Influence Diagrams

Workshop –

Using Influence Diagrams to Understand Testing

Influence diagrams provide a simple-to-create and easy-to-understand approach to addressing the complexities of real-life problems.  For instance, as testers we may want to find more bugs, but what is the knock-on effect of this on the developers and the business?  Developers now have more defects to debug and it’s likely that the business has lost confidence in meeting their delivery date (and that’s just at the top level).  Influence diagrams provide a means of understanding and managing the complexities of those key interactions between testers, developers and the business.

Over the last few years, we have been using them in real organizations to help with the introduction of new testing and agile approaches as a practical tool to:

  • Analyse the causes of problems
  • Help identify potential solutions & improvements
  • Predict and track the outcome of changes in organizations

In this practical workshop we will use hands-on activities to help you construct and interpret influence diagrams of increasing complexity.  You will build diagrams to illustrate typical problems and solutions both in testing organizations and projects, and in the interactions between the business, testers and developers.

Using simply pens, paper and plenty of discussion we will analyse several typical testing problems and identify potential solutions.  In this workshop, we will start with simpler problems and diagrams, but also demonstrate how to analyse complex (‘wicked’) real-life situations (the original purpose of influence diagrams).  By the end of the workshop you will have been introduced to and started to use influence diagrams.  You will also be provided with the take-away of example influence diagrams that illustrate a number of different IT delivery and testing situations, such as:

  • Offshoring of Testing
  • Crowd Testing
  • Testing on Agile Projects
  • Test Certification

Three key points

  • understand how an influence diagram can be used to analyse systemic problems
  • look at examples of typical test team blockers to success – and ways to solve them
  • be introduced to the concept of wicked problems, vicious circles and virtuous circles


This workshop was jointly developed with Isabel Evans.