Activity-based Requirements Engineering Quality Meta Model. An artifacts has certain properties (quality factors), which have an impact onto activities, which are conducted by stakeholders.

Requirements quality is quality-in-use

I’ve worked quite some time on understanding and detecting quality defects in requirements documents and requirements quality in general. All the time, I was very dissatisfied with the current state in both research and practice on this topic. I think, the problem behind this is that there is no guidance: In times of rapid change and delivery, where every project looks different, we still have no good rule of what a good requirements document is.

A few years ago, we came up with such a rule, and tried it in various applications. And – so far – it seems to work! We’ve collected this experience and are now ready to tell you about it, because we really believe this should change how you view requirements engineering, and this should change what you consider good requirements documents.

Continue reading Requirements quality is quality-in-use

Automatic Feedback on TFS/VSTS Test Case Quality in Real Time

Team Foundation Server (TFS) and its software-as-a-service counterpart Microsoft Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) are widely used application lifecycle management (ALM) and test management tools. They offer many great facilities to create tests, manage test plans, and execute them.  Consequently, many of our clients as well as prospective customers wanted to use our test improvement software Test Scout along with TFS/VSTS to improve the test case quality. So, here is the question that we always face: How do we get the data from a testing tool into the Test Scout? As always in life, there is a straightforward and a fancy solution. Let me show you what I mean.

First: a simple integration

Test Scout is able to process almost any kind of text format. So, integrating test management tools such as TFS/VSTS is quite straightforward: For each test management tool, we created exports, which we imported into the Scout. For HP ALM, for example, we use a simple script to create a database dump containing all currently existing test cases. We then automatically imported and processed this data in Test Scout to evaluate the test case quality. Since Test Scout keeps versions of each import in its database, the history of all test cases is available in Test Scout. Therefore, all features, such as comparing different versions of test cases and historical development of test cases still works out of the box.

Integrating ALM tools via exports


Continue reading Automatic Feedback on TFS/VSTS Test Case Quality in Real Time

Phased Inspections

Efficiently control requirements quality: the best of two worlds

For high requirements quality we need quality assurance. In a previous post, I explained why automatic methods cannot replace manual methods. Instead I suggested to combine both worlds. And the ugly truth is, in both system testing and requirements engineering, we need both manual and automatic quality assurance to control requirements quality and test quality. Now you wonder, how? I got you covered. In this brief post, I want to point out how you can combine the two worlds and how you benefit from the combination.

Continue reading Efficiently control requirements quality: the best of two worlds

“Optionally, an E-Mail is sent” – Erfahrungen mit automatisierter Erkennung schlechter Anforderungen (German)

Auf dem QS-Tag in Nürnberg habe ich heute unsere Erfahrungen mit der automatisierten Erkennung von Problemen in Anforderungen vorgestellt. Das Feedback war absolut positiv. Hier die Folien des Vortrags. Die Kurzfassung des Vortrags und die Reaktionen der QS-Tag Besucher:

Qualitätsprobleme in Anforderungen führen zu echten Problemen und unnötigen Kosten in der Software-Entwicklung. Manuelle Reviews sind wichtig, aber aufwändig und langwierig. Sind automatisierte Reviews das Allheilmittel? Alleine sicher nicht. Aber mit einer sinnvollen Kombination von automatischen Analsen und manuellen Reviews bekommen wir das beste aus beiden Welten: Schnelles Feedback durch automatische Analysen und tiefes inhaltliches Feedback durch manuelle Reviews.

Erkennen können wir dennoch einige Probleme. Das hat die Erfahrung, auch mit Munich Re, gezeigt. Sprachliche Probleme, den falschen Abstraktionsgrad, strukturelle Inkonsistenten und unnötige Klone sind alles Mängel, die wir automatisch angehen können. Bei der Bewertung der Vollständigkeit von Anforderungen oder dem richten Anforderungsschnitt beißen sich automatische Analysen heute jedoch noch die Zähne aus.

Um die Ergebnise möglicht effektiv aufbereiten zu können brauchen wir zwei Perspektiven: Eine Perspektive für die Anforderungsautorin, die möglichst sofort während des Schreibens mögliche Defekte anzeigt. Und eine andere Perspektive für den Quality-Engineer, der den Überblick über die Qualität vieler verschiedener Dokumente bewahren will.

Spannende Frage aus dem Publikum vor und nach dem Vortrag waren: Wie können wir sicherstellen, dass durch automatische Analyseergebnisse niemand bloßgestellt wird? Und eine zweite spannende Frage: Wie können wir die Perspektive der Tester in die automatisierte Erkennung bringen? Wie können wir sicherstellen, dass Tester und Anforderungsautoren das gleiche Verständnis entwickeln? Brauchen wir dazu spezielle Analysen? Oder eine spezielle Darstellung? Oder beides? Meine Antworten: Sicher Thema der nächsten Blog-Artikel!

Requirements Traceability with Microsoft Word

Why use Word for Requirements Documentation?

… you might ask. Usually, I strongly encourage our customers to use suitable tools for managing their requirements. There are plenty of reasons why I recommend using professional tools for requirements management, but an important reason is to ensure requirements traceability. For example, of the six sources of RE project failures identified by Michelle Boucher, at least three have to do with traceability.
While we do recommend other tools, Word is available in most companies, documents are easy to exchange, the review mode is pretty good and sometimes using other tools is simply not an option for different reasons. Hence, many people do use Word to create requirements documents. My own experience in using Word for authoring a requirements document is that it seems to work well in the beginning, but as soon as already documented requirements begin to change things start to get nasty. Especially if there is not just one requirements document, but several. Continue reading Requirements Traceability with Microsoft Word

Which defects cannot be detected, taken from H. Femmer, D. Méndez Fernández, S. Wagner, and S. Eder, “Rapid quality assurance with Requirements Smells,” J. Syst. Softw., 2015.

The ugly truth about automatic methods for requirements engineering quality.

Ok, after I publish this blog post, I will probably get some angry calls from my sales department… Well, truth must be told.

There are many crazy defects in requirements, and, as I wrote in my last post, you can detect quite a bunch of them automatically (and you should do so!). When I present our automatic methods for natural language requirement smells or automatic methods for detecting defects in tests to our customers, I’m proud to say that they are usually very excited. Sometimes they are too excited and then this can turn into a problem.

What I mean is that I explain all the amazing things that you can detect with tools and suddenly people think that the tool will solve all the problems that they face. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. And because we’re a company that is interested in happy customers, I want to briefly summarize all the problems (*that come into my mind) that a tool can’t solve. And because I don’t want to leave you in despair, I will also suggest some solutions, how I personally would suggest to work on that problem. Continue reading The ugly truth about automatic methods for requirements engineering quality.

Structuring system test suites – antipatterns and a best practice

Typically, you have your test suite structured in a hierarchic way to keep it organized. The way you structure your system test suite has a considerable impact on how effective and efficient you can use your tests. A good structure of a system test suite supports:

  • maintaining tests when requirements change
  • determine which part of your functionality has been tested, and to which degree (coverage)
  • finding and reusing related tests while creating new tests
  • selecting a set of test cases to execute (test plan)
  • finding the root cause of a defect (debugging)

In my opinion, the first two points are the most important ones, as they touch the core of what system tests should do, namely to ensure that the system fulfills its requirements.
Of course each project is different and no matter which structure I choose, I always run into the “tyranny of the dominant decomposition” (i.e. there is no such thing as THE best way to build a hierarchy) in the end. Nevertheless, I have seen a couple of anti-patterns in the past, which only very rarely make sense.

Continue reading Structuring system test suites – antipatterns and a best practice

Dependencies from displaCy

Which quality defects can you automatically detect in system tests and requirements?

I am a strong advertiser of modern, automatic methods to improve our day to day life. And so I really don’t want to check by hand whether my tests and requirements fit my template, or whether my sentences are readable. So quality assurance and defect detection, for example reviews or inspections, should use automation as far as possible.

BUT: When I speak to clients, sometimes people get so hooked up by the idea of automatic smell detection, that I need to slow them down. Therefore, this post tries to give a rough overview: What is possible to detect automatically?

The answer basically depends on two questions:

  1. How much syntax (or structure) do your artifacts and tests have?
  2. Which language do you use?

In this post I will refer to requirements artifacts here and there, but the answers are pretty much the same for both system tests and requirements.

Continue reading Which quality defects can you automatically detect in system tests and requirements?

Conditionals: Why you should avoid these two letters for better test case execution

At Qualicen, it’s often my job to check other people’s system test cases and tell the team what I think about these tests. So what do I look for? Well, in principle it is simple: After tests are written down, they are “only” executed and maintained. So this is where tests can be bad and I try to spot things that make execution and maintenance harder. For the maintenance, the largest problem here are clones, which we covered in our last blog post. For the test execution, the main problem that you want to avoid is that different testers test different things. This is called ambiguity and comes in many tastes. In this blog post, I want to explain what is structural ambiguity and why it is bad, and this way help you to create better test cases.

(Scroll to the summary, if you don’t care about the details) 😉

Ambiguous test flow

The problem for test execution that I want to discuss here, is an ambiguous test flow. This means, that for a single test case, there are multiple paths that a tester can follow when she executes the test. Let’s look at an example.

A simple, straight-forward natural language system test case.

A simple, straight-forward natural language system test case.

Continue reading Conditionals: Why you should avoid these two letters for better test case execution

Why test clones mess with your test quality – And how to avoid them

I recently reviewed a manual test suite of one of our customers. One of the first things I check very early in a review is the number of clones (i.e. duplicated parts of a test suite, usually created by copy and paste). In this recent case, I discovered that nearly 70% of the test suite is duplicated. That means, when I take some arbitrary test step, the chance is 70% that the test step is a 1:1 copy of another step. At the top of the post is a tree map that visualizes the amount of clones I found. Each rectangle represents a test, the more red a rectangle is, the bigger the amount of cloning.

In my experience, cloning in test suites is the biggest problem with regard to maintainability of a test suite. Cloning causes considerable costs as the effectiveness of the test suite decreases and the effort for maintenance rockets. In this post I take a closer look on cloning in test suites. I show you an example to illustrate how clones can look like and explain where clones come from. Later, I give you good reasons why you should care about clones in tests and discusss strategies you can employ to avoid or at least deal with clones.

Continue reading Why test clones mess with your test quality – And how to avoid them