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Elevating Software Quality: Test Practice Cards for Improvement

Posted by Tony Simms on 15/06/2021
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Improving Software Quality - Test Practice Cards

Are you looking to mature the understanding of testing within your organisation, improve software quality or looking for an event for a remote team meeting?

If so, Test Practice Cards might hold the answer!

So, what are they?

Test Practice Cards are a set of digital or physical cards. Each card contains a succinct, pithy sentence with regards to a single aspect of testing. Together, the cards contain the essence of what ‘Good Test Practice’ looks like in your organisation.


As a minimum, the cards should cover: 

• Test Planning
• Test Management
• Test Creation
• Test Automation
• Test Execution
• Test Reporting
• Test Reuse

What makes them particularly powerful is that, they are built around your practice, the way you do things (or at least, the way you want to do things).

How do you use Test Practice Cards?

Once you have a set of cards, there are a variety of ways they can be used to improve testing. Just some of the many uses of the cards include: 

Maturity Reviews

Either as a team or as an individual, the cards can be used to help assess maturity of where you are against the practices.

A simple exercise such as, placing the card in the relevant quarter of a SWOT grid will show you where effort needs to be focused to maximise strengths & opportunities and reduce the impact of threats & weaknesses.

Used in conjunction with a skills matrix and training plan, the cards become an important tool in the development of your team capability.

Ice Breaker or Conversation Starters

You can use the cards to initiate discussion for example, by having someone draw a card at random and then telling the rest of the group how the topic of the card relates to their work or team.

Affinity Maps

The cards can be used to help identify patterns of thinking and behaviour. Teams can be asked to arrange the cards in groups or clusters that they believe belong together or to place the cards into groups and then order them sequentially. By reviewing the way the team arrange the cards, you can get inside information of how they think and behave.

Quick Reference Guides

The cards can be formed into a quick reference guide for use in planning and sprint sizing, either as a checklist or as a memory jogger.

Daily or Weekly Message

Cards can be included on top of emails newsletters or posts on a weekly basis to draw attention to individual test practices, sort of 'Test Thought For The Day'.

Team Area Posters

Enlarged and posted around a team area, Test Practice Cards serve as a constant prompt to ensure that the whole team is aware of and complying with the principles of good test practice as it applies within the organisation.

Picture1-1Shared Understanding

Particularly with teams that have a high throughput of resource, such as short-term contractors, using the cards as a knowledge base and making them freely accessible can help significantly with promoting a shared understanding of what is expected with regards to good test practice.

Facilitating Implementing “Lessons Learned”

So, often the lessons from “lessons learned” are simply forgotten but by updating or creating new Test Practice Cards, the lessons can be absorbed into the test practice knowledge bank and be included in project test practice reviews to ensure the lessons are being acted upon.

Where can I get a set? 

Ideally, you would produce your own set of organisational specific Test Practice Cards. 

The process of creating your own cards is a highly valuable exercise in its own right and we have produced a “Recipe for Success, Test Practice Cards” how to document, you can request a free copy by following this link.

One approach to creating the cards which works well is to arrange a workshop or an awayday where you gather the stakeholders together and jointly create your base set of cards. This can be a fantastic teambuilding exercise and an excellent way of communicating a shared understanding of what your organisation’s testing is all about.

Having produced the core card set, this can be added to over time either through further team exercises or through individual submissions.

There can be a number of different events that would trigger an addition or change to a Test Practice Cards. These include:
  • A new member joins the team and is asked to review the practice cards and to suggest additions or changes based on their own experience.
  • A team changes the way it’s working and as a result needs to change the way it is testing.
  • Part of a regular programme of reviewing the practice and updating it collectively so as to keep the practices fresh and relevant and to encourage a sense of ownership.

Whilst physical packs of cards can be very effective, these are not essential. A digital set of cards is certainly easier, cheaper to keep up-to-date and to disseminate throughout the organisation.

However…if you’re looking for a way to get a quick start with the use of Test Practice Cards then, you might be interested in what we’re doing at nFocus.

Will you help?

We have decided to create an nFocus set of Test Practice Cards, based on generic best practice. In order to make the cards as relevant to a wide group of people as possible, we are asking for contributions from our staff, associates, clients and the wider testing community. To the end, we are asking for people to send in their Testing Best Practice contributions.

We would be thrilled if you wanted to be part of what we are creating! Everyone that sends a suggestion that ends up making it into the pack, will win a free pack of the nFocus Test Practice Cards when we produce them - due to logistics, this offer is only available to UK based people. 

We are looking for short, pithy statement for each of the categories bulleted below. Need some inspiration? Our how-to guide at the bottom of the blog is full of helpful tips. 

      • Test Planning
      • Test Management
      • Test Creation
      • Test Automation
      • Test Execution
      • Test Reporting
      • Test Reuse

  • You can submit your contribution/suggestions, using the form below.

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Topics: Software Testing, Test Tools, Software Testing Assessment

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