Test Strategy vs. Test Plan: What’s the Difference?

Test Strategy vs. Test Plan: What’s the Difference?

Test Strategy

A test strategy document is a high-level document that defines the software testing approach to achieve testing goals and objectives and is typically developed by the project manager. Test strategy is usually derived from the business requirement specification document. Test strategy document remains unchanged most of the time, apart from occasional changes that can be made in test management tools. This document is the basis of the entire testing process and activities and documents such as the test plan draws its contents from the test strategy document.

Companies prefer to include a test strategy or approach inside a test plan for small projects. However, larger projects require a separate test strategy document and a different number of test plans for each phase of testing. 

Components of Test Strategy Document

  1. Scope and objectives
  2. Roles and responsibilities
  3. Test deliverables
  4. Test management tools
  5. Risks and mitigation
  6. Test measurements and metrics
  7. Defect tracking and reporting
  8. Change and configuration management
  9. Business issues
  10. Communication and status reporting
  11. Industry standards
  12. Training plan

Test Plan

The test plan document is derived from use case documents, software requirement specification SRS, or product description. Usually, the test manager or test lead is responsible for preparing the test plan document that focuses on describing what, how, when to test, and who will do what test.

Many teams keep one common Master Test Plan for the test phases, and each phase has its test plan documents. There’s a lot of debate as to whether the test plan document should be updated often as per the direction of the project and activities, or should it be a static document like the test strategy document. I would prefer to side with the former argument because, in my view, the test plan should be updated to reflect any deviation from the original plan. 

Components of Test Plan Document

  1. Test plan ID 
  2. Test items
  3. Test techniques 
  4. Features to be tested
  5. Features not to be tested
  6. Test environment (entry and exit criteria)
  7. Testing tasks
  8. Test deliverables
  9. Suspension criteria
  10. Responsibilities
  11. Schedule
  12. Feature pass or fail criteria

This is a standard approach to prepare test strategy and test plan documents, but it can vary for different organizations.

Test Policy Document

The test policy document is a high-level document that is at the top of the hierarchy of the test documentation structure. Its purpose is to represent the company’s software testing philosophy as a whole and provide the direction which the testing department should follow. It should apply to both new projects and maintenance work. Senior managers should set an appropriate test policy that will provide a robust framework within which testing practitioners can then operate. This will also maximize strategic value in every project.

Contents of Test Policy Document

  1. Definition of testing: What is tested? Influence? Techniques? Manager? Why is testing required?
  2. Description of the test process: Phases of tests? Roles? Document Structure? Tasks?
  3. Test Evaluation: How the test results will be evaluated? What measures will be taken to ensure effectiveness?
  4. Target quality level: Quality criteria? Quality level?
  5. Approach to test process improvement: How often and when to assess the usefulness of the process? What elements need improvement? What techniques should be used? 
Tom Spiggle
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