Test Documentation in the 21st Century

The 21st Century & Test Documentation

Is our approach to documentation holding testing back from being truly agile?

In today’s world, the focus is all on Agility, DevOps and doing things quicker for less.

Everyone’s an automation expert or a Scrum Master. We’ve moved from mainly focusing on manual testing, to a heady mixture of Automation Testing, Exploratory Testing, User Experience Testing and so forth. However one arena that has not changed as much is our reliance on documentation and the expectation for us to provide extensive documentation to our stakeholders.

I’m not advocating for no documentation but for SMART Documentation!

Our dependency on incoming documentation

As testers we rely on requirement documentation, release notes and scope documentation to help us do our job, however the underlying cost of all this documentation is expensive to the project(s).

Test Documentation
  • There’s the environmental cost of printing (we’re all supposedly greenies!), the storage of all these documents and the disposal when they are no longer needed or relevant.
  • There’s the time taken to write, edit, review and rewrite documents time and time again during the project design phase and into the development phase or at the beginning of the sprints.
  • And then there’s the interpretation of what the requirements mean!

With co-location and co-operation now becoming the norm for project teams, the use of a central information hub in this day and age is of paramount importance.

This allows the business analysts to create their requirements or use cases in the same tool that testers create their test cases so that each test case can be linked directly to a use case(s). The developers can create their release notes within the central hub for each release and the testers can review all documentation without a tree being felled.

Expectations for Testers to supply documentation

Traditionally we’re expected to create the following:

  • Test Strategies
  • Test Frameworks (both Manual and Automated)
  • Test Scripts/Test Cases
  • Status Reports
  • Test Completion Reports

These take time. A strategic document usually takes 2 weeks to write, review and re-write which could end up costing thousands of dollars, and for what? Would anyone actually read it?

By creating our test artefacts within the central hub, we can construct real-time dashboard status reports, which can be generated by anyone at any time and contains real-time accurate information, rather than 1, 2 or 3 day-old information. We don’t have to circulate it to stakeholders, they can run it themselves. Our reports become a summary rather than the novels we currently create, and we can get on with being testers and not authors.

The biggest hurdle to progress

The biggest hurdle to taking documentation into the 21st Century is that people feel comfortable being presented with a document. It has gravitas.

We need to educate our audience that, just because a report is a one-page dashboard with a three or four page summary attached, it doesn’t have any less meaning than a 30 or 40 page report. The information is the same just more tuned to an agile process…