How to Use Mind Maps to Boost Your DevOps Testing Efforts


Mind maps have several applications, but few QA teams are aware of their usefulness when applied to testing software. Visual, fun to play with, and free to use, mind maps can spur creativity and group collaboration. This article helps explain how to use mind maps to organize your testing efforts, supporting the rapid rate of delivery inherent in a successful DevOps organization.

DevOps enables organizations to accelerate their application build, package, and deployment, providing business agility and happy customers. But DevOps often suffers from a bottleneck during testing. This article helps explain how to effectively use mind maps to organize your testing efforts, supporting the rapid rate of delivery inherent in a successful DevOps organization. There are lots of potential advantages to this approach when compared with traditional testing documentation.

For starters, humans are very visual. According to research by David Hyerle in Thinking Maps: Visual Tools for Activating Habits of Mind, “between 80 and 90 percent of the information received by the brain comes through the eyes,” and brainstorming using mind maps “sparks a high degree of open-ended networking and associative thinking.”

We can grasp information laid out in a mind map far more quickly than we can absorb it by reading a document. Mind maps can be beneficial for testing for the same reasons they work well in design or programming. Brainstorming around a central concept enables you to map out a diagram of associated ideas and encourages creative thinking. It also helps to accelerate the testing effort and meet the demands of the DevOps challenge.

What Can Mind Maps Do for You?

There are three key areas where mind maps can really boost your testing efforts.

  1. Visual organization: You can visually organize the system or app being tested, displaying the various workflows and mapping out the core features and new functions. You have an at-a-glance picture of exactly where the product is and what needs to be done to test it properly.
  2. Defining strategy: Mind maps allow you to prioritize your testing tasks and create a clear strategy (and validation points) for your testing efforts that's easy to communicate to the rest of the team, including developers and business stakeholders.
  3. Reinforcing domain expertise: The developers, the business team, and management can see how well you understand the app and the business objectives behind it. As you add validation points and performance expectations, identify security loopholes, and verify workflows, there's an increase in developer and business confidence that the test team has a clear understanding of what needs to be done to enhance and eventually release the product.

Traditional Documentation versus Mind Maps

The advantages of mind maps are thrown into sharp relief when we consider traditional documentation. Writing requirements documents, test cases, and reports is extremely time-intensive, it's a linear approach that no longer fits with modern software development methodologies, and you end up with an inflexible structure that's cumbersome and difficult to keep up to date.

By contrast, mind maps are easy to develop and read, and the process of creating and updating them encourages creative thinking and collaboration. They are adaptable and flexible enough to work with different methodologies and during different phases of a project. Mind maps also offer a shortcut to understanding a project, testing it, and reviewing its progress.

The initial phase ensures that testers understand the product and features. It's necessary for the group to identify and discuss any potential gaps in workflows as they work to define a test strategy and build a plan. Cross-team review consolidates the plan and helps uncover any gaps in test coverage sooner rather than later.

Hidden Depths in Mind Maps

You can leverage the mind map itself as a recording mechanism for test progress and reporting. Think of it as a live document where color coding can be used to denote priorities, markers or symbols can indicate progress, and you get a good idea of where you are with your test strategy.

Your mind map can act as a snapshot of testing progress with various levels of detail. Subtopics and their subsubtopics can be collapsed or expanded to suit the audience, as you choose the level of granularity you need and dictate the data that's being reported. The same mind map can be used to delve into functional details and run a test case by a tester, while a business stakeholder can take a high-level overview to assess the general health of the product.

Because you aren't rewriting or replacing a document, you have a complete record of your process with a mind map, and this makes it very valuable for root-cause analysis when something goes wrong. You can explore a specific functional area and identity if there was any oversight in the test plan.

Consider also that mind maps make it easier to group manual test cases and identify coverage redundancies. You can see where common scripts might be used and reused for different scenarios, and this can serve as great preparation for automation candidates when needed.

Done properly, mind maps offer lots of tangible benefits over traditional documentation, and they mesh neatly with the focus on speed and agility in modern software development. DevOps is helping development organizations rethink their capabilities to continuously deliver new features while delighting business users. Creative approaches to enabling effective testing help improve quality and agility and drive successful DevOps.

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