Five things the QA Director should understand before implementing a Test Management solution

May 16, 2011
Choosing a test management solution is easy. Implementing a solution is hard. It’s easy to select and configure one of the many great test management applications on the market today. We all understand the technology, the features are easy to evaluate and the configuration easy to set up (perhaps with a bit of trial and error). Implementation is a different ball game though. Getting your QA team to use the application can be difficult. Getting them to use it consistently can be almost impossible. Yet the success or failure of your chosen solution depends mainly on how the whole of your team interact with the tools you provide them with. Business objective clarity – the test management tool you select is just that; a tool. It’s a tool you implement in order to meet a business objective. That objective might be better status monitoring, it might be better co-ordination between distributed teams or it might be to help ensure repeatability of your test process. Either way it’s this objective that should be driving the technology you’re implementing. Not the other way round. One step at a time – when investing a lot in a new application it’s easy to get carried away. It’s the mentality that we’re spending a significant amount on a new test management tool so it should be able to do 99% of what we need it to do. It may well be able to do everything you want it to do but getting it to do it is another matter. It’s the concept of technology vs implementation again. Technology easy. Implementation hard. And for that reason you are best to select a few key areas where the solution will give you the easiest and quickest benefits to the business. Get those right to start with and you build momentum for a sucessful long term process improvement project. Try to do too much too soon and you risk failing to delever anything with any benefit. Software is cheap. Time is expensive – it’s too easy to focus on just the cost of the software licenses. If you’re paying $1000 a license but it takes one member of your team, on a $2000 per month salary, 2 months to implement then the cost for your staffs time is 4 times more expensive than the license. Two months might seem like an exaggeration but when you consider infrastructure, configuration, training, familiarisation, etc it soon adds up. These overheads can be a significant hidden cost. User take up is tough – doesn’t matter if you buy the best test management application on the planet, or even have a solution hand crafted to fit your process. If your team don’t use it, or worse still, don’t use it correctly, you’ve gained nothing. In fact you’ve probably lost a lot. Focus on user adoption. Let me repeat that. Focus on user adoption! Most of your effort needs to be going into getting your team using the product and making sure they use it correctly. It’s a marathon not a sprint – Quite often it’s easy to get up and running quickly. You see some initial positive benefits and you feel like the project was a success. Then 6 months down the line you realise that people have slipped back to their old ways. Perhaps the QA process evolved (due to external pressures), perhaps your test management tool champion left the company or maybe something as simple as poor network speed meant people found using the tool frustrating. It’s easy to lose that initial excitement and momentum when implementing a new tool. Real success happens over years not months. Achieving that success means continually monitoring and adapting the system to meet the needs of the QA team. In short it’s the application of the test management technology to support your process that needs more effort and skill than most people accept. The more you focus on the application and implementation the more likely the business is to reap the benefits of the solution.