Wednesday, 17 August 2011

MindMaps for managing test projects

I work in an operational company where the test effort is geared towards in-house projects (see "The need for confirmation" blog for company types).
From a test management view this means that the majority of our time and effort is spent on small version increases of existing software, for example bug fixes, small pieces of new functionality or adding temporary items like pictures and web pages for specific events. Some larger projects, read a few months worth of effort, exist as  well and run alongside the smaller ones.

We usually batch together changes so that we get a decent amount of test time together, unless the projects are decent sized already. I then check what system modules the bug fixes or new functions affect as we always have several of these small projects  on the go, although usually less than a dozen. Once the interaction between these small mini-projects is known I can then decide in which test environment they'll go.

In short, this approach helps with resource management, where the resources managed are testers and test environments. I consciously excluded time as a resource (although that could be tracked as well) and only track the priority of a given project.

In order to track what the status is for each project or change I use a Mindmap which is divided into three main parts:
  1. Projects that I know about and that are either in analysis or still in development
  2. Projects that are nearly development complete or already queuing to get tested
  3. Projects that are in one of our test environments and have a tester assigned
A Mindmap makes it really easy to list all kind of information against a mini-project, i.e. content, risks, developer and tester names, etc. Also, once a project moves from part 1. to 2. or 3. it's an easy drag & drop action and the status of that project is updated.
I experimented a bit and found that colour coding the projects and allocated environments works very well to highlight where a particular project will go to and where potentially clashes are when a project in that environment gets delayed. Putting the names of testers on the top level of a project also helps to see how much projects every tester in the team has going on at any moment in time.
Finally, putting numbers in for priority of projects helps to see which projects should go into one of the test environments next.

Here's an example of one of the MindMaps I use, for obvious reasons I made the project and tester names quite generic.

I use XMind in which Flags can be added to an entry which works in most MindMap applications. The flags are all pictures so I created one with the name of each tester, then updated the XMind configuration which is basically an XML file to add the additional folder and tester names. This makes for quick labelling of who's working on which project.

Here's a link to the generic project in case you want to download it (XMind file).

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.


  1. Interesting ! I love mindmapping and I use them as often as I can. XMind is a really great tool.
    If I can make some suggestions, I would manage risks in a floating node, I think this is important to group all risks in the same place and make them easy to reach and review (I think they should be managed globally). You could also format some nodes as table (the bug list for instance) using the node properties to change the layout.
    If you are a mindmapping adept, maybe will you be interested in a tool of mine to convert mind maps to test requirements or test suites - for Testlink only for the moment :
    (all comments and suggestions will be greatly appreciated to help me improve the product).



  2. Arnaud,
    thanks for the comment. I was hoping that it's clear to see that I don't track risks with this mindmap but batches of functionality going into one of several test environments.