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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Integrating Testing in the System Development Life Cycle

After you have spent three to six months gathering requirements, designing, and building the OBIEE Application you start the User Acceptance Testing with the business users. When the business users start to do the acceptance testing many times we hear the following from the business users:

1.) The data on the Reports and Dashboards do not agree with the data on the in my Excel Spreadsheet
2.) The data on the Reports and Dashboards do not agree with the data in our source system
3.) It is difficult to navigate between the Dashboard and Reports to see the necessary information
4.) We do not like the gauges and look and feel of the Reports and Dashboards
5.) The Dashboard Prompts do not give us the selection criteria we need to see the reports
6.) We cannot see the information that we need on the Reports and Dashboards
7.) We have a need to look at data to follow up on the out of bounds metrics on the Reports and Dashboards

How many times have you encountered this in on a BI Application or OBIEE Project? If you have been on many of the projects that I have worked on it has occurred to frequently. Instead of going to the next project in the BI Program, you have to spend many hours trying to meet the user’s needs found during User Acceptance Testing.

So what has contributed to this situation? There are many items that have contributed to the above situations. Some of them are:

1.) Poor Requirements gathering
2.) Poor Design
3.) Not involving the user in all phases of the system development life cycle
4.) Poor or no Testing Processes

Of the above one of the biggest contributors to this situation are Poor or no Testing Processes. So where do we start the testing processes for a project. Bill Hetzel in his book “The Complete Guide to Software Testing” states that Testing Processes need to start with the Project Initiation Phase. He recommends the following steps for integration testing within the System Development Life Cycle:

Project Initiation:

Develop Broad Test Strategy
Establish the overall test approach and effort


Establish the testing requirements
Assign testing responsibilities
Design preliminary test procedures and requirements-based tests
Test and validate the requirements


Prepare preliminary system test plan and design specifications
Complete acceptance test plans and design specification
Complete design-based tests
Test and validate the design

Complete the system test plan
Finalize test procedures and any code-based tests
Complete module or unit test designs
Conduct the tests
Integrate and test subsystems
Conduct the system test

Conduct the acceptance test
Test changes and fixes
Evaluate testing effectiveness

As Bill Hetzel states above Testing needs to be involved in all phases of the System Development Life Cycle. Now one of the arguments against testing is that it takes a long time do and conduct. However, without following at least some of the major steps projects are prone to some of the same symptoms that we initially discussed. Also a fail or project that exceeds the cost and schedule and does not provide the client the information that he needs result in a failed project – this is the perception by the business users if the project does not meet their perceived needs and requirements.

It has been said the Projects are 80% communications and 20% technical. If we fail to communicate the testing needs and implement projects that the users perceive do not meet their needs and requirements then we are contributing to a failed project. Implementing testing into the System Development Life Cycle greatly improves the communication on a project, and results in users perceiving that the projects meet the needs and requirements. There is no major secret to integrating testing within the System Development Life Cycle, it just requires that it be included and the users be involved in all phases of the System Development Life Cycle. If the proper communication and testing processes are included in the System Development Life Cycle, User Acceptance Testing should only be a minor effort for the project because the users are only validating what already has been defined and tested.


Anonymous said...

Another way of mitigating the chances of your scenario occurring is "Don't Go Dark". It's a different way of approaching the same aim really.
It may be more palatable to your developers if talk of testing and project planning has them running for the hills or looking at you blankly :-)