Factoring/Fractionation Rikard Edgren

It is a natural instinct for a tester to break down product information to elements that can be used in testing. It can be elaborations on a requirement, or insights from talking to a customer, or feature slogans from a web site et.al.

Michael Bolton (and James Bach) calls this factoring – “Factoring is the process of analyzing an object, event, or model to determine the elements that comprise it.”

Edward deBono has a general lateral thinking technique fractionation, which explicitly includes a creative aspect:
“One is not trying to find the true component parts of a situation, one is trying to create parts.”
[Lateral Thinking – Creativity Step by Step, p.135 in 1990 Perennial edition]

I’m not sure which name to use for this important (and often invisible) testing activity, but I’m certain that it contains more than the mathematical factorization, that analyzes and finds the exact components that make up the whole.

In testing we are rather looking for elements that are useful, that contains something we want to test in order to find important information about the product.
We might create unjustified artificial divisions, because they help us.
If a use case includes Firefox 3.6, we will add all other browsers and platforms we think are relevant and worth to test; we will automatically think about settings in browsers.
We will add things we know or think we know; leveraging our understanding about what is important, to get elements to synthesize to good test ideas.

This area is remarkably un-elaborated in testing, and my guess is that it is because “traditional” testing don’t need this; what should be tested is already “completely” described in the requirements document.
With the emerging insight that testing requires a multitude of information sources, factoring/fractionation will inevitably be thoroughly investigated.

But what should the name be: factoring, fractionation, or something even better?

One Comment
Rikard Edgren December 8th, 2010

Why not use Test Analysis?

– Good point. Although it’s rather “Analysis for Testing”, or Test Basis Analysis, to use ISTQB language.
It may also sound a bit too formal for an activity that often takes place rapidly in the tester’s mind.

But thinking about Test Design consisting of Analysis and Synthesis of test ideas makes sense.