Task: Agree on the Mission
This task focuses on finding the right balance between the available testing resources and the objectives for the iteration.
Disciplines: Test
The purpose of this task is to:
  • Negotiate the most effective use of testing resources for each iteration
  • Agree on an appropriate and achievable set of objectives and deliverables for the iteration
Understand iteration objectives
Purpose:  To gain an initial understanding of the scope of and objectives for the iteration plan. 

Examine the iteration plan, and identify the scope and objectives of the plan.

It's useful to supplement this examination with informal discussions with key project staff such as the project manager, software architect and customer sponsor; these meetings will often highlight concerns more explicitly than documented in the plan. Attending iteration kickoff meetings also provides useful information.

Investigate options for the scope of the assessment effort
Purpose:  To understanding the expectations of stakeholders for the scope of the evaluation effort. 

The mission is the governing principal that guides the test effort during a given time period. Testing resources are typically limited, so the challenge is to balance given testing resource constraints with the quality validation needs of the software development effort.

Gain an initial understanding at a strategic level of the expectations of the software development team. You should mainly be concerned with the expectations of the project manager, software architect and lead system analysts.

Present options to stakeholders
Purpose:  To gain input and feedback from stakeholders for the objectives and scope of the test effort. 

It's not a terribly useful practice to consider objectives and scope in isolation from the rest of the project team. RUP advocates team ownership of product quality, and as such you should include relevant stakeholders from the rest of the project team when deciding what testing is important. You should consider team members that fill the following roles as important stakeholders: Project Manager, Architect, System Analyst, Integrator.

In some cases, the presentation format will suit being formal, with the stakeholders convening as a review board and requiring significant preparation in advance. In other cases, "brown-bag" lunches may be appropriate, or individual interview with each stakeholder. There are good and bad points for each approach: choose the format that best suits you needs in the context of the current project environment.

Formulate mission statement
Purpose:  To clearly identify the essence of the testing focus for the current Iteration. 

Mission statements are helpful in providing focus to a team, especially in situations where the team is faced with many possible choices. Test teams without an Evaluation Mission often consider that they simply "do testing": this provides little guidance when difficult choices must be made regarding the best focus for testing within time or resource constraints. A mission statement distills the essence of the current work objective and provides a "mantra" to keep the team focused on the right things.

Formulate a mission statement that can be used by the test team. Don't make it too complex or incorporate too many conflicting ideas: The best mission statements are simple, short and sweet and in most situations where a decision needs to be made between possible options, the mission will make it obvious what choice the team should make.

Here some ideas for mission statements you might adopt for a given iteration:

  • find as many bugs as possible
  • find important problems fast
  • assess perceived quality risks
  • advise about perceived project risks
  • advise about perceived quality
  • certify a standard
  • verify a specification (requirements, design or product claims)
  • satisfy stakeholders
  • fulfill process mandates

Looking through this list, it should occur to you that many missions are mutually exclusive. For example, if my mission is to "find important problems fast", I likely won't be able to "verify a specification": To successfully achieve one mission often negates other possible missions, and requires a different supporting test approach.

Test teams that try to satisfy too many Evaluation Missions often get into trouble, encountering ongoing conflict in their work. Note also that we recommend choosing or reconsidering your Evaluation Mission in each iteration: it's natural for the mission to alter over time based on the context of the current work effort.

Identify test deliverables
Purpose:  To call out the value that will be received from the testing work effort. 

Certain work products are deliverables important to one or more stakeholders: other work products are necessary parts of the test effort and while important to the test team, they are of little interest to those same stakeholders.

Give some thought to the minimal set of useful deliverables for the test effort. Don't list all work products; only list those that give direct, tangible benefit to a stakeholder and those by which you want the success of the test effort to be measured. You might need to adjust your initial list to accommodate the needs of the stakeholders, but you will need to take an proactive role in encouraging the deliverables to be kept useful and manageable.

Gain stakeholder agreement
Purpose:  To negotiate with all stakeholders to gain mutual agreement on the most appropriate mission for the iteration. 

In a similar manner to the earlier step Present options to stakeholders, you should obtain agreement from those same stakeholders that the Evaluation Mission and its associated supporting aspects are appropriate for the Iteration.

Again, give thought to the appropriate format for presenting the mission and gaining required approvals. Choose the format that best suits you needs in the context of the current project environment..

Evaluate and verify your results
Purpose:  To verify that the task has been completed appropriately and that the resulting work products are acceptable. 

Now that you have completed the work, it is beneficial to verify that the work was of sufficient value, and that you did not simply consume vast quantities of paper. You should evaluate whether your work is of appropriate quality, and that it is complete enough to be useful to those team members who will make subsequent use of it as input to their work. Where possible, use the checklists provided in RUP to verify that quality and completeness are "good enough".

Have the people performing the downstream tasks that rely on your work as input take part in reviewing your interim work. Do this while you still have time available to take action to address their concerns. You should also evaluate your work against the key input work products to make sure you have represented them accurately and sufficiently. It may be useful to have the author of the input work product review your work on this basis.

Try to remember that that RUP is an iterative delivery process and that in many cases work products evolve over time. As such, it is not usually necessary-and is often counterproductive-to fully-form a work product that will only be partially used or will not be used at all in immediately subsequent work. This is because there is a high probability that the situation surrounding the work product will change-and the assumptions made when the work product was created proven incorrect-before the work product is used, resulting in wasted effort and costly rework. Also avoid the trap of spending too many cycles on presentation to the detriment of content value. In project environments where presentation has importance and economic value as a project deliverable, you might want to consider using an administrative resource to perform presentation tasks.