What Is Phoenix Checklist Thinking Tool — Tentamen Software Testing Blog

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In the last post, we presented an example of risks related to software upgrade error. The idea was from this excellent paper: Bug Taxonomies: Use Them to Generate Better Tests [Vijayaraghavan, Kaner]. Today we presented a CIA thinking tool called The Phoenix Checklist. Many thanks to Marcel, who sublimed this great resource on his blog, That’s the buffet table.

The Phoenix Checklist

The Phoenix checklist was developed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to encourage their agents to look at the problems from many different viewpoints. Replace the CIA with your software development company name and agents with team members (not just software testers), and you can see how this checklist could help you.

The Problem Set

The problem set helps you to identify, clarify, and prioritize the problems.

The Plan Set

The Plan Set of questions helps to guide solution planning.

How To Use

Both sets of questions are carefully crafted in the given order because answering the current question does not depend on the following questions. But you should iterate through questions because later answers could help you make the previous better by refactoring them.


The best way is to learn with exercise. Let start with the problem statement:

How Google Page Rank Algorithm Works?
  • Relevance of webpages
  • Quality of content
  • Usability of webpages
  • Context and settings


It is vital to identify the real problem; this checklist helped me create a better problem statement for Google Page Rank in just 30 minutes. In the next blog, we will continue this exercise to create a plan to solve this problem.

Founder of Tentamen, software testing agency.

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