Test Plan vs. Test Strategy: Understanding the Difference

In the realm of software development, there are a number of terms that are often thrown around and used interchangeably. This is the situation when comparing "test plan", "test strategy" and "test case". However, each one has its own meaning and involves a critical part of the testing process, while still being interconnected. For this reason, we will take a deeper look at defining the differences in these terms as well as how they function in the testing lifecycle.

Test plan

Think of the test plan as a super document that lists everything that will be required in the project. According to Software Testing Help, this will often include all of the activities to be executed, the scope, roles, entry and exit criteria and test objectives. This deliverable acts as a roadmap for teams to follow and measure their progress against. It's a critical part in knowing how they are performing and if projects are staying on track with scheduling and user expectations. Test plan will also include features that need to be tested, testing tools and environment requirements, which are all essential to plan out prior to executing any testing processes.

Test strategy

The finer details of testing are included in the test strategy. This deliverable is often a part of the test plan, and outlines the testing approach that will be used to fulfill quality standards. The test strategy gives clear direction as to what types of tests will be used, but leaves some room to ensure that anyone is able to execute the test at any time. This type of information will give clear direction about what tasks need to be completed and allows teams to determine what tools will be the most effective in helping to achieve their goals.

Test case

Unlike test plan and test strategy, a test case is far more specific. It's a sequence of steps that helps teams perform a test in the project. This document often includes conditions, environment, expected results, actual results and whether it passed or failed, according to Software Testing Guide. In many cases, an enterprise test management software can manage these elements and keep track of testing progress. 

Testing processes have a number of deliverables that are essential, but many organizations are unable to utilize them effectively due to misunderstanding about what each asset entails. With the knowledge of the differences between these terms, quality assurance teams can create better plans and ensure that they are providing the right guidance to meet stakeholder objectives.