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Case Study : Mind Maps as a tool for Software Test Planning

Following his interesting article on LinkedIn, we got in touch with Prashant Hegde to get his perspectives on his use of mind mapping.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

Hi, my name is Prashant Hegde. I am from India. I am a passionate software tester and an agile enthusiast.
I work in Razorthink Technologies located in Bengaluru. Razorthink is the thought leader in artificial intelligence, an advanced software development company that is building an augmented brain for business. I lead the QA department at Razorthink and ensure that we develop high quality software in tight schedules and deadlines. I am also the product owner for one of our amazing products called KAT (Kickass Team). KAT is a task management tool powered by the brain technology.

I speak at international software testing and agile conferences. I am an active blogger and have authored articles for leading software testing magazines.

How were you first introduced to mind mapping?

I drew my first mind map when I was in school. I was first introduced to mind maps during my 7th grade in a personality development program. I really thank my mom for pushing me to enroll in the course, it was really a life changer. I started performing better after I switched from the traditional way of learning to mind mapping, which not only unleashed the creativity within me but also helped me to get better grades. I preferred mind mapping over text notes and it proved to be a great aid to revise and recall the concepts quickly. Mind maps have been an integral part of my life since then.

How do you use mind maps in your day to day work?

Mindmaps assist me in the visualization of my thought process. I use mind maps in most of the aspects of my work.

The traditional test artifacts are time intensive, bulky and their structure does not support the agile approach of software development. As an agile tester, I majorly use mindmaps to create lean/lightweight test artifacts like test plan, test cases, test reports, traceability matrix etc.

I use mindmaps for test planning. I find it more effective than a 100-page test plan document that no one reads, nor is flexible to changes and goes out of scope quickly. During test planning, I draw an initial mind map keeping in mind the list of tasks, schedules, tools, roles, responsibilities, risks, milestones etc. I present the mindmap and discuss it with my stakeholders. The final mind map shows me the scope of testing in one glance.

An example of mindmaps for test planning available on Biggerplate.

I also encourage my team in collaborative mind mapping to generate test ideas. I believe in using mind maps instead of documentation of test cases. I draw branches from every user story/epic/feature and start adding test ideas/test case for each functionality. I later use the same mind map for test case execution and the final version of the mind map as a test report. I use mind maps as a dynamic document throughout the test cycle.

A simple example of using mindmaps for test idea generation and execution.

As a product owner, I use mindmaps to record and monitor my project progress, schedules, team, leaves, to-do’s, meetings, issues, risks etc. These days we use multiple tools for project management hence it becomes difficult to navigate and get information from different systems. So I rely on mind maps so that I see the big picture to understand the health of the project in one screen.

An example of using mindmap as project dashboards.

I love using mindmaps to record my meetings effectively. I usually use a mindmap that has sections like Agenda, Attendees, Time and place, Discussions, Action items, Documents, Notes etc. The Agenda section helps me to make sure meeting does not deviate from the agenda. I also mark who has attended the meeting and who has not. I like the fact that I can attach hyperlinks in my mind maps this helps me to have all documents needed for the meeting in one place(with the link to drive or desktop). I type-in the discussion points in the mind map during the meetings. Later I come up with action items from the discussion and track the action items using the same mind map. I use this mindmap as a dynamic document and update each action item with appropriate status in the mind map. This is a good way of making sure that you do not forget anything from the meetings.

Capturing meetings using mindmaps.

I have heard many people complain that they quickly forget what they read. I use mind maps wherever I come across something interesting that I want to remember, it may be a book, an article, a blog post etc. Mindmaps are a fantastic way to remember and retain information that you read! You will be amazed at how fast you will understand the information when you mindmap. Just a scan through the mind map enables me to restore the information back into my mind.

Mindmap summarizing 7 principles of software testing.

What do you think is the greatest benefit of working this way?

When working on multiple projects and playing different roles I suffer from information overload and overwhelm which reduces my effectiveness and efficiency. Because of which I face problems like lack of creative thought, forgetting important information, lack of clarity and focus etc. Mind maps help me to overcome these issues and be able to make sense of it all and stay organized and efficient. The best part of mind mapping is that I generate more ideas when drawing them as it triggers creative thought.

Testers are expected to come up with a lot of artifacts during the process of testing. If testers spend too much time in documentation, they might end up having very less time to do actual testing. Lean test artifacts using mind maps convey the same information using fewer details and less verbose. Mindmaps are easy to create, modify, maintain and review hence save a tremendous amount of time involved in test documentation. One thing I love about mindmapping with the software tools is that it is very easy to update. All I have to do is add a few nodes or delete a few to update a mindmap.

What do you think is the greatest barrier to wider adoption of mind mapping?

I think the biggest barrier for adoption of mindmaps is the lack of awareness about mind maps and the benefits of embracing them. Several people who have limited knowledge about mind maps underestimate their potential and restrict themselves from learning more. I have also noticed that people assume that mind maps are meant only for note taking or brainstorming. Mindmapping is not just another memory technique, it’s an ultimate thinking tool.

Another fact is that many of us use mind maps incorrectly and fail to utilize the full potential of mindmaps. Mindmaps are not just tree like structures with mere text. Plain text is boring to the brain. Mindmaps need to have text, colors, images, numbers, code, curvilinear branches, keywords etc.

In software testing, many times the organizations might not accept the radical change of using mind maps over traditional ways of testing and documentation. This can discourage the use of mindmaps in software testing.

Would you like to add anything else?

Mindmaps can be applied to every aspect of life for improved learning and clearer thinking. We live in an exciting age of intelligence and innovation. We are connected to the world and one another like never before. As we move towards a completely interconnected, digital world where information is the King we will have to leverage the potential of mindmaps to make sense of all the information and stay organized.

I like to share my experiences of using mindmaps with the testing community through my articles and by speaking at conferences.
[Speaking at Agile Tour Bangkok on Leveraging Mindmaps in software testing for improved test coverage.]

I appreciate Biggerplate for their effort in spreading awareness about mindmaps. I totally loved the Mind map library, keep up the good work!

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Ruth manages our global mind mapping community: sharing news, stories, and updates! Community Manager de la communauté mondiale des mind mappers; je gère le contenu et marketing !
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