Exercise or test? Needhams philosophy

Exercise or test? It is a common question posed by clients. Outlined below is our view of the nature and intent of exercises and tests:

Generally speaking exercises or rehearsals can be distinguished from tests in that the former refers to decision making by people (for which there is no ‘pass fail’) and tests are usually applied to quantifiable issues such as speed of data and IT systems recovery.

Ideally exercising is progressive in nature.

The most basic exercise being a simple ‘walk through talk through’ of the plans and the organisations intentions.

This develops into ‘desktop’ exercises where a scenario is presented (often in PowerPoint) and the group, howsoever defined, respond to it according to their plans.

At its most complex an exercise ‘simulation’ can be undertaken. In a simulation live feeds of scenario information or injects are sent through different media to the organisation for them to respond to in real or compressed time. Simulations are excellent in the validation of plans but tend to be costly and complex as well as being time consuming for the organisation concerned.

Tests of IT systems and recovery can be coordinated for any client and these prove the ability to recover critical applications and data. Often perhaps 10% of the workforce might even be involved in operating in a remote location or disaster recovery site to prove the ability to recover exists.