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How to get testers involved early in development

When testers are involved in the early stages of development, they're better able to create test plans. Testing expert Karen N. Johnson explains how you can make this happen.

How can I get testing more involved in the early stages of development?
I once had the following experience. I was asked if I would be willing to attend a meeting between the system architect and two developers if I wouldn't ask any questions. Apparently, I'm known for asking lots of questions. I vowed silence and attended the meeting.

I listened to a long discussion revolving around concerns with specific tables in the database schema -- tables where the data was expected to grow rapidly. I heard how the system architect altered the design to accommodate rapid growth and heard details about the data warehousing alternatives. I said nothing.

But when I returned to test planning, I incorporated test ideas around those areas. I planned performance tests, functional tests and search testing designed to expose problems. When the system architect saw my test plan (I always share my test plans with different members of a project team and let them know my work is open for review and input), he told me I was welcome to return to any product planning meetings. Because he could see the direct benefit of "allowing" QA in early in the process, he began to advocate my attendance in meetings. After that, I didn't have to do anything else to advocate early involvement. The door had been opened.

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