Before we delve into “Compatibility Testing”, it’s crucial to first understand the term “Compatibility.”
Compatibility refers to the ability of one system to interact with another system. This interaction may occur between two separate systems or two different applications in their entirety.
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Many people often confuse Compatibility with Integration, interoperability, and portability. However, there are differences amongst these methods.
Allow us to begin by clarifying these distinctions.
Integration – Is a method where components of the identical system communicate with each other. In testing terms, during Integration testing, we basically test the interaction of two or more lowest level components of the same system.
Compatibility – Is a method where two or more applications engage in the same environment. Consequently, in the realm of testing, when performing Compatibility testing, we verify whether two or more applications or systems function as predicted in the same environment.
The aim is to ascertain that the two systems execute their anticipated tasks without disrupting each other’s operations in a shared environment. For instance, MS Word and Calculator are two disparate applications, and they independently execute their expected behavior within the same operating system. As a result, we can infer that these two applications are compatible with one another.
Portability – Is a method where an application or system functions as expected when transferred to a different environment. Accordingly, in Portability testing, we export the application to a different environment and evaluate its behavior. For example, if an application operates effectively in Windows XP, it should also operate correctly in Windows 10.
Compatibility Testing – Is a method examining how an application interacts with another application. Thus during Compatibility testing, we assess how data from one application is transmitted to another application in a meaningful manner and processed to yield the expected output without prior notice.
Our focus in this article is on Compatibility testing (CT), hence, let’s remain focused on Compatibility. 🙂
What You Will Discover:
Compatibility Testing – A concise introduction
Compatibility = Compat + ready
Compat – signifies “capable of existing or functioning together without conflict”
Ready – denotes “equipped or prepared for use”
Hence, merging these two definitions – Compatibility implies 2 (or more) systems can perform their specific task and effectively co-working as expected without affecting their individual functioning.
Example #1: Let’s use the example of booking a flight. Let’s say you need to fly from New Delhi to New York. However, no direct flight is available. You have to fly from New Delhi to London and then catch a connecting London to New York flight. Due to limited time, you book your flight from New Delhi to London with “Jet Airways” and from London to New York with “Virgin Atlantic”. As a result, your passenger information is shared from Jet Airways to Virgin Atlantic. Hence, Jet Airways and Virgin Atlantic are two separate applications, and as you book your flight, your booking information is shared from Jet Airways to Virgin Atlantic meaningfully without prior notice.
Example #2: Similarly, let’s envision a hospital administration system where patient records are shared amongst different departments. Here, each department could be considered an application, and patient data is conveyed from one application to another application seamlessly without any prior announcement.
But why is there a requirement to undertake CT?
We perform Compatibility testing to verify that:
- The applications in the network independently demonstrate their expected behavior,
- These applications can exchange information unannounced,
- The transfer of information/data doesn’t impact the individual expected behavior,
- The data/information exchanged remains unchanged or unaltered.
How to execute Compatibility testing?
We can adopt the Deeming cycle (the PDCA cycle) to undertake Compatibility testing.
Formulating a plan is essential to decide the strategy for virtually anything in software development. Prior to strategizing the steps for Compatibility testing, it’s necessary to comprehend each and every application or system implemented in the network.
We must be well acquainted with the functionality, behavior, inputs, and outputs of all the applications.
I would also suggest complete functional testing of each application without any defects before paving the way for Compatibility testing. Hence, during the planning phase, perceive all the applications as a singular unit and keep an overview. Also, ensure your plan is documented.
You can adopt a standard Test Plan document and modify it for documenting the planning of Compatibility testing. Once your test plan is in place, proceed towards deriving your test conditions.
The main aim in deriving test conditions should not be restricted to individual applications but should involve the data flow through all the applications. Design conditions in a way that most, if not all, applications in the network are included.
Once you have identified your test conditions, proceed to create or script your test cases (in case you plan to automate). You can craft a Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM) to correlate test cases with test conditions and test conditions with acceptance test conditions/requirements.
When dealing with a network, it’s also crucial to plan for Non-Functional testing activities. Even though it may not be explicitly documented, it’s vital to assess the non-functional aspects of the complete system. These non-functional areas may involve performance and security. Consider creating separate plans for Functional testing, performance testing, and Security testing or a single plan with distinct documents for each of these testing types.
Do – This stage relates to the actual execution. Allocate your time accordingly to conduct functional and non-functional testing. Follow the testing cycle involving execution of test cases, logging defects, liaising with the development team to rectify issues, conducting re-tests and regression tests of the entire system, reporting test results, and moving towards closure.
Check – During this phase, evaluate the test results and match them with the RTMs to verify whether all predicted requirements have been fulfilled and whether all applications have been traversed. Ensure that data is transferred and exchanged accurately and smoothly between applications/systems. Also, validate that the data being transferred remains unaltered.
Additionally, review the entire process of interoperability testing. Identify areas that performed well, those that fell short, and any action points to address.
Act – Act on the items identified in the retrospective. Continue implementing the recognized “good practices”, while identifying steps to fix areas that could be improved. Make sure that steps that did not perform well are not repeated. Learn from errors and avoid repetition.
The 5 ½ Steps:
- Identify all applications within the network.
- Recognise their respective functionalities.
- For each application, determine the needed inputs and expected outputs.
- Recognize data that moves through all/most of the applications.
- Determine the expected behaviors for each combination of application and data that needs to be confirmed.
½ Document it all.
Take the figure below as an example:
Based on the figure, let’s attempt to replicate the 5 ½ steps:
- Application 1, Application 2, Application 3, and Application 4 are four separate systems.
- Each system possesses unique functionalities that need to be identified.
- The necessary inputs and outputs of each system need to be established.
- For Application1, it generates 2 outputs. One output is utilized as input for Application 3, and the other output is used as input for Application 2. The output from Application 2 is utilized as input for Application 3 and Application 4, and so on.
- Confirm the integrity of each input and output. The pivotal point to note here is ensuring that data traveling as input and output remains unaltered and all applications are covered.
½ In reality, this chart may not be as straightforward as depicted. It can result in a more intricate structure with multiple input and output conditions.
Creating this type of chart provides a better understanding of the data and information moving through different systems. This assists in deriving test conditions and cases.
Let’s take an example of performing Compatibility testing for a “Hospital Management System”
A hospital consists of the following departments and sub-departments:
In this case, each department represents an application. Each department (application) has its own sub-department (modules), and each module has its own individual units.
Now, for the scope of CT, here are a few test conditions:
- A patient involved in a road accident (OPD Department – Accident) needs leg surgery (ENT – General Surgery), followed by physiotherapy (Support Department – Physiotherapy), and then discharge (Support Department – Closure).
- A child admitted to intensive care (Pediatrics – Critical Care) needs surgery (Pediatrics / ENT – General Surgery) and then gets discharged (Support Department – Closure/PR).
- An external patient consults a general physician (OPD department), receives prescribed medication (Support Department – Pharmacy), and leaves.
- A pregnant mother arrives for routine check-ups (Gynecology Department – Mother and Child Care), receives prescribed medication (Support Department – Pharmacy), and leaves.
- A dental patient goes through a root canal treatment (Dentistry Department), receives prescribed medication (Support Department – Pharmacy), and departs.
- A patient visits the OPD (general physician), undergoes treatment in Obstetrics & Gynecology Department – High-Risk Obstetrics), receives prescribed medication (Support Department – Pharmacy), and is discharged.
In this manner, we identify all the test conditions ensuring that most of the departments have been covered.
We can create an RTM to represent coverage as follows:
Through this approach, we can identify additional test conditions and create an RTM to visualize the exact scope. In addition, we can determine the extent of our testing efforts based on the RTM.
In this example, we can see that the “Support Department” is the application that acts as an exit point for the majority of the applications. As a consequence, the testing effort for this specific application is relatively higher compared to other applications.
- Difficulty in testing all applications with numerous permutations and combinations.
- Applications are created using different hardware/software combinations and deployed in varied environments. If any of these environments face downtime, it impacts testing efforts.
- Formulating the testing strategy and executing it is challenging due to diverse software and environments.
- Creating a simulated environment for testing poses a significant challenge.
- Root Cause Analysis in the event of defects also poses a challenge.
- Network outages can impact testing since applications are interconnected.
How can we mitigate these obstacles?
1) Leverage advanced testing techniques such as:
- OATS (Orthogonal Array testing technique)
- State Transition Diagrams
- Cause and effect graphs
- Equivalence partitioning and Boundary value analysis
These techniques assist in identifying interdependencies among applications and selecting test cases/conditions for maximum coverage.
2) Identify historical data such as instances when systems faced downtime and the time required for recovery. Use this information to execute tests that are not impacted or use the downtime for documenting scenarios and reporting results. Consider these historical data as an input for estimation and planning.
3) Plan – Leverage historical data, previous experiences, team skills, and environmental factors to determine the testing strategy. A well-planned approach results in better execution.
4) Prepare the environment well in advance before the actual execution. Plan steps to ensure that your environment is set up, ready, and functioning smoothly at the start of execution.
5) Prior to commencing CT, ensure that individual applications have undergone complete functional testing without any defects. In case of any defects, focus on environmental factors that could have caused the errors.
6 As mentioned in point 2, organize your activities. If scheduled outages are expected, take into consideration this downtime when planning your testing efforts.
Compatibility Test on Mobile Devices:
In terms of mobile devices, we perform Compatibility tests every time a new Mobile Application is launched. Several areas must be considered when planning for compatibility testing on mobile devices:
- The market provides a wide array of types of mobile devices. Enumerate the types of devices you will test on. Pair each device type with the supported OS.
- All mobile operating systems are created using different programming languages. Therefore, the application must be tested against all variants of OS.
- Understand the legal factors and regional contracts related to mobile applications.
- Consider the varying sizes/resolutions of different devices.
- Consider the potential impact on built-in mobile apps.
Hence, to conduct Compatibility testing on mobile devices, plan and create an RTM, similar to computer-based application testing.
The objective, strategy, risks, and execution stay unchanged; however, the tools and techniques for mobile testing differ.
Compatibility testing is a substantial task that necessitates comprehensive planning, which must start in tandem with system test planning.
Several factors need to be considered during the execution of this technique. Provide enough time for bug fixing and retesting, since the effort required is considerable and necessitates anticipated defect follow-ups.
It’s likely that a 100% coverage may not be achieved; however, selecting test cases strategically ensures maximum application coverage using effective test case writing techniques.
We hope this article was beneficial in understanding the compatibility testing technique. Please feel free to ask any queries or share your comments.