technology

ITIL – Getting Software Testing in Better Shape

The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a publicly available collection of books owned by the UK Governments’ Office of Government Commerce (OGC).

After the first publication of ITIL, the amount of books quickly grew to about 30 volumes. The second set of ITIL publications (v2) was published with a specific goal of ensuring ITIL was more accessible to those interested in it, and to consolidate the information into sets that grouped these guidelines in to differing aspects of applications, IT Management and services. However, the cost of these ITIL manuals is still significant, particularly for non-commercial use.

ITIL version 3 outlines a broad set of testing guidelines and best practices. It does not restrict the project to following one testing methodology, but rather encourages the selection of principles that best fit the requirements. It does emphasize the need to reduce risk early in the project lifecycle and provides several suggestions as to how to do this. Test processes are outlined within the Service Transition portion of the ITIL lifecycle covering the management of change, risk and quality assurance.

Prior to Service Transition, project management is encouraged to develop policies that apply to the project as a whole. These include: Service Quality; Risk, Service Transition, Release and Change Management policy.

One of the primary goals of Service Transition is to ‘minimize the risks from transitioning the new or changed services into production’, by applying a uniform set of policies to the project as a whole and have them applied throughout the project lifecycle, the various teams are better able to enforce and follow through on set quality standards. By ensuring early understanding and buy in from Senior Management and/or Clients regarding processes and policies it allows the project teams to focus on core deliverables rather than re-educating or re-negotiating policies repeatedly throughout the lifecycle with the risk of altering expectations midway. While the Service Transition documentation does not restrict the project in the test methodology used, it does state the following test activities should take place:

Validation and test management

Plan and design test

Verify test plan and test design

Prepare test environment

Perform tests

Evaluate exit criteria and report

Test clean up and closure

It should be noted that when implementing these activities for ITIL software testing they will not be undertaken in sequence. In fact, several activities should be done in parallel.

While ITIL does mention many different approaches to testing, one of the main objectives of Service Testing and Validation is to provide quality assurance and establish that the project will deliver a product that is fit for purpose and use. Risk Based test approaches support these objectives and, in particular, reinforce the Project Wide Risk Policy established during the Strategy phase.

By determining and populating the appropriate Risk Matrix for an organisation or project, the Risk Policy can be better enforced through the Testing Process. Using a Risk Based approach, ITIL can provide a systematic method to: evaluate requirements; improve test effectiveness and efficiency; report progress; and gain consensus on high risk requirements, can only further support these overall objectives.

As a final pointer, ITIL is considered the world’s most advanced set of IT practices. These practices cover many functions and activities, including software testing best practice.The enormity of ITIL can be daunting and it can be tempting to view it as too big or requiring too much bureaucracy to implement successfully. Certainly there are many initiatives to implement ITIL practices that have failed and there are many that have introduced excessively bureaucratic processes. But there are many more organisations that have benefited from implementing improved practices from ITIL that have helped alleviate problems that had previously plagued them. If an ounce of prevention is really worth a pound of cure, then ITIL could be a metaphorical answer to tackling obesity in our IT practices at a time when we are all conscious of the need to get into a healthier shape.