Using a tool such as a test matrix at the release level gives the team a different viewpoint into the testing needed. After the release planning meeting, the team usually has a fairly good idea of what will be included in the release. Plan a workshop for the testers, domain experts, in fact anyone who is interested. The outcome of this collaboration workshop is a high level testing matrix. Start the workshop with a listing all the features down the left side of a spreadsheet. Then add possible test conditions across the top. Sometimes I suggest starting with a testing mind map to generate test ideas (see http://lisacrispin.com/wordpress/2011/02/28/using-mind-maps-for-test-planning ).
Project managers find it a very useful tool to see progress at a high level if we color code the cells as the testing is completed. It is more of a “gut feel” or approximation than an absolute indicator. The colors I have used in the past are:
If we look at the example matrix again, it might look something like the following once development has begun.
I have used this tool in many of the projects I have worked in and had success with all. I suggest to all the teams I work with to find something simple to show visibility of testing at the project release level. This is only one alternative.