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What is Risk Based Testing? Top Benefits & Approaches

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What is Risk Based Testing Top Benefits & Approaches
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Nowadays, ‘Quality’ is becoming a crucial factor in software delivery, where continuous improvements are happening to improve the quality in order to keep the customers happy. However, how often have we seen risk based testing as part of a testing strategy or something that teams religiously do every sprint, during regression testing or any exploratory testing?

What is Risk Based Testing?

“Risk Based Testing (RBT) is a software testing type which is based on the probability of risk. It involves assessing the risk based on software complexity, criticality of business, frequency of use, possible areas with Defect etc.”

In terms of risks its not always negative risks, there can be positive risks too that one can test. 

  • Positive risks are referred to as opportunities and help in business sustainability. For example investing in a New project, Changing business processes, Developing new products.
  • Negative Risks are referred to as threats and recommendations to minimize or eliminate them must be implemented for project success.

Why Perform Risk Based Testing?

Risk-based testing brings multiple benefits to the table. It helps allocate resources effectively, prioritize testing efforts, and focus on areas of the software that pose the highest risks to project success. All this further develops into a framework that establishes a clear and transparent communication chain between the stakeholders and project managers.

Risk-based testing also helps optimize test coverage by directing testing efforts toward high-risk components or functionalities, thereby maximizing test effectiveness and efficiency.

And as a QA, you know you can’t test every aspect of the software. You have to identify and assess the areas that are more prone to bugs and risks to give attention to the areas.

Who Performs Risk Based Testing?

Testers or QA engineers who are associated with the project identify, assess, and perform risk-based testing. In some instances, they can take suggestions and help from the developers and project managers. But majorly, the complete act of executing risk testing falls in the tester’s hands.

What could be a Potential Risk to a Software?

In software testing, risks are the possible problems that might endanger the objectives of the project stakeholders. It is the possibility of a negative or undesirable outcome. A risk is something that has not happened yet and it may never happen; it is a potential problem.

When to Implement Risk Based Testing?

You can implement risk-based testing when:

  • There are resource, budget, and time constraints for the project.
  • You are performing security testing in cloud computing environments.
  • You need to conduct testing for projects with high-risk factors.
  • There is an ongoing process where the project is continuously changing.

Features of Risk-Based Testing

Performing risk-based testing ensures that the high-risk areas receive more attention and testing efforts compared to the low. Let’s look at some of the features of risk-based testing:

  • It is an iterative process that continuously discovers potential risks and breaks them into smaller pieces to fix the issues.
  • The test cases are arranged in the order of higher to lower priority with testers executing the tests from the top to minimize potential risks.
  • The system allocates more resources to higher risks that might require exhaustive research and development.
  • This approach matches the testing efforts to the risk. The efforts are high if the risks are high.

Metrics Essential for Risk-Based Testing

Some of the important metrics of risk-based testing are:

  • Risk priority – from high severity to low
  • Number of test cases – planned vs executed
  • Test cases executed – pass vs fail
  • Defect density – risk identified per unit of code
  • Test coverage report
  • Risk coverage report
  • Number of test cases of high severity still open
  • Test effectiveness – risks identified and mitigated
  • Test progress report

Risk Based Testing Techniques

If not more, risk-based testing is broadly categorized into parts – lightweight and heavyweight. They carry different objectives and provide varying benefits to the testers.

Lightweight Risk-Based Testing

This technique focuses on quickly identifying and addressing high-risk areas of the software with minimal overhead. Lightweight approach is particularly suitable for projects with time or resource constraints where a rapid assessment of risks is necessary. Its key characteristics include:

  • Rapid Risk Identification: Emphasizes quick identification of high-risk areas through informal discussions, brainstorming sessions, and expert judgment.
  • Risk Assessment Heuristics: Relies on heuristics or rules of thumb to assess and categorize risks based on their potential impact and likelihood. Simple risk assessment matrices or checklists turn out to be useful to categorize risks quickly.
  • Focused Testing: Directs testing efforts towards high-risk areas identified during risk assessment. Test cases are prioritized based on the perceived impact of defects on project goals, customer satisfaction, or system reliability.
  • Exploratory Testing: Utilizes exploratory testing techniques to uncover defects and vulnerabilities in high-risk areas. Testers are given the freedom to explore the software to identify potential risks based on their intuition and experience.
  • Continuous Risk Monitoring: Regularly monitors and reassesses risks throughout the testing process to adapt testing strategies as new risks emerge or existing risks evolve.

Heavyweight Risk-Based Testing

Heavyweight risk-based testing involves a comprehensive and structured approach to risk assessment and testing. It is suitable for complex projects or industries with strict regulatory requirements where thorough risk analysis and mitigation are critical. The key characteristics of heavyweight risk-based testing include:

  • Formal Risk Analysis: Involves formal risk analysis techniques such as Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) or Fault Tree Analysis (FTA) to systematically identify, assess, and prioritize risks based on their severity and likelihood.
  • Risk Documentation: Requires detailed documentation of identified risks, including their potential impact, likelihood, root causes, and recommended mitigation strategies. Risk registers or risk management plans may be used to document and track risks throughout the project lifecycle.
  • Risk-Based Test Planning: Incorporates risk-based considerations into test planning activities, such as test case prioritization, resource allocation, and schedule estimation. Test plans are developed based on the identified risks and their potential impact on project goals.
  • Comprehensive Test Coverage: Ensures comprehensive test coverage by prioritizing testing efforts on high-risk areas. Test cases are designed to target specific risk scenarios and verify the effectiveness of risk mitigation measures.
  • Formal Risk Reporting: Provides regular reports on the status of identified risks, including their mitigation progress and any new risks that may have emerged. 

Risk Management Process

Essentially, there are five stages of the risk management process. These sequential steps make up the basic framework you need to follow for managing risks in a project:

  • Risk Identification: Identify potential risks that could impact the project, considering sources such as requirements, design, technology, stakeholders, and external factors.
  • Risk Analysis: Assess the risks as per their occurrence, potential impact, and associated consequences, which helps in understanding the risk severity.
  • Risk Evaluation and Prioritization: Rank risks as per their likelihood and potential impact, thus focusing resources and efforts on addressing high-priority risks that pose significant threats.
  • Risk Mitigation: Develop strategies and plans to mitigate or control identified risks. This step involves risk avoidance, transfer, reduction, or acceptance, depending on the specific risk and project context.
  • Monitor and Review the Risk: Continuously monitor the risks throughout the project lifecycle. You can do so by implementing control measures, tracking risk status, and assessing the effectiveness of risk mitigation actions.

Besides these fundamental stages, you can also focus on the communication element while working on the risk management process. Following this structured process, organizations can proactively address and mitigate potential risks, thereby increasing the likelihood of project success.

How is Risk Based Testing Relevant to Agile and DevOps?

Risk-based testing is highly relevant to Agile and DevOps methodologies as it aligns with their core principles of iterative development, continuous integration, and rapid delivery. Here’s how risk-based testing relates to Agile and DevOps:

  • Agile and DevOps emphasize early and frequent feedback loops. Risk-based testing facilitates the identification of potential risks early in the development process, enabling proactive risk mitigation strategies.
  • Risk-based testing allows for iterative test planning and prioritization. Test teams can continuously assess and reprioritize risks, focusing on high-risk areas in each iteration or sprint.
  • Agile and DevOps often work under time and resource constraints. Risk-based testing helps optimize resource allocation by concentrating testing efforts on critical and high-risk functionalities, ensuring efficient use of limited resources.
  • Agile and DevOps promote cross-functional collaboration. Risk-based testing encourages involvement from different stakeholders, such as business analysts, developers, testers, and operations personnel, fostering effective communication and a shared understanding of project risks.
  • Risk-based testing provides a feedback mechanism for continuous improvement. Agile and DevOps teams can adapt their testing strategies and incorporate necessary adjustments into subsequent iterations as risks evolve, or new risks emerge.
  • In DevOps, continuous integration and continuous testing are vital for rapid and reliable software delivery. Risk-based testing guides the selection and prioritization of tests to be executed in the continuous testing pipeline, focusing on high-risk areas and critical functionalities.

Benefits Of Risk Based Testing:

Risk based testing comes with great benefits too such as:

  • – Increased customer focus: Risk-based testing emphasizes thorough tests on features that affect customers most directly, AKA higher risks. This directly improves business performance, reduces the probability of negative reviews, and generally minimizes the impact of each identified risk.
  • – Improved software quality: Risk-based testing focuses on finding higher risks first, and ensuring that the most important functions are tested first. Consequently, the software can be released with confidence in the fact that fundamental and customer-facing functions meet quality expectations.
  • – More structured testing: When risks are identified and their impact is quantified, it becomes easier to decide what to test, where to start, and stop testing. In other words, it becomes easier to define the scope of testing as well as test execution priority within limited timelines. This provides the structure needed to organize thousands of tests in every single development project.

Risk based testing may be a new topic for many teams, but the way to go ahead with this type of testing is by getting everyone in the team educated about its benefits and getting a buy-in. 

This blog will cover all the vital details of what risk based testing is and how you can approach this type of testing within your teams.

Risk in Testing

Risk in testing is more of a future event that we may or may not expect to happen in the application under test. Therefore it is vital we look into these risks and plan for them in advance so that we can eliminate the risk or reduce its impacts. Remember its far better to consider these risks rather than releasing an application full of risks, leading to bad reputation and increased costs of fixing. 

The risks can be managed by a test manager or someone senior, making sure these risks are mitigated/fixed as priority. Now the question that rises is, there may be quite a few risks, so should we pick all risks? The answer is yes, totally! Note down all risks, and according to its impact, time and resources these will be looked into. 

What do we do when a risk is identified?

  • Mitigate: This is when in advance you take steps to reduce the possibility and the impact of a risk.
  • Contingency: This is where a plan is put in place to reduce the possibility of the risk happening. 
  • Transfer: This is a step where you speak to team members/stakeholders about a potential risk or even accept the impact of the risk.
  • Ignore: Depending on the impact of a risk, if its a low risk and not much can be done, the risk can be ignored.

Risk Based Testing Approach

The best way to approach a risk within software testing is in the following manner:

  1. Prioritize a list of risks for your application.
  2. Focus on the areas of the application that you know could lead to a high risk and impact business (for example, could lead to a failure in production). 
  3. Perform exploratory testing on each risk to gain more understanding
  4. Risks will come and go, make sure to focus on the current list of risks and not to derail

It is always a good idea to focus on identifying defects early rather than later as it allows time to fix them sooner. Also, in terms of the application one can learn if its a fail-fast project with no value add and then to not spend more time on it. As we are aware, for the entire project team its vital to showcase value to a customer and make sure the application will provide a smoother experience and not a buggy experience. Therefore the steps above are quite useful to be within your testing strategy.

Another way to mitigate risks is by the following process:

Risk based testing approach

Risk Identification

This is actually the first ever step for a risk based testing approach to identify any potential risks whether high/medium/low. In this stage you can identify, categorize and sort the risks that pose great risk and prioritise the risk(s).

Risk Analysis

Once you know what the potential risks are from the identification stage, you can then start analysing the high impacting risk(s). This is more a team exercise where all can discuss and understand the likelyhood and the consequences of the risk. You can also calculate something known as the exposure to this risk to the application and the customer. In this step you would have identified which risks actually pose great risk to the organisation. Its a good idea to shift risk based testing to the left!

Risk Response 

Once you have identified and anaylised the risk(s), it’s a good idea to know how to respond to the risk(s). What needs to happen in this stage is some testing of the risks and choose the most effective testing technique. It’s a vital stage as you would need to choose the most effective and efficient way to test the risk. This is where some financial costs will be thought of, with regards to this risk. 

Test Scoping 

This is the review stage just before the testing can commence. Here the decisions on – scope of test, budget for testing and individual(s) availability and responsibilities – will be taken. 

Testing 

Once the scope is designed and budgets have gone through, the testing can commence. 

In order to be financially effective, testing needs to strictly follow the scope and budget set out in the previous steps of the process. After this step is completed, the process can begin again as new code, features, and functionality are added to the app. 

Once you know there are certain areas that are more risky, regularly executing tests on them is recommended. And one solution that should be implemented is automating the regression tests for your most important functionalities. Here, choosing the right tool matters. Read more about choosing the right tool for test automation here: Criteria for Selection of Testing Tools

Testsigma is one such tool, specially designed for efficient and effective automation of your regression tests for web, mobile, APIs and desktop applications.

Risk Based Testing Examples

Risk Based Testing Examples

Let’s look at an everyday example, many people who catch a cold in the course of their lives and can catch a cold more than once in a year for instance. However a healthy individual may not struggle much with symptoms, therefore the risk associated with those individuals is pretty low.  But someone who is not looking after their health or say someone quite elderly may find it very difficult to fight the symptoms, therefore the associated risk is higher. So this basically means that with every risk there is a classification of risk we need to do. You can also divide the risks into product risk and project risk. 

A product risk is one which is related to a risk produced by work such as things we test. A project risk is according to the work carried out, such as the project. 

Some examples include:

Data risks, things such as how accurate the data is, how much data there is, the data types, consistency, data creation/updates/deletion, error handling. Furthermore, when we think about apps we test on a mobile, we can think about what takes the app to make the mobile battery run down, the connectivity for the app to fully work, operating system settings and so many more.

Real-World Examples of Risk Based Testing

Let’s take an example of an e-commerce website. Suppose it is preparing for a major shopping event like Black Friday. The risk here could be high traffic volumes during peak times, which may lead to website performance issues, such as slow load times or crashes. Another risk associated with the same site could be the insecure payment gateway that might lead to unauthorized access.

For a banking mobile app, the risk could be security vulnerabilities in the software could lead to data breaches or financial losses for customers.

Once these risks are identified, the team can formulate test cases and prioritize them based on the risk severity. For example, they can allocate the sufficient resources to the security breach instance. The team can assign some budget for the performance testing during the black friday sale and ensure that customers receive the best experience possible, high load or not.

Checklist for Risk Based Testing

Risk-based testing requires careful consideration of various factors to effectively identify, prioritize, and mitigate risks. Here’s a checklist of factors to consider when performing risk-based testing:

  • Identify potential risk areas related to project scope, complexity, technology, and requirements.
  • Understand and underline the functionalities that greatly impact any financial aspects within the system.
  • Assess the impact of each risk on project objectives, timelines, and customer satisfaction.
  • Carefully prioritize the risk areas based on the complexity and features of the product.
  • Focus on requirements and design documents that can lead to building poor software with security issues.
  • Create tests that include risk analysis and risk-based cases.
  • Ensure that the test cases are scalable as new security features or functions add to the system.
  • Compare the current system against a similar kind of past system to assess where you need to give extra attention to risk identification and mitigation.
  • Allocate appropriate resources for testing high-priority risks.

Risk Based Testing Results Reporting and Metrics

Both reporting and analyzing metrics play a crucial role in providing stakeholders with valuable insights into the risks identified, their impact on the project, and the effectiveness of risk mitigation strategies. These reports and metrics help make informed decisions, prioritize actions, and ensure project success.

Include these points in your test results reporting:

  • Number of tests created/executed
  • Number of test cases with pass and failed status
  • Defect identification and their severity
  • Number of closed and open defects
  • System downtime
  • Test summary and the test coverage report

Metrics represent combined measurements, comparing software processes, projects, and products.

The Metrics include:

  • Productivity of the test cases
  • Efficiency of risk identification and mitigation
  • Test case efficacy
  • Test case coverage
  • Test design coverage
  • The associated cost of quality
  • Defect leakage
  • The efficiency of defect detection

Conclusion

A risk-based testing approach is a practical approach to follow within teams. Identifying risks at an earlier stage of software development also saves a lot of time, effort and costs which could be impeded otherwise when marketing the product as well as take the team away from achieving their goals of a good quality product.

It is always a good idea to shift testing to the left and especially risk based testing as its a great idea to think about risks sooner rather than later. Risk-based testing has many advantages as you have seen above including productivity and cost-efficiency, faster time to market and detailed information on test coverage. So would you rather risk it or think of this approach in advance?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the risk in software testing?

Risk in software testing means an element or an action that might produce undesirable results. It is something yet to come to light (or may never become visible) but can make the system fragile and prone to failure or defects.

What are the different types of risks?

There are two types of risks: positive and negative. The former consists of options that improve software stability and sustainability. The latter refers to threats that need to be removed to secure the system.

What is Risk-Based Testing in Agile?

At a time when all the IT teams are working on the Agile model, allocating the right resources can be challenging. You can’t assign the same amount of time and effort to testing in every sprint. Some may require more while others would definitely need less.

In all this, the best approach to provide the perfect quantity of resources is to adopt risk-based testing. It will help the managers to identify which areas of the software need more attention and which areas don’t. This strategy uses the list of risks to allocate resources accurately.

What is the Purpose of Risk-Based Testing in Agile?

The risk-based testing works on the principle of risk management. Its purpose is to:

  • Isolate the risks and work on them individually.
  • Create a framework that enables clear communication between testers, project managers, developers, and stakeholders.
  • Take care of the customer and developer needs when identifying and assessing risks.
  • Allow team members to decide and allocate the sufficient resources to the risks.
  • Uncover the issues/features that matter most and guide testers/developers to it.
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