Define Activities – Execution Schedule

Sequencing activities, estimating durations, estimating resources, capacity planning.

  1. Preparation Plan
  2. Test Strategy
  3. Scenarios, Checklists, and Charters
  4. Data
  5. Execution Schedule
  6. Human Resources
  7. Communication
  8. Procurement
  9. Readiness
  10. Test Execution
  11. Close Project or Phase

Execution Schedule

Our Scenarios, Checklists, Charters, and Data provide us with the baseline of the things that we could possibly test, but it’s only by sequencing these activities, estimating their durations, estimating the resources required, and then validating that against both our capacity (the number of testers and support available) and the milestone objectives, that we can determine if our schedule is achievable or if we need to tweak something. Bear in mind that our schedule always leads back to the Triple Constraint – we will need to tweak either scope, time, or cost (resource) – or all three – to fit within the project parameters.

We can start with whether we have enough time for testing, always considering Parkinson’s Law:

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

On some projects 4 weeks for UAT is plenty, and on others 8 weeks isn’t enough. The differentiating factors include:

  • The quality of testing in earlier test phases. Where Unit Testing is light, Integration Testing becomes a slog, and where Integration Testing only covers basic scenarios, User Acceptance Testing is simply another cycle of Integration Testing rather than a proper UAT. Conversely, proper Unit Testing and Integration Testing means that the UAT becomes a better exercise in the testers learning the product and confirming business processes.
  • Business buy-in to testing and acceptance, and provision of sufficient testers to complete the phase. Where businesses see testing as a hassle that takes people away from BAU they can do anything and everything to pull testers away from the testing task and back into the business, disrupting testing flows. The last thing you want to be doing under time pressure is looking for the finance tester who’s been pulled back to his/her desk. Businesses that allow their testers time to test, verify, and explore the system reap benefits in uninterrupted test time and system learning, finishing the test phase on time and growing super users for the future.
  • Delays in critical dependencies. Inbound dependencies from other project streams can cause delays to starting the testing if their plans are particularly ambitious – particularly, for some reason, the Data team. Unfortunately, if the Data load is late or incomplete you may find that you are spending the first two weeks of the test execution phase in fixing the data rather than testing.

For these reasons your duration estimates need to be tailored to each project, to take into account the potential risk of delays.

Adding resource is a potential solution, but a limited one – for example, in UAT we’re requesting business users, so the more users we request for testing, the fewer people are left to run the business, leading to a risk to the normal day-to-day operations. The business can in some circumstances cover this with contractor backfill, but this comes at an additional cost and in some areas where speciality is required is not an option. On top of this, additional testers means additional support required, additional training, additional costs in travel and accommodation, etc.

The final option is to reduce the scope. We want to do this without adding undue risk to the testing, and one solution is to assess each scenario, checklist, and charter in scope and assign a priority – not for the priority that we will run the scenario, but a priority for whether we will keep the scenario in scope or not – and balance this against the capacity of available testers, the timeframe that we have for completion, the level of coverage that we need, and the technical and functional complexity.

Once we’ve defined and confirmed the scope we can add in role mapping for each of the transactions, complete any final sequencing, convert the role mapping to testers, and level and balance the schedule.


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