Operational Testing Tutorial: Comprehensive Guide With Best Practices
This article is a detailed guide that delves into operational testing, covering various types, approaches, and best practices.
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Operational testing helps evaluate the operational readiness of a product, service, or application that forms an integral part of quality. You tend to consider the operational aspects that can be a major differentiator in the long run. These aspects are addressed as part of the pre-release before the changes are deployed on the production server.
Organizations around the globe have realized the true value offered by operational tests, which is why you will see more and more structured processes being defined for it. You can have a dedicated team for operational tests, or the QA team can perform it as part of the software development lifecycle.
When we talk about conventional functional testing, it does not consider the environmental factors and other related dependencies in which the website or application is being used. This is a major challenge as most applications are used over some form of a public network environment that is entirely out of control. That is why it is imperative to implement operational tests in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC).
What Is Operational Testing?
Operating testing is a specialized testing technique that helps you evaluate a software product's operational readiness before deployment in the production environment. It is also known as Operational Readiness Testing (ORT). Running operational tests helps ensure that the system and different components are defined per the standard operating environment. It is performed right after the user acceptance testing and applied in a specific environment during various software development life cycle (SDLC) phases.
Here are a few characteristics of operational tests.
- It is part of the quality management system.
- It is a non-functional type of acceptance testing.
- You can conduct error detection, which helps ensure correct functional implementation.
- It is helpful in software development and maintenance projects.
- You can validate the operational aspect of the product or application.
Why Use Operational Testing?
In the year 2007, Microsoft launched its new operating system Windows Vista. With heavy investments being made, Microsoft expected it to be a top choice among its distinguished set of users. But it was not the case as there were a lot of problems related to its overall performance and compatibility. This resulted in the product's downfall, and other software companies quickly realized that we should not launch a product until it was 100% ready.
It is essential to perform comprehensive testing of your digital products in the real world so they can meet the required conditions and user expectations. Without running operational tests, a software product or application lacks the required depth regarding different factors such as performance, security, and reliability. It ensures your software product or application is free from defects or bugs. Regarding mobile apps, operational tests become essential in evaluating the app's overall performance in the long run.
It also helps to cover the following aspects:
- Validate the functional or structural changes to the software product.
- It helps determine whether the application can be deployed on a network by the Infrastructure Library (ITIL) standards.
Benefits of Operational Testing
There are many benefits when implementing operational tests in the existing business setup. Some of the prominent ones are
- It helps to tackle the failover scenarios that are part of the product or application. In failover, the failback system can handle the overall operations until the primary system is up and running.
- You can effectively manage the capacity requirements of different systems by simulating hundreds or even thousands of requests or system interactions.
- You can efficiently perform backup and restore operations which mean that your data always remains protected.
- It ensures that the systems are intelligent enough to generate alerts in case of component failure.
- The changes deployed to the production environment are integrated seamlessly without impacting the overall system functionality.
- The system can be shut down and restarted cleanly without downtime or service disruption.
Functional Testing vs. Operational Testing
Let us try and compare these two common testing types and evaluate which one to use under which scenario.
Who Performs Operational Testing?
Operational testing is performed before the product, service, or system is deployed in the production environment. It is performed to conduct operational pre-release related to the software or product and can be performed by any of the following teams who are well aware of the functional and non-functional aspects:
- Testing team
- Implementation team
- Customer support team
The testing team is the primary team performing operational tests, as they are part of the entire process. The execution and implementation of test scripts and working with test data help them to execute operational test cases in a much better and seamless way. You can also see different teams, such as customer support and implementation, helping test teams validate different scenarios.
Skills Required for Operational Testing
Operational testing is about getting many things right. It is not only about understanding the system functionality but making sure that you execute and implement your testing with utmost precision and clarity.
Some of the critical skills required to run it:
- Expertise in understanding the system domain and overall capabilities.
- Evaluating the different data trends and test results so that you can make informed decisions.
- Effective stakeholder management so that you can interact and coordinate with different project teams to get things done.
- Implementation and execution of different test campaigns.
- Understanding complex user requirements so that you can implement those requirements in real-world scenarios.
Types of Operational Testing
In this section, let's explore different types of operational tests.
- Installation testing: This testing is about validating the different installation scenarios with different inputs.
- Load and performance test operations: You can validate the non-functional aspects of load testing and performance standards.
- Backup and restore testing: You can test the different backup and restore options available in the product or application.
- Security testing: This testing allows you to test different security aspects of the application or product.
- Code analysis: The teams focus on improving the overall code quality by conducting in-depth code analysis. They perform code optimization so that code meets the required guidelines and standards.
- Failover testing: This type of testing focuses on validating the product's ability to allocate resources, and the operations are moved to the backup systems.
- Recovery testing: The primary purpose of testing is to ensure that an application data recovery can be made across all the data centers if there is a security breach or disaster recovery
- End-to-end test environment: This type of testing ensures the test environment is operational, keeping the different external factors and dependencies in mind.
- Operational documentation review: This testing is done to ensure that an operational documentation review is done so that end customers can perform critical tasks and activities using documentation as a reference.
Disadvantages of Operational Testing
Here are some disadvantages of running operational tests.
- Its workflows are often so complex that even the system developer is unaware of the best or correct solution for a given problem statement.
- There are scenarios where the non-functional testing aspects are not even part of the testing procedure.
- It can be time-consuming to implement if you need to deliver an application with strict timelines.
- The overall project costs tend to increase.
Checklist for Operational Testing
The following checklist will help you effectively run operational tests.
- Checking required resources and important parameters: Evaluate the resources and other vital parameters to plan and execute a test campaign. You need to answer some common questions:
- Do you have resources with the required skill set and expertise?
- Does your team have the bandwidth to create testing scripts?
- Can you automate the testing efforts so that overall productivity improves in the long run?
- Do you have a testing schedule in place that can be implemented?
- How can you achieve the desired testing results?
- Are you looking to improve or reinvent your existing testing processes?
Once you have the clarity related to the above questions, you can plan and execute your testing scripts and metrics.
- Finalize the test plan: Before starting operational tests, the team should prepare a test plan that details the tests that need to be conducted with entry and exit criteria. The test plan should be shared with all the required project stakeholders so that they are aware of the testing goals and objectives. You can store the test plan in a shared location to track the changes done every release.
- Develop the test scripts: Once you have evaluated the resources and important parameters and finalized the test plan, now is the time to develop the required test scripts. The QA analyst finalizes the test scenarios using a testing script. The test scenarios can be efficiently managed using specialized tools. The test scripts can be developed based on hardware, software, and client requirements. It is always a good practice to automate your testing requirements to achieve precision in your testing results.
- Test execution: You must perform test execution based on the test scripts. The test execution provides you with the exact count of the tests that are passed and failed.
- Data collection: The test results are collected along with the testing implementation. You can always refer to the data trends to improve the testing plan and strategies. The data collection trends are a great way to monitor and track the testing results in real-time closely.
- Data analysis: The results recorded by the team are compared with the exit criteria to evaluate the operational readiness of the software.
When it comes to testing, you must consider real-user environments. Therefore, use a real device cloud to test your web and mobile applications on different browsers, devices, and operating systems.
The Approach Followed for Operational Testing
It all comes down to having a structured approach when running operational tests. You can follow these steps in sequential order for your real-world scenarios:
- System design and assessment: It is all about evaluating the design requirements related to your system. You must ensure that the design capabilities meet the required expectations so that testing requirements can be performed with utmost ease and perfection.
- Build system: Once you have evaluated and finalized the design requirements for the system, you need to create a system that can handle diverse testing requirements with different permutations and combinations.
- Meet the design specification: The system should meet the desired design specifications and product requirements set aside right from the beginning. You can track the system progress using predefined metrics as well.
- Evaluation: You can evaluate the overall quality and important parameters that help to make the system more robust and scalable. It is about evaluating the key factors that can create a long-term business and customer impact.
- Compliance assessment: Once the system is evaluated and it is as per the desired expectations, we must ensure that the compliance assessment is performed to make sure that there are no compliance violations that are being done. The best results are achieved with compliant systems which can understand the overall market trends and changing technology conditions.
- Deployment: Once the system complies with the set standards, you can deploy the website or application in the production environment. This ensures that the application has met all the required system-defined configurations and can perform exceptionally well from the performance and scalability perspective
- Assessment of operability and supportability: The deployed systems need to be monitored and tracked to ensure they meet expectations. That is why the assessment needs to be done on operability and supportability so that teams can achieve the desired outcomes in the long run.
Improving Operational Test Planning and Design
The success of tests largely depends on improving the overall planning and design. You can follow the below factors to ensure that the operational test and design aspects improve in the long run:
- Facilitate test planning and design based on business goals and objectives. The test metrics should align with the growth prospects the organization needs to achieve in years to come.
- Conduct comprehensive scope reviews in the planning and test phases to identify potential issues or challenges immediately. You do not want to resolve issues just before the system deployment phase.
- Perform design reviews with all the required project stakeholders so that design requirements are easily understood and implemented in the coming phases.
- Always make sure you give realistic timelines for planning and design. You can always improve or evolve your processes with every iterative release.
Common Mistakes to Avoid During Operational Tests
These are some common mistakes you can avoid when running your operational test suites.
- It should not be performed if you are not aware of the functional and non-functional aspects of the product or application.
- It is important to finalize the test campaign before implementing it.
- The process and approach related to operational tests should only be implemented once you have discovered the overall project challenges and blockers right in the beginning.
- The testing team should be fully aware of the overall testing scope.
Best Practices of Operational Testing
Here are some of the best practices you can follow when executing tests.
- Make sure that the planned resources can effectively execute the planned test campaigns.
- You can choose the required testing tools based on the testing scope planned in every iteration.
- It is always preferred to share the testing results with required stakeholders to align with the business goals and objectives.
- Use the expertise of the professional team to achieve desired results.
- Use well-planned test case execution to cover all the possible scenarios.
- Make sure that you perform a comprehensive test coverage.
- Define the test metrics that need to be evaluated for the overall delivery and quality. Perform adequate reporting of the test results.
- Perform adequate reporting of the test results
- Ensure that you rely on best-specialized tools to run tests.
- Use the full array of available tests.
All in All
After studying the explanations about operational testing, you should know the challenges that can be encountered if it is not done correctly. This is why organizations need to follow a structured process to evaluate the readiness of software or websites before they are deployed in real-world environments.
The primary focus of operational tests should be on the system's stability, portability, and reliability. Once you can track these key metrics, performing it and getting desired results becomes easier.
Published at DZone with permission of Harshit Paul, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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