Software product quality directly impacts customer retention and brand reputation. A flawed release can have a cascading effect on the business. A single software defect in a release could negatively impact your business for years to come. Money and profit are lost through endless cycles of patching and fixes. Business costs increase as users demand additional tech support. Software testing reduces risk for the enterprise by ensuring the usability and quality of the released software product. In this article, we’ll take a close look at the Software Testing Life Cycle (STLC) and how it can reduce risk and increase value in every release. Savvy CIOs and IT Managers who understand and use the phases of STLC can reduce costs, improve product quality, and accelerate the release schedule.
In this article, we’ll review each phase and identify the goal and deliverables of each to show how you can leverage software testing to improve enterprise processes and add value across the organization.
What is the Software Testing Life Cycle?
The Software Testing Life Cycle (STLC) is a Quality Assurance (QA) methodology that tests a software product or system for usability.
The STLC will detect glitches, problems, errors or other software defects that may impact user experience. Potential software vulnerabilities should be identified, improving security. The STLC should ensure a smooth and successful rollout for each new release.
Current STLC methodology was developed to enforce testing standardization as development teams have embraced agile methodologies rather than the traditional waterfall method.
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Software Testing and the Waterfall Method
Traditional or classic software delivery methodologies, including the waterfall technique, utilize development stages. These stages provide a logical progression of work, strictly linear and sequential. One phase cannot begin until the previous phase is complete.
This rigid process enforces discipline and aids early software development. The massive teams necessary for development require discipline and provide clear guidelines for each stage.
Testing is a distinct stage in the waterfall method, separate from the other phases – like concept, design and implementation. Work must be completed in the testing phase before the project moves to another phase, ensuring the usability of the software.
Introduction of Agile
Agile was developed in response to the changing needs of the maturing software industry. Companies needed more flexibility during development to quickly address changing market needs.
In the past, smaller, less specialized teams worked on development. Waterfall and a strictly linear development process didn’t provide the flexibility and adaptability enterprise companies needed.
Agile utilizes an iterative and incremental process. It provides short cycles of constant product improvement. At the end of each cycle, work is evaluated and new goals are defined, with the goal of having a release-ready product at the end of each cycle.
This gives companies more flexibility. The team can quickly and easily adapt work as goals are set before each cycle. Shorter release cycles are possible as a usable product should be available at the end of each cycle.
The distinct testing stage is eliminated in agile, and testing is done concurrently with programming and other development tasks.
Software Testing and Agile
To ensure the quality of every software release, testing standards supporting the agile methodologies and eco-system were developed. This became known as the Software Testing Life Cycle.
In agile, specific team members aren’t typically tasked with software testing. Every member of the team is expected to conduct testing during a work cycle. Clean builds of the software are loaded several times a day using automated compilation and unit test execution. This is known as continuous integration.
Testing is also done throughout the development process and by team members. Agile developers test, but they aren’t testers. This is known as a “whole team” approach to testing.
The Software Testing Life Cycle provides a standardized, sophisticated and robust testing process that can be used in the short, iterative cycles of agile development. It standardizes the phases used in pre-release testing of software products and applications – each phase with different goals and deliverables. Testing and programming are done concurrently.
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The 4 Phases of the Software Testing Life Cycle
There are many variations of the Software Testing Life Cycle.
Each organization that adopts agile must also consider their software testing strategy. Organizations should select a testing strategy that meets the project’s requirements. The goal is to ensure the highest quality product possible while utilizing available resources, without increasing project costs.
Even though organizations may adapt their testing methodology to meet specific needs, the core phases below provide the foundation of the Agile Software Testing Life Cycle.
Phase 1: Planning in the Software Testing Life Cycle
The goal of the planning phase is to identify the scope and requirements to be tested.
A thorough understanding of the feasibility of the project requirements is necessary. Each requirement should be studied, and a test identified to ensure the requirement has been met by the project. Some requirements may not be testable, and a plan for managing and reviewing this work should be determined.
When the planning phase is complete, you should have a plan for testing that addresses critical areas of the project deliverables.
Challenges to Planning in the STLC
Many testing projects fail in the scope and planning phase.
What should be a careful review of a project’s requirements document can easily turn into a blind flight. Wild speculation causes problems as the team struggles to determine the success criteria for the requirements.
Some planners underestimate the amount of testing required for the project. This leads to increased project risk and unexpected failures and errors in the product when it is released.
Other project managers will test too much, leading to wasted resources and frustrated project team members.
Scope creep during testing can also lead to many problems. In fact, according to a recent survey, 31% of all testers report to testing more than necessary to ensure a quality release. This leads to project delays, higher costs, and frustration during the project.
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Planning Best Practices in the STLC
- Consult key business users when determining the scope of testing.
- Utilize user feedback to identify the critical business processes to be tested.
- Determine common issues or problems that negatively impact user experience.
- Make sure the test plan includes testing for the critical business processes. Since this is where users will spend most of their time and resources, testing will deliver a higher return.
- Ensure a clean and error-free user experience for critical processes.
- Test common issues to ensure the product fully addresses user needs.
Benefits of Planning in STLC
With a sound test coverage plan, you can save both time and costs during the project.
By focusing on key requirements, your testing will target critical areas in the project. This will provide a higher return on your investment and reduce the time and expenses.
The project team should also understand and agree to the core testing priorities. By setting these priorities before testing begins and gaining team members’ agreement, you can eliminate problems before they happen.
Phase 2: Implementation in the Software Testing Life Cycle
During the implementation phase of STLC, detailed test cases, or test scripts as they are often called, are created.
Test scripts should use the requirements determined in the planning phase. The feedback from the key business users provides a foundation for real-life, up-to-date use cases for scripts. Each script should be based on a business process or critical function in the product.
At the end of the implementation phase, you should have test scripts that cover all the core requirements of the project, each based on a real-life business process addressed in the product.
Challenges to Implementation in the STLC
Test scripts written in the implementation phase of the Software Testing Life Cycle cover both manual and automated testing.
Automated testing is a process designed to expedite the rapid testing requirements of agile development. Faster testing methods are necessary to keep pace with the rapid deployment and release schedule of agile. Automated testing uses special software to control and manage the execution of tests, increasing the speed of testing.
Typically, automated testing is used when scripts are repeated, the tests are done using different data and conditions several times, or the testing is tedious and difficult to run manually.
Despite these perceived benefits, there are challenges associated with automated testing. Automation is expensive and can be time-consuming to implement. Depending on the business complexities of the testing, there may be limited benefit to automated testing.
Errors in automated testing can lead to significant problems and expensive mistakes. An enterprise that relies too heavily on automated testing or attempts to automate testing that is better done manually will increase the cost, schedule, and risk of a project.
These challenges have led many enterprises to question the Return on Investment (ROI) for automated testing.
Maintaining the engineered test scripts can also be a challenge. Over time, business processes will change, especially when they are dynamic. If the team doesn’t install a process to update the test scripts or use the most recent and relevant user data, your testing will become flawed and obsolete.
Implementation Best Practices in the STLC
- Use business processes, rather than simple instructions, for a more user-friendly and comprehensive testing scenario.
- Each test script should be based on real-life use cases and business processes, rather than product functionality.
- Consult with users and the business process owners to ensure the validity of the test case.
- Build a process to maintain and update test scripts to ensure they continue to be a powerful tool for users and the project team.
Benefits of Implementation in the STLC
Test scripts and testing can be an annoyance for many developers, programmers and IT professionals. However, they represent a critical step in the testing process.
Carefully plan when to use manual testing and when to use automated testing to optimize your return on the testing process. Select the right method for each test script to reduce costs. Use business processes as the basis of your test scripts.
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Phase 3: Execution in the Software Testing Life Cycle
During execution, the team will conduct the testing. All discrepancies will be logged, and defects identified. Discrepancies are measured as the difference between the actual and expected test results.
Testers will follow the test plans developed in the first phase and use the test scripts written in the second phase. Tests should be executed strictly following the plan. All discrepancies, defects, bugs, problems or errors should be logged when they are identified. Defects and discrepancies should be mapped to the test cases and then retested to ensure the validity of the test results.
At the end of the execution phase, the entire test plan should be completed. All existing defects should be identified and documented. This document, a defects report, is an important tool for managing the project and ensuring a high-quality release.
Challenges to Execution in STLC
Many of the challenges related to the execution phase of the Software Testing Life Cycle relate to the documentation of work.
Often, in the rapid pace of development and release, testing becomes a low priority. The team will sacrifice critical testing to get the release out the door faster. This can lead to defects and problems that are only discovered after release.
Another recent survey of IT testing decision-makers in the United States and the United Kingdom reported difficulty using software and testing tools as their biggest challenge to successful test execution. Tools that aren’t user-friendly and require extensive, time-consuming training for non-technical testers can increase the cost and limit the efficiency of testing.
Execution Best Practices in STLC
- Verify the requirements have been met in the product, using A Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM)
- Log the testing done to support every requirement. Projects that utilize and maintain an RTM have fewer defects and problems.
- Use the RTM to analyze the work done on a project. With this data, the QA team can better estimate later work cycles. By using the RTM, unnecessary and redundant rework can be eliminated to lower costs.
Benefits of Execution in STLC
Managing and identifying the defects in a software release is the goal of the execution phase. The preparation and work done in the planning and implementation phases result in a more effective and efficient execution phase.
The work completed in the execution phase results in a higher quality software release. Work is standardized, ensuring testing is completed and the team has every opportunity to identify a defect before release.
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Phase 4: Evaluation in the Software Testing Life Cycle
In the evaluation phase, the team will report on, monitor, and analyze the defects identified in the execution phase. The status of each defect is documented in the project record.
The evaluation phase should include a study of the defects, so the team can better understand the impact on the product, as well as the risk and effort involved in fixing them. This will allow the team to make an informed and proactive decision on defect mitigation and better control the project’s costs.
At the beginning of each cycle in agile, work on the defects will be pulled into the cycle or placed in the backlog. The testing, defect mitigation, and programming work is done concurrently in agile. The evaluation phase ensures critical defects aren’t lost in the rapid pace of work.
The report developed in the evaluation phase helps in managing work. The status of defects is monitored, and the steps and effort taken to correct them are documented.
The goal of the evaluation phase is to proactively manage defects. When complete, the team should have a record of each defect, detailing the risk of each and the final status of the defect in the product. The test cases, or scripts, should be linked to the test results, creating a comprehensive risk management report.
Challenges to Evaluation in the STLC
Often the development team will focus solely on the software and technical aspects of defects and bugs. The business processes that drive the requirements behind the product aren’t considered. This creates a gap in the record and an incomplete evaluation of the risk involved with each defect.
Ultimately, the software product is a tool for the users and not just a collection of executable code. It’s important to include a use case for each of the test scripts. Without considering the business processes and requirements, the development team risks negatively impacting the usability of the product as they are eliminating defects.
A survey of IT leaders in global enterprise organizations confirmed this challenge. Respondents cited a lack of business-oriented testing reports as the top challenge in the evaluation phase.
Evaluation Best Practices in the STLC
- The test scripts and use cases should be the foundation of your evaluation phase.
- Directly link the test results to the test scripts developed in the implementation phase and used in the execution phase.
- Track and monitor each of the defects, using a risk management report. A defect will go through different stages as it is worked on, retested, and evaluated. This is known as the Defect Life, or Bug Life, Cycle. Accurately tracking this cycle is a critical part of the evaluation phase.
- Record of the impact of defects. This record can be used in future projects to more accurately scope and plan work before the project starts.
Benefits of Evaluation in the STLC
The evaluation phase is a critical to producing a working software product and eliminating unnecessary cost and expense in future projects. The risk management report can be used to more accurately assess future projects and develop best practices that drive continual improvement.
The result of the evaluation phase should also be an impact analysis that enables the project team to better manage the project and your costs while ensuring a higher quality, working product with each release.
Optimizing Software Development with STLC
The focus of agile is producing working software products through short iterations of effort using less documentation. As discussed earlier, this provides more flexibility for the project team as well as better change management.
Another benefit of agile development is the ability of the enterprise to rapidly release products at the end of each iteration. This allows the IT team to provide business users with a steady stream of continuous value through new functionality and updated, customer-centric product releases.
This is known as continuous delivery.
Continuous Delivery for Agile
A rapid release schedule requires continuous delivery, continuous integration, constant testing, and continual pipeline analytics.
Companies that optimize the STLC can better adopt a model of continuous delivery. Programming, testing, and integration occur concurrently. The IT and Development team can quickly and efficiently respond to business needs using agile, delivering value in a matter of days rather than months or years.
An effective STLC becomes a competitive advantage for the enterprise – providing a solid testing framework that caters to the rapid development needs of agile. With STLC, an IT and Development team can ensure high-quality product releases at the end of each development cycle.
Many companies are turning to software application tools to better implement, monitor, and manage their Software Testing Life Cycle.
Application Testing Tools and STLC
Application testing tools provide a framework for implementing the STLC. These solutions can reduce testing efforts without sacrificing the scope or quality of the final release.
For example, Panaya’s Test Dynamix is an application testing tool that standardizes testing across the enterprise. It accelerates the testing process by providing digital tools and support to critical stakeholders:
- Managers have real-time alerts for testing and defects, proactively eliminating bottlenecks before they impact schedule.
- Test managers have real-time visibility and granular data across all test cycles.
- Cross-functional teams collaborate in the system to accelerate test execution and eliminate downtime.
- Automatically capturing and documenting test data in an audit-ready format ensures compliance.
- Smart defect management automates monitoring and provides proactive notifications for rapid resolution and improved quality assurance.
With agile-ready Test Dynamix, everyone across the enterprise is meeting the same testing standard. Everyone collaborates on the same system. Testing and data silos are eliminated as the business works not only faster but better and more efficiently.
Optimizing Value with the Software Testing Life Cycle
Business users are demanding greater value and increased quality from enterprise IT teams. Bugs, defects, and failed releases increase risk and expose the business to loss.
CIOs and IT Managers are turning to methodologies like the Software Testing Life Cycle (STLC) to stay ahead of the competition and better meet the pace and demands of ambitious business goals.
Application testing tools are standardizing testing across global enterprises. They can enable and improve collaboration while reducing costs and risks with every release.
Are you ready to accelerate project delivery and increase software quality using the Software Delivery Life Cycle (STLC)? Experience Panaya Test Dynamix to see what Enterprise Agility and Application Testing Tools can do for you.