Test Plan vs Test Strategy Explained

Sep 14, 2023 | Test Automation Insights


Software development professionals know firsthand the importance of Quality Assurance (QA) in any software project. This essential project component ensures the end product not only meets the client’s expectations but also delivers a seamless experience for the end user.

The QA process is guided by two essential documents: the test plan and the test strategy. Despite both being related to the software testing phase, they play different roles and serve different purposes.

In this article, we’re going to compare test plan vs test strategy, delving into the differences and similarities between the two, highlighting their individual components and their benefits for the software testing process.

📑 Components of a Comprehensive Test Plan

A test plan is a detailed document that outlines the specific stages of software testing. This includes the test strategies and methodologies used, objectives, schedule, estimations, and needed resources. It describes, in great detail, what the software developers will need to test, how to test it, and when each particular test will occur.

At its core, a software test plan is a roadmap for the testing team. It provides clear guidance for each member of the team to ensure all critical areas of the software are covered in the QA process.

→ Objectives and Scope in a Test Plan

At the heart of every testing plan are the objectives and the scope of testing. The objectives describe what the tests should aim to achieve. Meanwhile, the scope defines the boundaries of the tests and how detailed and thorough they’re going to be. 

One of the main purposes of testing is to validate the software functionality and ensure that it meets specific requirements and lacks bugs or other functionality issues. The objectives and scope section is usually brief, containing a list of features to be tested or not tested.

The Test Environment, Resources, and Schedules

The testing environment, resources, and schedules are also vital components of any test plan. This section provides the software testers with all the information they need about where the testing will take place and what tools they’re going to use; both software and hardware.

Additionally, it includes a detailed timeline of the testing with specific milestones. This provides a clear roadmap of when certain tests or stages of testing need to be completed, allowing for more efficient project management.

Test Deliverables, Entry and Exit Criteria, and Risk Assessment

The test deliverables, entry and exit criteria, and risk assessments comprise the final vital section of a test plan. This section aims to provide clarity on what the testers are expected to deliver at the end of the testing phase, the conditions of the testing, and any potential risks they might face on the way.

For example, your test deliverables for a particular project may include test cases, test scripts for standardization, and previous testing data. Combined with pre-determined parameters, known as entry and exit criteria, these deliverables allow testers to clearly understand when they should begin and end a specific test for it to be considered complete.

♟ Components of an Effective Test Strategy

Compared to the test plan, the test strategy is a high-level document that offers a more holistic view of the testing approach. It aims to ensure alignment with business goals and market requirements. Test strategies are unique on an organization level, and are tweaked and used repeatedly for all software projects done by the organization.

Instead of more general information, a testing strategy outlines the testing methodology the company uses for specific types of software projects. This type of document is especially beneficial if the testing is outsourced to a third party or freelancers.

 ♗ Testing Objectives and Overall Testing Approach

Testing objectives and the overall approach form the core of the test strategy document. This is typically the first and most important section, providing an overview of the test’s overarching goals as well as the methodology the software testers are expected to follow.

While the objectives in the test plan define the testing objectives for your particular project, the objectives in the test strategy should define overarching testing goals. Your organization’s overall test strategy objectives may include things like validating the software’s functionality, identifying bugs, and ensuring the software meets specific performance benchmarks. The testing strategy may also define the organization’s preferred testing methods, such as Agile or Waterfall testing.

Determining the Selection of Testing Types and Techniques

A test strategy details the specific types of testing that will be employed. This may include an overview of unit testing, system testing, or integration testing, depending on the type of software.

As for outlining the specific testing techniques, the test strategy document often includes a small number of techniques, such as boundary value analysis or equivalence partitioning. This limits the decisions the software testers will have to make by guiding how they approach the testing process as a whole.

Detailing Roles and Responsibilities Within the Testing Team

Within the testing team, certain roles and responsibilities are meant to minimize conflict and streamline the decision-making process among team members. This section can range from minimalist to highly detailed. It typically includes the role of the testing manager, test lead, and individual testers, as well as their specific responsibilities and testing activities.

Moreover, having a clear-cut division of responsibilities can allow team members to use efficient communication strategies among themselves, leading to a more efficient testing process where all team members are in agreement and up-to-date.

🗒 Key Differences Between Test Plan and Test Strategy

Despite both concepts occupying similar territory in software testing, it’s important to also be aware of the differences between the two. This understanding will enable you to better craft your documents and present them to the company’s stakeholders.

One of the fundamental distinctions between a test plan and a strategy plan is the depth and granularity of the included information. Test plans tend to be information-dense, meticulous, and specific on a project level. They’re blueprints that elaborate on the tiniest details of testing.

From pinpointing the necessary software and hardware resources to condensing the comprehensive testing phase scope and listing expected deliverables, this is the go-to guide for the testers during the QA process. By being tailored for every single project, it ensures that it encompasses all the nuances and testing needs of the software rather than relying on generalizations.

Alternatively, a test strategy serves a purpose on a much higher level; it sketches a very broad and general outline of the testing methodology and philosophy used by the organization for all its software projects. Instead of diving into specifics, testing strategies paint a panoramic view of the testing landscape, making it distinct in its breadth and coverage.

A testing strategy offers a more holistic perspective of the testing process and protocols without being occupied with any specific project. It ensures that there’s a consistent approach to QA throughout the organization.

✅ Benefits of a Well-Defined Test Plan and Test Strategy

It’s important to have harmony between your test plan and test strategy. Having these two documents not only provides a reliable roadmap for the testing process but also fosters a more efficient and collaborative work environment. While there are numerous benefits, they can be condensed into: enhanced clarity and focus.

By adequately outlining the project’s objectives, scope, resources, and timeline, these documents serve as a guiding light when things get hectic. They ensure your team doesn’t end up accidentally overlooking any details in the process. The documents will be a permanent reference point for the testing team, allowing them to stay aligned with the project’s goals at all times.

Furthermore, they serve as communication bridges; particularly in larger projects. By having clearly delineated roles, responsibilities, and communication guidelines, these documents can mitigate ambiguity. Both documents work together to establish a common ground that ensures everyone is synchronized. Ultimately, this reduces the chances of errors, miscommunications, and misunderstandings.

💻 Implement Test Plans and Test Strategies in Software Projects

Incorporating a comprehensive combination of a testing plan and test strategy is one of the most crucial steps in software project development. Both documents should be well aligned with the project management methodologies, but also flexible enough to change based on feedback and subsequent results.

Think of the two documents as living and rapidly changing parts of the software development project. They aren’t static documents, and you should expect them to grow and change as the project progresses, especially the test plan. This ensures they remain relevant and effective throughout the testing process and for future projects, as well.

🎚 Leverage Technology and Create Robust Automated Tests

The advancements of automation in testing tools and methodologies have made software QA more efficient and effective over the years. However, with tons of options on the market, it can be difficult to find the right fit for your particular situation. After all, it’s important that you have tools and software that you can trust to fully test your software. This is where Ranorex comes into play.

Ranorex is one of the leading providers of test automation software. Our flagship product, Ranorex Studio, is used by countless software QA teams and software developers to help automate their testing processes. Give our Automated GUI Testing tools a try, and create robust, maintainable, automated tests based on reliable UI object recognition.


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