Everyone is trying to work faster these days—and that includes software development teams. But work too quickly, without enough checks in place, and software is buggy. Most teams have limited resources, so throwing more talent at projects isn’t always possible—and in some cases this only makes matters worse.
Instead, consider the title of the popular self-help book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. In software, this means focusing on the functions that matter most to your business and users. This is the basic philosophy of risk-based testing. Instead of trying to catch every bug, regardless of its relevance to the overall functionality and user experience, risk-based testing suggests a different approach based on prioritizing test cases according to business and user impact.
The job of testing has become more complex over the years, given the global distribution of users, the growing interdependency of applications and the rapid changeability of code based on user requirements. Organizations spend lots of time, money and effort trying to test every possible scenario before each software release; yet many still end up with defects in production. But testing everything misses the larger point: The majority of defects usually stem from a small set of issues.
How Risk-based Testing Helps
Risk-based testing optimizes testing by identifying and eliminating risks that could potentially have the greatest negative impact on your organization. Increasingly, mature QA organizations are adopting risk-based testing to accelerate testing and improve results at the same time. Here’s how it works:
- Technical and business experts collaborate to calculate risk levels for application features, which then map over to specific test cases. These risks consist of business risks as well as technical risks, such as complexity of the code and how often the code has been changed prior to being tested.
- Next, test cases are prioritized according to risk, with the highest-risk tests performed first. Depending upon time and budget, low-risk tests might be skipped altogether.
Goal of Risk-based Testing
The goal of risk-based testing is the same goal of all software testing: to improve the overall quality of the software. By focusing on the severest defect risks first, the testing team has confidence that any remaining bugs will have a minimal impact on users. Risk-based testing delivers other benefits, including:
Risk-based testing allows teams to stay on budget by being able to spec out ahead of time exactly how many tests will run during a specific sprint or project phase. The testing process is more organized and focused, allowing team members to spend most of their time on important, meaningful tasks.
Risk-based testing usually results in needing to run fewer tests, which can save on manpower and compute time. Project managers are able to better adjust plans on the fly as well. If time becomes more compressed midstream, they can drop tests with the lowest risks without jeopardizing the product.
Risk-based testing increases the chances that your company can release software in a timely manner and with as few critical defects as possible. That’s good for users and will keep them coming back.
Risk-based testing is not a panacea. There may be some scenarios for which it is not appropriate, depending upon the nature of the software and the user base. Where there is zero tolerance for failure (such as with a financial trading application or ER admittance application), risk-based testing might not work as well. But for many applications today, it can increase a team’s agility and customer-responsiveness in a competitive world.
To learn more about how risk-based testing works and its advantages, download our white paper.