Many companies can get by in the early stages without a test management tool. Often testing is done ad hoc against features that are outlined in a requirement management tool like Rally and Version One, or a bug tracking tool like JIRA and Bugzilla. In the early stages with a good development team using best practices of short development practices, good code review, and proper unit testing bugs won’t often slip through. The code is small enough that the development team are on top of all the changes. In the early stages compatibility is often not a factor of concern- whether the product works in all environments is not important since there are not customers to support, and/or only a few target customers that the team needs to support.
As the customer base grows, and/or the market expands ad hoc testing starts to show limitations as it misses coverage of more and more of the products functionality. As the lines of code increases software developers lose track of the full scope of the code, and it becomes harder to anticipate the effects of a change. As the hardware gets more complex, or the installed base grows, hardware teams must consider support of products in the field as well as the new hardware needed to keep up with market changes and capture new accounts.
Why not Excel?
Excel is a great first step; however, Excel does not allow organizations to centrally control test cases, making it hard to find and reuse test case assets to cover different user stories. This leads to multiple versions of test cases and a lot of redundancy. With Excel information is not available to everyone, you have to send the excel sheets to each other, or store them in some central location that will likely have its own limitations. Trying to find the right set of test cases can turn into a problem as the project grows. Reporting is perhaps the biggest challenge. Teams using excel will often be using many different excel sheets to record results. The results will not be visible until the are collated, and that takes time and usually requires the manager to do the bulk of the work. One manager I spoke to testing mobile phone apps for a major carrier had to spend 1 day every two weeks just to gather the reports from testers in the field and put them in the proper format to then report to upper management on the progress. Luckily the weekly report for the internal team only took an hour or two to generate.
These problems all become worse with distributed teams that not only need to share resources, but need to be assigned tasks as well.
At the highest level a test management tool will help any team with just the simple task of centralizing the test repository, and automatically generating and updating reports. Most come with at least some task / assignment management helping teams distribute the workload to become more efficient with the team’s resources.
Test Management tools like QMetry add true enterprise level version control, integration with bug tracking so developers can get high quality bug reports and QA can save time in re-entering steps to reproduce. The rich reporting in advanced tools like QMetry also provide far more information to both the QA team and management to understand that status and progress of testing in real time.
New Tools for Agile Development
With today’s fast pace of development it is important to move and adapt to change. With change comes risk, and that is what quality assurance is there to mitigate. Some of the old traditional test management tools were bulky and required strict adherence to a formal procedure. This was fine for long development cycles with ample time to test, but in today’s world most teams struggle for even extra few days of testing. Many of the old tools emphasized long reports showing a full review of all testing to prove that testing was done. Testing should never devolve into a CYA activity, instead a test management tool should empower the QA team to work in tandem with development and provide immediate feedback and reporting so quality and performance problems are identified in real time and can be acted upon in short order.
While QMetry has all the features to support a traditional development cycle it has been enhanced to provide function well with more fast paced teams that need to run with development and improve collaboration with the focus on improving quality and efficiency. Teams can focus on testing not managing test assets, assigning tasks, or creating reports.