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Advice: Slash undesirable outcomes through risk-based testing

At the Software Test Professionals Conference, software leader Rex Black will walk attendees through the process of risk-based testing.

Identifying and assessing software risks that have the potential to wreak havoc on a software system, such as poor product quality and planning, is no small feat. Mitigating undesirable outcomes poses a challenge because of the breadth of risks and solutions designed to meet them. Using risk-based testing methods helps companies determine the order that features should be examined based on their risk of failure.

Man using a magnifying glass to inspect laptop

At the Software Test Professionals Conference in San Francisco, software leader and International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) Chairman Rex Black is walking attendees through the important process of risk-based testing.

Black uses a two-step process when aiding clients in solving quality woes. The first part of the action plan involves collaborating with stakeholders to determine areas that might lead to problems. Then, they go over potential negative outcomes if bugs aren't caught.

Professional testing is part of fulfilling the promise of Agile methodologies: quick release and high quality.

Rex Black,

Some common examples of quality risks that Black has seen at the e-commerce level include:

  • Slow response to user input
  • Wrong totals on an order confirmation page
  • Convoluted shipping selections

The two-pronged approach to assessing risk helps Black create a working roadmap. "By combining the likelihood and impact ratings, we can come up with an aggregate measure of risk," Black said.

Having stakeholders in the testing loop is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Not keeping all business partners informed, is "dangerous" and can result in missing important variables, according to Black. "Based on our experience helping clients do risk-based testing for about 20 years, I would expect that a tester, even a very smart and experienced one would only be able to identify 25% of the quality risks by themselves," he said.

There are project risks that can also affect testing, Black noted. A drain on test environment resources and staffing levels due to injury, vacation and so forth can lead to problems down the road. Testing can also be delayed because of the delivery of low-quality software, Black said.

Value of obtaining Agile certifications

Merely saying you know a thing or two about software testing takes you only so far -- you have to be able to back up your words. There are certifications software professionals can obtain to prove their knowledge and skills. The ISTB is one organization that offers certification exams that can lead to better outcomes for IT professionals and businesses.

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"The ISTQB Agile certifications will help upper management make smarter decisions about how to align professional, structured testing with Agile methodologies," Black said. "Professional testing is part of fulfilling the promise of Agile methodologies: quick release and high quality."

Beginning early 2014, the ISTQB Foundation Agile Module will be available for software testing professionals. The 75-minute exam focuses primarily on practical skills necessary to complete an Agile project. Black said in 2015 and 2016, the ISTQB anticipates introducing the module at the advanced level.

About the author:
Maxine Giza is associate site editor for She can be reached at

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