In the ongoing series of posts on Agile Test Case Management (which is pronounced ‘figure out things for my talk on Thursday’) I am now heading onto slightly shakier ground with Session Sheets. Session Sheets are the tracking method of proposed in Jon Bach’s paper Session-Based Test Management. SBTM itself is a much larger discussion and one that is beyond scope here. What is in scope is the sheets themselves as they are, according to Jon, the magic ingredient of SBTM.
Sheets themselves are…
- plain text (not .doc — that is a binary format)
- tagged for categorization and organization
- machine readable
- stored in revision control
- highly customized to the team and context
That could describe, well, almost anything. And it is supposed to; you are doing it wrong if you don’t tailor it to your environment. But what distinguishes a ‘good’ sheet and a ‘bad’ sheet. Again, beauty is thin the eye of the beholder and the devil is in the details – or rather in the charter. A session’s charter is what guides the testing and provides the mission. If you get the charter ‘wrong’, then everything else is as well.
The key thing, to me, is the detail of the charter. A good charter guides the tester, but does not direct. The Agile community is used to thinking in this stepped-back manner from dealing with user stories but it is mind-bending to new people or those still in a waterfall-ish environment.
According to Rob Sabourin at Star East 2010 a charter is…
- under 160 character
- statement of mission
- ties to purpose
- focuses work
- confirms understanding
- delineates scope
Also from Rob and Jon are a list of ‘types’ of charters.
- Discovery – searching for broad knowledge
- Capability – typically starts with ‘Confirm…’
- Failure Modes – what could break
- Quality Factors – the ‘ilities’
- Usage Scenarios – happy, sad, evil
- Creative Ideas – soap opera testing
- White Box
- And a myriad of different domain specific ideas
This list shouldn’t be considered definitive or complete, but should help guide and mould your thinking of charters. A well SBTM’d (yes, using it as a verb) product will have a mix of each. But again, the mix will change from group-to-group and project-to-project.
As an activity for this, I’m planning on ‘borrowing’ Rob’s idea of a charter contest — but without the contest part. Basically it will be a create-and-share each type of charter. Lots of practice — I have lots of chart paper and crayons.