I’ve worked several projects where I’ve been asked to produce a Test Plan. The same thoughts go through my head each time I start writing. What information should I include? who is the audience? how long should it be?

A quick google returns link after link of Test Plan templates and advise on what to include. Common headings include components under test, entrance and exit criteria, environment details.

So, I go ahead and write the plan. I’ve lost count of how many pages its become but it’s begging to resemble a short story. It goes through a review process and more information is added, it goes through a second review and even more information is added and finally it gets signed off. Great! V1.0 is now signed off. But wait……who’s actually going to read it?

In my experience the answer is usually no one. What often happens, in my experience, is that the the plan gets stored somewhere for everyone to access but the next person to open it will probably me when I need to make another update.

So why do we go through all the effort? It seems to me we do this because we think we have to or because we’ve done it in the past.

With the growth of Agile and the use of sprint planning to define the immediate scope and with tools like Jira and TFS allowing us to store all required tasks in a backlog until they’re ready to be worked on, do we really need test plans anymore?

I can see some value in defining entry and exit criteria, especially where testing responsibilities may be shared by multiple departments or even companies but again in my experience entry and exit criteria is seldom used. The principles of the defined criteria soon go out the window when the project is over budget, late and pressure is mounting. The common rhetoric from management is “I know we haven’t met the criteria but we need to get this in. We can sort out the criteria later”. But of course this never happens.

Perhaps I have just been unfortunate with my experience or perhaps im using Test Plans in the wrong way but I’m inclined to see in today’s environment they no longer have a place in software. Certainly not in the format I have detailed.

Maybe, what would be more useful is a single page or possibly a couple of slides. just detailing minimal detail about what you plan to do and how you plan to do it.

I would love to know if other people still use test plans. If you do then let me know how you use them, what you put in them and if they have been useful?

If you don’t use test plans, whats the alternative?

Ryan Howard

Hi,I'm Ryan. I'm a Software Tester, Quality Advocate and founder of How QA.