September 2, 2013

Monday: Product Coverage Outlines

A product coverage outline is not my invention, or my term.  I picked up the term from Paul Holland at CAST 2013, but the concept is something that most of us are already doing. However without formalizing the activity we might not be doing it as well as we could be.  I currently do something like this as a mental exercise, but I don't think I do it very well that way. I think I miss things because I don't write it down or review it.  This week I'll be trying out a more formal written Product Coverage Outline.

A Product Coverage Outline (PCO) is a document (doesn't matter what kind) that you develop to assist you in thinking about the product that that you will test.  It is important to note at this point that this document is about the product, not the testing and it is not the documentation. Paul even suggested that you do not read the documentation until late in the process of creating this document so that it doesn't limit your thinking. There are many ways of doing creating this document and all of them are ok, as long as it is something  you and/or your team developed to help illuminate the product.  I've seen great mind maps that expressed a product coverage outline, excel documents and word docs.  Some of these are easier to read and work with than other, but all did the job. This is because the job is not just the document, it's the process of creating the document the stirs our thought process and helps us ensure that we have thought about as much as possible. That way when we go to create our testing plan, we can consciously choose what's being covered and not instead of some areas not being covered because we didn't think of them.

That's a lot of talking about a PCOs without saying much. What is the goal? The goal is to create a document that you could give to any tester on your team to give them a concise overview of the product that will help them decide how and what to test in the time that they have.  Combined with a heuristic approach to exploring the product you should be able to quickly create a document that achieves these goals.

For this week I'll be using the SFDPOIT heuristic to help me ensure that my PCO's are complete. If you've never heard of SFDPOIT check this out.  My PCO will be done with a Mind Map and have first level nodes for each of the terms of SPDPOIT, but that isn't required for a PCO, but I think it will help.

OK, how about an example? Since I obviously can't show anything from my job, lets take the classic triangle problem.  I looked around and found a triangle calculator here. If I use the SFDPIOT heuristic and a mind map I can quickly create this PCO:

I spent maybe 15 minutes doing this PCO, from it I should be able to come up with a reasonable Testing plan.

See ya on Wednesday!

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