Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Task Management System

This is an ode to Outlook 2007 and Dave Allen's "Getting Things Done". Without either, my life would be an unstructured, disorganized mess!

I use Outlook 2007 for absolutely everything, including:

  • When to nag
  • When to test
  • What to test
  • Action Items from meetings
  • Books to Read
  • Blogs to Post
  • When to follow up with someone
  • Status Reports
  • Time Cards
  • Mgmt Stuff
  • Emails to reply to
  • Reminder to update my goals
  • Etc.

Pretty much everything in my work life goes into Outlook. I know you're probably wondering what about my actual outside-work life? Yeah, that's a different story. Put it this way, had to run down to the shop last night because I forgot to buy food. Boyfriend and dog was not impressed, especially boyfriend, since I only returned with aforementioned dog food. Oops!

For testing and management, I find that having a reliable and trustworthy task management system is essential so that I can prioritize, keep track of where projects are, and not "forget" something I was supposed to do. It protects my credibility and helps me professionally.

So, if I need to test a feature, what do I do? Well, first, I'll look up when the feature is scheduled to be available to test. I'll create a task to represent this. I'll also create a separate task to contact the developer to get background information. And, I'll also create a task related to creating automated test cases for our regression test suite. So, I'll have something akin to the following in Outlook Task Manager:

  1. Seek information on software feature by X date
  2. Exploratory test software feature by X date
  3. Thoroughly test software feature by X date
  4. Feed results back to developer and stakeholders by X date
  5. Add test cases to automation test suite by X date

But, what happens if when I first start testing and I find a bug that is so severe that further tests are blocked? I find out when it'll be fixed and update the due dates. That way I can forget about testing this feature until I get pinged by the developer or my task pops up to remind me. I've found this extremely useful when the developer has not fixed the issue. The reminder reminds me to follow up.

I also use Outlook to block-book testing time. I don't believe in multi-tasking when I'm testing. If I'm planning to exploratory test, then I need to be focused on the task at hand. There are too many distractions in day to day life in the office, so I schedule an X-hour meeting in my calendar with the sole purpose is to test. I find this an extremely effective way to test and to uncover bugs.

It doesn't matter whether you use Outlook or some other tool, but use something. The brain cannot be trusted. I can testify to that as I'm driving home and it reminds me to add notes to a bug report. Not exactly the best time, why didn't my brain remind me 5 minutes before leaving the office? Because you can't trust it!

Key take home message: Don't trust your brain! Have a system!

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