Information Artifact Simplicity
In this article I will explore how a tester provides information to stakeholders
through information artifacts, and what to think about when doing so.
One of the main purposes of testing is to provide information to stakeholders.
This could be in form of bug reports, test reports, verbal accounts or any other
way in which information flows from the tester to the stakeholder.
So what traits could we expect this information artifact to exhibit? Let us try to
list a few traits that are important:
Right Level of Detail
If an information artifact posses these traits we can at least assume that it will do
more good than harm. You can certainly select other (and more) desirable traits
but these are the ones that I use when I evaluate information artifacts and their
Obviously an information artifact needs to be valuable. But how is an
information artifact valuable? I can think of two examples off the top of my head:
A decision (of value) is taken based on the information artifact
A bug (of value) is fixed based on the information artifact
Examples of something that is not valuable in my opinion is:
The information artifact (test report) is providing someone with ease-of-mind
or sense of control
Filling the bug repository with information artifacts (bug reports) that are
so unimportant or trivial that they will never result in fixes
An information artifact needs to accurately describe whatever events, states,
environments, outcomes, or similar it wants to convey to the stakeholder. An
inaccurate information artifact is basically useless at best, and extremely harmful
If you must create an information artifact for something you have very little
information about, make sure to include this uncertainty in the artifact.
So the key message is:
Don’t create inaccurate information artifacts
If you must – make sure that the uncertainty of the information is made
crystal clear to the stakeholders
Right Level of Detail
An information artifact needs to contain the right level of detail. The tester that
creates the artifact needs to understand the information needs of the
stakeholders for that specific artifact. The level of detail one stakeholder requires
might not be the same as for other stakeholders. Certain artifacts may need to be
very detailed to be valuable, while others can have a much higher granularity.
So the key message is:
Understand the level of detail needed by your stakeholders
Make sure that the information artifact meets that level of detail
An information artifact also needs to be understandable. The language, the
disposition, the abbreviations, the terminology. If a stakeholder cannot
understand the information artifact correctly it is of little value, until the
information is made available to the stakeholder through additional
Create information artifacts that stakeholders understand, by doing
proper research before creating them
Remember that some stakeholders receive multiple instances of the same type of
information artifact, and then possibly merge these into a single new information
artifact, or extract the information from the information artifact into some tool
or repository. In these cases the information artifact needs to have a specific
format to be usable to the stakeholder, or at least to save the stakeholder from
additional costs in handling the information artifact. Understand what format
needs your stakeholders have and make sure you align your artifacts to that
Understand how your stakeholders use your information artifacts and
what needs they have with regards to format
Secure that you align your information artifacts with specific formats if
needed by the stakeholder
We could create the most valuable, accurate, understandable information artifact
at just the right level of detail and in just the right format – but if the cost of
creating this artifact is higher than the actual value of the artifact, the creation of
such an artifact is definitely something that should be questioned.
Often stakeholders have little insight into how much it costs to create an
information artifact, and they often want more information than they actually
use – this is why it is important for the tester to continuously try to reduce the
costs of creating the information artifact.
Always consider the value the information artifact provides, and weigh it against
the costs of creating that artifact.
Only create information artifacts when the value of the artifacts is higher
than the cost of creating them
Always strive to create information artifacts that are as cost efficient as
So what can we conclude from this exploration of information artifacts?
Always question the value of information artifacts
Always make sure that the information artifacts you do create are as
valuable as possible to the stakeholders
Always make sure that the information artifacts you create are as cost
efficient as possible
If you do this by making sure the information artifacts posses the traits I
described above, or in some other way, is of little importance.