Exploratory Testing: The Future of Software Testing

Shyam Ramanathan,

Global Delivery Director and Engagement Partner

Published: July 5, 2022

Automation is making deep, long strides. In software testing and quality assurance (QA), it has become an essential component. As technology advances, so does the need for automation. However, there will always be a need for effective, non-automated testing.

Exploratory testing is a prime example.

If harnessed effectively, exploratory testing can significantly alter the future of testing and of QA. The term “exploratory testing” was coined by Cem Kaner in 1988. As it exists today, exploratory testing involves simultaneous learning, design, and execution, and a reliance on individual testers’ commitment to uncovering errors that evade other analyses. Proper exploratory testing conducts thorough end-to-end analyses that reveal unexpected behaviors. Session-based testing documents the efforts of exploratory testing.

As a type of risk assessment, exploratory testing does the following:

1. Sets up chartering. Chartering establishes a clear mission for a testing session. Testers define the scope of the mission by investigating and asking questions about the user story.

An example of chartering is running security hacks on the login field to identify any vulnerabilities.  This can be achieved with the Pomodoro technique:

  • Break the test down into time boxes.
  • Focus on the test for 25 minutes—remove any distractors, including email, social media, etc.
  • At the end of the test, take five minutes to reflect.

The “target” is what you are exploring. It might be a feature, requirement, or module. Resources can be datasets, techniques, or independent features. As for information, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are you planning to find?
  • Are you looking for any standard violations, or simply charting performance, security, and functionality?

2.  Identifies the constant variables and highlights any outlying circumstances. By communicating with your stakeholders about exploratory testing techniques, you can make a list of the things that should happen and the things that should never happen. Make sure to ask the proper questions (“How did the testing process go? What were the risks?”) to appropriately log defects.

3. Establishes heuristics. Heuristics are practical problem-solving approaches that generate a working solution, however imperfect. To establish heuristics, testers should:

  • Prioritize testing the most important and riskiest items. Avoid over-scripting: This is key to session-based testing as well. Testers must think creatively, out-of-the-box, and untethered to a set script or rulebook.
  • Challenge your expectations for the process. Move beyond your base capabilities, and test implied requirements, too. By doing so, you’ll keep the end-user’s perspective in mind throughout the process. By collaborating with development teams throughout testing, you’ll ensure that testing efforts achieve their full value. Quality assurance is the responsibility of the entire team.
  • Enable rapid feedback: Create a constant line of communication between development and QA teams. Testing design should include immediate feedback options for the development team. Create thorough review documentation: Conduct peer and external reviews during testing to assess the quality of the documentation.

4. Increases test coverage. While it is virtually impossible to address every scenario during testing, exploratory testing will identify and address gaps. To ensure consistent and adequate testing etiquette, testers must document the remaining defects at the close of every session. Additionally, a post-analysis should identify why these defects were not initially identified. The analysis should identify a solution to prevent future defects and address future problems.


Workers are understandably anxious about the capabilities of artificial intelligence and of robot technology. While artificial intelligence is poised to replace some human workers, exploratory testing will stay outside automation’s scope. Robots, however deft, cannot replace replicate thinking and good judgment. When you explore the possibilities of exploratory testing, you ensure job security well into the 21st century.

Shyam Ramanathan

Global Delivery Director 

Shyam Ramanathan has been working in the IT world for over 21 years, where he has developed a breadth of knowledge and experience in program management, requirements analysis, requirements review, Use case modelling, project planning, test design, test execution, and establishing global delivery teams across geographies and building Center of Excellence. 

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