Software testing metrics are a way to measure and monitor your test activities. More importantly, they give insights into your team’s test progress, productivity, and the quality of the system under test. When we ask ourselves “What have we tested?”, metrics will give us better answers than just “we have tested it.” Different teams measure various aspects depending on what they want to track and control or improve.
A metric usually conveys a result or a prediction based off the combination of data.
- Result Metrics: metrics that are mostly an absolute measure of an activity/process completed.
- Example: Time taken to run a set of test cases in a suite
- Predictive Metrics: metrics that are derivatives and act as early warning signs of an unfavorable result.
- Example: Defects created vs. Resolved chart shows the rate of defect fixing. This grabs the team’s attention if this rate is slower than the rate desired.
Why Test Metrics? Why Should You Care?
The aim of collecting test metrics is to use the data for improving the test process, rather than to just show fancy reports. This includes finding tangible answers to the questions:
- How long will it take to test?
- How much money will it take to test?
- How bad are the bugs?
- How many bugs found were fixed? reopened? closed? deferred?
- How many bugs did the test team did not find?
- How much of the software was tested?
- Will testing be done on time? Can the software be shipped on time?
- How good were the tests? Are we using low-value test cases?
- What is the cost of testing?
- Was the test effort adequate? Could we have fit more testing in this release?
Good answers to these questions need measurement. This post includes 64 of the absolute, derivative, result, and predictive metrics that testers and QA managers use most often.
The Fundamental Metrics
As a tester, your road to metric creation has to start somewhere. Fundamental QA metrics are a combination of absolute numbers that can then be used to produce derivative metrics.
- Total number of test cases
- Number of test cases passed
- Number of test cases failed
- Number of test cases blocked
- Number of defects found
- Number of defects accepted
- Number of defects rejected
- Number of defects deferred
- Number of critical defects
- Number of planned test hours
- Number of actual test hours
- Number of bugs found after shipping
Absolute numbers are a great starting point, but typically they are not enough alone.
For example, if you report on the follow grid, this may not be enough to understand if we are on schedule for completion, or what results we should be looking into each day.
|Day||Day 1||Day 2||Day 3|
In this case, the absolute numbers produce more questions than answers. With the help of derivative metrics, we can dive deeper into answering where to solve issues in our testing processes.
Test Tracking and Efficiency
The following are the derived metrics that aid Test Tracking and Efficiency:
Test effort metrics will answer the questions: “how long, how many, and how much?” These metrics are great to establish baselines for future test planning. However, you need to keep in mind that these metrics are averages. Half of the values fall over the average and half of them under.
Some of the specific measures are:
Test effectiveness answers, “How good were the tests?” or “Are are we running high values test cases?” It is a measure of the bug-finding ability and quality of a test set. Test effectiveness metrics usually show a percentage value of the difference between the number of defects found by the test team, and the overall defects found for the software.
28. Metrics Based: Test Effectiveness Using Defect Containment efficiency
The higher the test effectiveness percentage, the better the test set is and the lesser the test case maintenance effort will be in the long-term.
Example: If for a release the test effectiveness is 80%, it means that 20% of the defects got away from the test team.
- This number should lead to investigation, retrospection, and corrective actions on improving the test set so the defect identification rate of the test set grows.
- Test effectiveness can never be 100%. So, teams should aim for a higher value and should not be disappointed if it is not a 100.
- Average effectiveness rate over releases will show if the efforts towards test set improvement are giving positive results or not.
29. Context Based: Test Effectiveness Using Team Assessment
Using defect containment efficiency metrics might not work when:
- The product is already mature
- Product is unstable and buggy
- Not enough testing done due to time/resource constraints
At times like this, we will need another way to measure test set effectiveness that is opinion or context based.
You can ask your team to rate the test set for how good it is. Before you do so, it is important to tell your team to be unbiased and define what a good test set means. For example, your team may decide that a good test set should cover high risk requirements adequately. Be realistic and focused on the most critical areas of your application.
Your team could also use a subjective scaling method. Out of a 100% rating (1 to 10 scale), ask your team to give a score to the test set as to how complete, up to date, and effective the test set stands today. Get an average on the score to get the team’s perceived average test effectiveness. Talking about what tests are good and bad from the perspective of the subject matter expert, proves to be a meaningful exercise in narrowing your test focus.
It is important to tell your team to be unbiased and to define what a good test set means.
Software quality metrics gauge the health of the application that are under test. Inevitably, the next core set of metrics that you want to analysis revolves around coverage. Test coverage metrics measure the test effort and help answer, “How much of the application was tested?”
For example, “Of these tests that are passing or failing, what are are the artifacts or area of my application that they are designed to ensure my products are produced in a high quality.” Below are some key test coverage metrics.
- This gives us an idea of the total tests executed compared to the test runs that are outstanding. It is usually presented as a percentage value.
- To get a high level view of what requirements have test coverage, you simply need to divide the number of requirements covered by the total number of scoped requirements for a sprint, release or project.
- This will usually only show if there has been a test associated, rather than showing the result of the test run.
32. Test Cases by Requirement
- Most common way to see what features are being tested, and see how many tests we have aligned with a user story or requirement.
|REQ||TC Name||Test Result|
|REQ 1||TC Name1||Pass|
|REQ 2||TC Name2||Failed|
|REQ 3||TC Name3||Incomplete|
33. Defects per Requirement (Requirement Defect Density)
- Defect density per requirement helps uncover which requirements are more risky than others. For example, the test cases might be fine, but the requirement might be what’s causing all the problems.
|Req name||Total # of Defects|
34. Requirements without Test Coverage
- It’s important to know if you are ready to push a requirement into production with proper test coverage.
- This shows which requirements do NOT have test coverage and at what stage the requirement is in. For example, a requirement that is in “Done” status is more risky than a requirement in “To Do” status.
|REQ ID||REQ NAME||REQ STATUS|
|REQ001||REQ A||To Do|
Even though a higher test coverage % and charts can instill confidence in your test effort, it is a relative value. Just like we can’t find all bugs, we cannot create enough tests to achieve 100% test coverage. This is not a limitation of the tester, rather it’s due to the reality that all systems are unbound. There are countless tests when we consider field, function, and end-to-end levels of testing. Therefore, it’s good to define exactly would would qualify as 100% test coverage to a limited test inventory.
Test Economics Metrics
People (time), infrastructure, and tools contribute towards the cost of testing. Testing projects do not have infinite monetary resources to spend. Therefore, it is important to know how much you intend to spend and how much you actually end up spending. Below are some of the Test Economics Metrics that can help your current and future budget planning.
35. Total Allocated Costs for Testing
- the dollar amount that CIOs and QA Directors have budgeted for all testing activities and resources for single projects or an entire year
36. Actual Cost of Testing
- the actual dollar time that went into testing
- One way to calculate this cost would be to measure the cost of testing per requirement, per test case or per test hour.
For example, if your budget is 1000 dollars and that includes testing 100 requirements, the cost of testing a requirement is 1000/100= 10 dollars. Cost per test hour, 1000 dollars for 100 hours means 10 dollars for every hour. This of course assumes that all requirements are equal in complexity and testability.
These numbers are important as baselines and help with estimating for future budgets for projects.
37. Budget Variance
- the difference between Actual Cost and Planned Cost
38. Schedule Variance
- the difference between actual time taken to complete testing vs. planned time
If the actual cost is less than allocated budget (negative difference), it is good news for the project. However, it could also mean that the estimation was incorrect. A variance of zero is preferred.
39. Cost Per Bug Fix
- This is calculated by the dollar amount of effort spent on a defect per developer
- If a developer spent 10 hours on fixing a bug and a developer’s hourly rate is $60, then the cost of bug fix is 10 * 60 dollars = 600 dollars.
- Some teams also take into account the cost of retesting for a more accurate measurement.
40. Cost of Not Testing
- If a set of new features went into production but needed rework, then all the expenses that went towards the rework equates to the cost of not testing.
- The cost of not testing can also be traced to more subjective value, such as a person’s perspective. Below are some examples of a subjective cost of not testing:
- More customer care calls/service requests
- Productive outages
- Loss of user/customer trust, etc.
- Loss of customer loyalty
- Poor brand awareness
Test Team Metrics
These metrics can be used to understand if work allocation is uniform for each test team member and to see if any team member needs more process/project knowledge clarifications. These metrics should never be used to attribute blame, but used as a learning tool.
41. Distribution of Defects Returned, per Team Member – Insights 2.0
Typically, pie charts or histograms are used to get a quick snapshot of work assignment. The chart below immediately brings to our attention that Bob is overbooked and David is underutilized. This gives the test lead/manager an opportunity to look into why that is the case and take corrective measures if needed.
Test Execution Status
Test Execution snapshot chart shows the total executions organized as passed, failed, blocked, incomplete, and unexecuted for easy absorption of the test run status. These charts are great visual aids for the daily status meeting because raw numbers have a higher chance of slipping through people’s minds. The growing and shrinking bars capture attention and communicate progress and speed much more effectively.
45. Test Execution Status Chart
Test Execution/Defect Find Rate Tracking
These charts help in understanding how the rate of testing and the rate of defect finding compare with desired values.
Taking the cumulative defect counts and test execution rates, the theoretical curve is plotted. This in comparison with the actual values will trigger an early red flag that test processes need to change if the targets are to be reached.
46. Test Execution Tracking and Defect Find Rate Tracking
Effectiveness of Change Metrics
Software undergoes changes – frequent, few, and far between. Changes incorporated have to be monitored to understand their impact on the stability of the existing system. Changes usually induce new defects, reduce application stability, cause timelines to slip, jeopardize quality, etc.
These measures help us better understand impact:
47. Effect of Testing Changes
Total number of defects that can be attributed to changes. This could mean making sure defects have proper affected and fix visions attached when they are reported to development. It is a little bit of an effort to categorize these defects as change related and not, but it is worth it.
48. Defect Injection Rate
Number of tested changes /problems attributable to the changes
For example: If ten changes were made on the system and 30 defects were attributable to the changes, then each change ended up injecting three defects and the defect injection rate is 3 per change.
Knowing this number will help predict the amount of defects that could be expected per new change. This allows test teams to strategically use retrospective meetings to understand their capacity to help identify and fix defects coming from new changes.
Defect Distribution Charts
Defects can be categorized based on type, root cause, severity, priority, module/component/functional area, platform/environment, tester responsible, test type, etc. Odds are that your team right how has set up a whole list of refined classifications for defect reporting.
Defect distribution charts are helpful in understanding the distribution and to identify areas to target for maximum defect removal. By using a histogram, pie or Pareto charts that show where your development and testing efforts should go.
49. Defect distribution by cause
50. Defect distribution by module/Functional area
51. Defect distribution by Severity
52. Defect distribution by Priority
53. Defect distribution by type
54. Defect distribution by tester (or tester type) – Dev, QA, UAT or End user
55. Defect distribution by test type-Review, walkthrough, test execution, exploration, etc.
56. Defect distribution by Platform/Environment
A histogram or a pie chart shows an instant visual identification to highly affected areas. But, when there are too many parameters, without patterns that are difficult to discern, you might have to use a Pareto chart. Defect
Distribution Pie Chart: This serves one purpose ONLY. It helps you to quickly find the areas that are most dense (the reason for most defects.)
Defect Distribution Histogram:
When creating a histogram, be sure to organize your data values from High to low or low to high for most impact.
You can stop here, but to get more out of your metrics, continue with the next step.
Combine the histogram with the distribution of Severity of defects in each cause. This will give you the areas that you should focus on more accurately.
For example: We know that the area that caused most defects was User Data Entry, but just because the count is high we need not necessarily focus on that first because most of the “User Data Entry” are low(in green). The next category that has the highest number of defects and with a high portion of severe issues is “Code Errors”. So this chart will refine our data and give us a much deeper understanding of where to channel further development and fixing effort.
You could also create a Pareto chart to find which causes will fix most defects. In many cases, a Pareto chart may not be necessary. However, if there too many causes and the histogram or pie chart is insufficient to show the trends clearly, a Pareto chart can come in handy.
To know which causes to focus on in order to fix maximum defects with minimum work (or what 20% of the causes can fix 80% of the defects), draw a line at the 80% mark on the Secondary axis and drop it on to the X axis, as shown below:
The causes User Data Entry and Code Errors should get more focus than others.
Defect Distribution Over Time Charts
Defect distribution at the end of test cycles or at a certain point in test cycles is a snapshot of defect data at that point in time. It cannot be used to derive conclusions if things are getting better or worse. For example: At a point of time, you will know that are X number of severe bugs. We don’t know if X is more than the last cycle or less or is the same.
With the distribution over time, you will know what’s been going with the defects in each category. We can see if defects have been increasing, decreasing or are stable over time or over releases.
Defect distribution over time is a multi line graph showing the defects per cause/module/severity trends over a period of time.
57. Defect Distribution over time by Cause
58. Defect Distribution over time by Module
59. Defect Distribution over time by Severity
60. Defect Distribution over time by Platform
For the following data:
|Test Cycle||Code Error||Security Problem(access permissions)||User error(data entry)|
Plot a multiline chart for the 3 causes over 5 cycles, as below:
Here is What the Chart can Help us Understand:
- Code errors in the initial two cycles have been high but have significantly dropped and stayed low from Cycle 3 onwards. This indicates development effort effectiveness.
- The user data entry errors have nosedived from the initial releases; this indicates the users’ increased familiarity and acceptance of the product
- The security related defects have stayed stable and have not improved (i.e. reduced in number) as the test cycles progressed. This means, these have to be attended to and addressed as a priority.
- For negative trends, i.e. with releases/test cycles, if the defect count is increasing in a particular cause category, this chart tells us what that is, but does not tell us why.
- It is most effective when there are few causes to work with. Imagine this chart has 10 cause categories and not 3, it would be too many lines making it too busy and difficult to interpret.
Defects Created vs. Defects Resolved Chart
61. Defects Created vs. Defects Resolved Chart
Bug found vs. fixed chart is a defect analysis line chart that lets us see defect removal process patterns and understand defect management effectiveness
To start creating Fixed vs. Found chart, you will have to first collect the no. of defects found and no. of defects resolved everyday during a test cycle. This is one of the charts that need cumulative numbers to make sense. Consider the following defect data over a 10 day long test cycle:
|Test Cycle 1- Date||Bugs created||Bugs resolved||Cumulative bugs created(Total no. of bugs created so far)||Cumulative bugs resolved(Total number of bugs resolved so far)|
A defect created vs. resolved chart for the above data looks like this:
This chart is great but there are too many lines that distract us. The raw numbers of bugs created and resolved is meaningless, you can remove them from the chart for a cleaner created vs. resolved chart, as shown below:
This chart answers the following questions:
- Are we ready to ship?
- Is the software gaining stability towards the end of testing?
- Is the defect management system working?
- The green line is getting straighter, flatter or steadier towards the end of the testing cycle. This indicates that the bug find rate has dropped and the cumulative bug count is constant-So, it helps us answer the questions- “Have we tested enough?” or “Is the product ready to be shipped?”
If the green line grew steeper and steeper it means the rate of finding the bugs has not dropped even towards the end of testing. So, more testing is needed and the product can’t be shipped yet.
2. Towards the end of the curve, the created and resolved lines are converging (more or less). This is also a good sign because it shows that the defect management process is working and is fixing the problems effectively.
If the blue line is way below the green line, it means the defects are not addressed in a timely way and we might need a process improvement.
Limitations: While this chart answers a lot of important questions, it does have its limitations.
- Spikes in the green line can happen during the beginning of a test cycle when the bug find rate is generally high. Spikes in the blue line can also occur when the development team goes through all the defects and marks a lot of them as completed. That can cause a momentary panic as to what is going on.
- The chart shows what’s happening, but further research is required to know why.
Managing the Testing Process, Rex Black, Chapter 4: “How Defect Removal Proceeds”
More Defect Metrics
62. Defect Removal Efficiency /Defect Gap Analysis
Defect removal efficiency is the extent to which the development team is able to handle and remove the valid defects reported by the test team.
To calculate the defect gap, get a count of total defects submitted to the Development team and the total number of defects that were fixed by the end of the cycle. Calculate a quick percentage using the formula,
Example: In a test cycle if the QA team reported 100 defects out of which 20 were invalid (not bugs, duplicates, etc.) and if the development team has resolved 65 of them, the defect gap % is: (65/100-20)X100= 81%(approximately)
When the data is collected over a period of time, the defect gap analysis can also be plotted as a graph as below:
A large gap shows that the development process needs changing.
63. Defect Density
If the total number of defects at the end of a test cycle is 30 and they all originated from 6 modules, the defect density is 5.
64. Defect Age
Defect age is a measure that helps us track the average time it takes for the development team to start fixing the defect and resolve it. Defect age is usually measured in the unit days, but for teams of rapid deployment models that release weekly or daily, projects, it this should be measured in hours.
For teams with efficient development and testing processes, a low defect age signals a faster turnaround for bug fixes.
Defect Age= Difference in Time created and Time resolved
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