elbow-deep in the project and have a clearer understanding of the risks involved.
A key success-factor for this approach will be transparency and regular reporting. To be effective in my role as test manager, I need the support of the project manager and stakeholders. They are much more likely to be supportive when provided with a clear understanding of the top few goals, achievements, risks and issues facing the team each week.
So, how can I tell if testing is running on-time or going over schedule? Well, I’d have to ask you to consider – what does that question even mean? If your testing is running to plan (somehow) and you find a defect which causes a decent-sized code re-write, is your testing still running on time? Was it in any way useful to report that you were running “on time”? Instead I report clearly on what has been tested, the most important outstanding issues and the product areas which are yet to be tested.
Another key success factor is commitment to quality and efficiency. Only when the whole team are focused on delivering a quality product efficiently can this approach to simplified\iterative estimation be successful. Simplified estimation is not about laziness, it’s about expending efforts where they will be of most benefit.