Effective test management is a critical part of developing high quality software and hardware products. Through well-planned and well-managed testing processes, teams can ensure that they are producing the best products possible, while making the most of their limited resources. The need to manage increasingly complex software products has resulted in the need for smart test management practices across every project. As complexity increases, and as teams become more widely distributed across different geographical locations, an effective test management process is key to project success.

Why do we need test management?

An effective test management process should lead to one common goal: to ship high quality products that meet customer needs. To achieve this goal, it.s essential that teams work within a proven process framework. Competition among software suppliers to develop the best products in the shortest amount of time is leading to an increasing need for highly developed test management processes. As test teams work with development teams to ship finished products within tighter deadlines, the test management process has become the focus of attention. Ultimately, with the right focus, effective test management processes will not only increase customer satisfaction, but will lead to smoother and more consistent projects.

To this end you will find below an introduction to the aspects and concepts associated with implementing an effective test management process.

Test management activities

Effective test management is broken down into several phases, including planning, creation, execution and tracking.

Test Planning: The planning stage involves developing the overall direction and purpose of the test phase, including the specifics of why, when and where to test. Tests are created when there is a test motivator present, such as a specific requirement that must be validated. What needs to be tested is broken down into multiple test cases, while the question of where to test is usually determined by documenting the required software and hardware configurations. Once these details have been finalized, the determination of when to test is made by tracking the test iterations, cycles or time period.

Test Authoring: In the authoring stage, the steps that are required to complete a given test are captured, in order to answer the question of how a test will be conducted. In short this process, is about defining generic test cases which are then broken down into detailed test steps. These steps can then be developed as either manual or automated test scripts. For many teams this information is captured and stored in a test management tool.

Test Execution: During execution stage, the test cases are run in logical sets which are usually referred to as a test suite. Tests are run against a known configuration of the software/hardware under test and/or against a test environment. It is important to record the configuration for the purpose of recreating tests at a later stage.

Test Tracking: Depending on the test management tools utilized by the team, test results are logged. These results are then displayed and summarised via a dashboard or test metrics tool. Tracking is a necessity in the testing process, as quality metrics are required in order to effectively track how the test effort is progressing, and to measure the quality of the system or application.

Test Reporting: Test reporting, gives you the ability to evaluate testing efforts and communicate test results to other interested parties. The objective of this is to determine the current status for project testing, but to also provide details about the overall quality of the application or system. Where a test management application is used to track the test process reporting is usually complimented by project dashboards.

Test Team Management

Effective test team management keeps the test effort organized and on schedule throughout the entire project. Test management software products simplify the management process by offering a structured approach to the test effort through test case management, collaborative work spaces and reporting tools. Typically, these programs give teams the ability to allocate tests, track test execution and manage distributed teams. As software development projects now often span more than one team or work site, it.s common to be managing several teams within the same project. Organized test management simplifies team management and can increase team productivity throughout the testing process.

Other issues that will impact the way you mange your test team include:

Insufficient time to test: There are few software projects that provide enough time in the development lifecycle to achieve the highest levels of quality. With the exception of mission-critical or highly specialized applications, even the best planned projects are likely to have major constraints on testing resources. As a result of these challenges in the test management process, there are often constantly changing priorities and shifting tasks. If these tasks aren’t managed correctly, it can result in less reliable data for test results and metrics.

Lack of resources: Along with scheduling and time constraints, it can also be challenging to acquire the best resources available to conduct the tests. During a project, the required resources may be shared among several different tasks within the same project, or among other projects. Many teams are often faced with a lack of human resources, which can be just as challenging as problems with hardware. Not having access to enough help can have just as much effect on a project as not having enough time to conduct quality tests.

Distributed Teams: Since it.s common for testing resources to be located in different geographical locations, maximizing project efficiency within a geographically distributed team must be taken into consideration. As reducing costs by way of outsourcing to various areas around the world continues to grow in popularity, it also introduces project teams to certain challenges. It.s important to look at how teams located on different continents share information and how they communication with each other, in order to manage any potential delays or issues which may affect the overall outcome of the project.

Fluid requirements: Among the numerous testing strategies available, one that is usually a high priority is validating requirements, which requires testable requirements that are clear and complete. Requirements that aren’t perfect can ultimately lead to disastrous problems in the testing effort. A test management tool can aid in developing high quality requirements and can improve overall requirements management by keeping data organized and easily accessible.

To ensure that high quality test management processes are being followed, the team is normally lead by a coordinator who is responsible for communication as well as putting together the teams who will perform the tests. For the test management process to be effective, teams must also have access to the typically flexible system and business requirements. This includes full access to all of the information that the requirements contain, including priority, status and other important items.

Related test management disciplines

An efficient and accurate test management process cannot exist in isolation, instead it must integrate seamlessly with other key processes including defect management, requirements management, and automated testing.

Defect Management: Defects are the usual by-product produced by testing. The metrics and defect counts that are derived from the creation of defects are typically used as quality measures. Defects will then follow a well defined process flow over time. Many defects can be related to each other, making it necessary to manage them carefully among the test and development teams. Test management software can include defect management features for effective tracking throughout the testing process. Alternatively defect tracking can be implemented within a standalone defect tracking tool.

Requirements Management: Before the majority of the testing effort launches, requirements management must be completed, as the results can greatly affect the entire test management process. Without complete requirements management, it.s impossible to achieve the highest quality tests. Test management tools help teams follow process steps in the proper order to insure that the tests are performed correctly and that they produce accurate data.

Test Automation: Most tasks involved with test management can be extremely time consuming. Test automation can help teams save time by automating or partially automating some or all of the tasks. Tests that can benefit from being automated are:

→ Highly repetitive tests

→ Test that need to be executed across many different applications and builds

→ Tests which are susceptible to tester error

→ Test where a significant amount of time can be spent setting up

Utilizing a test management tool and automating some or most of the tests can greatly improve the value and benefits of the testing effort. These tools allow teams to easily track defects in relation to the testing effort while keeping requirements organized.

Test Management Best Practices

Best practices for Test Management include keeping the test effort organized with well-defined processes and systems in place. Since different projects may have different specific testing requirements, an effective test management process can deliver a predictable and repeatable process. Processes that are predictable and repeatable are usually easier to estimate and plan which help the overall management and control of a project.

Test processes should also be enforceable, especially in cases where projects must be in compliance with regulatory bodies, including SOX and HIPPA. While the level of enforcement varies among projects and organizations, most organizations require some degree of auditing, and the ability to review the project.s history. Test management software helps teams manage projects that require both strict enforcement of processes and more casual requirements by offering a feature set to meet these needs.

To make the most of your resources, find the best testers that you can afford and maintain a good relationship with both the development team and business analysts. Don.t be afraid to outsource, as this is often be a simple way to get a challenging task completed accurately and efficiently. Having said that don.t waste time sticking with a particular outsource supplier if you spend more time managing the relationship than you would do completing the work in house.

Reusing test cases is one way to save time during the testing period. Always maintain a well-organized library of reusable test cases for easy reference and, when possible, run automated tests during off hours to maximize your testing time. Test management tools give teams the ability to organise and schedule their tests, letting. With an integrated test automation and test management system in place tests can be run overnight, with the results and statistical data ready for analysis in the morning.

By following the best practices for testing, teams can get the most out of their testing efforts by optimizing test processes in order to receive high quality data. Projects should be organized in separate folders within a test management tool for easy access. Assign each test case to the appropriate member of the team and set goals for the completion of tests cases where you can.

Once the tests have been run, the results can be analyzed and reports can be generated. Dashboards are useful for summarising large numbers of test case results, allowing the team to view results in a variety of customizable formats. Having a simple representation of the test results allows teams monitor the test progress and success of the testing effort.

Tools that will help support an effective test management process include solutions like QA Complete, QaTraq Professional and Test Complete. In short software solutions allow teams to increase efficiency by decreasing time spent tracking and analyzing test results, allowing teams to run a larger number of tests, faster and with more accurate results.

Test Management Conclusion

A critical step in improving the quality of the software and hardware products being produced involves shifting test management practices away from outdated methods that are document-centric. Effective test management encompasses all of the various functions needed to complete accurate and efficient testing, including the planning, creating, executing and reporting. It also takes into consideration how testing integrates and fits in with remainder of the development effort. To overcome these considerations, and to overcome the challenges of having resources spread out over several locations and being faced with a short schedule, follow the best practices to avoid complications. Be sure to work with the development team and start the testing activities early. Products like QA Complete, QaTraq Professional and Test Complete can make it easier to follow best practices for test management and can significantly improve product quality.