50 Ideas to Improve your Test Management Process – Part 1

February 18, 2013

We’re a month or two into 2013 now and with our new years resolutions some way behind us we thought we’d take a look at how you might improve your test management process over the remaining 10 months of the year. So over the next 5 days we’re going to look at 50 improvement ideas that you can consider for implementation. Here’s the first 10

1. Review your reports – one of the main purposes for capturing data in a test management tool is so that you can report on aspects of your projects like progress, resource utilisation and goals. If the reports you’re currently creating don’t trigger changes where necessary then you should start questioning the purpose of those reports. Maybe it’s time to start asking yourself, and other stake holders, what information really would be help in managing your development and QA projects.

2. Get an admin assistant for your team – as with many other professions QA engineers and managers have a lot of administration tasks to complete on a daily basis. That might be chasing HR, typing up minutes from meetings or even pulling together monthly reports. Ask yourself if these sorts of tasks are a good use of your time and effort. Would it not be more efficient (both in terms of time and cost) to get someone else to take on this work? You never know they might even be better than you at it!

3. Improve project estimating – estimating the amount of effort involved in QA projects is always going to be part of our game. Even if we accept that it’s a “how long is a piece of string” question, we’ll have project managers demanding this sort of information throughout the project life cycle. If you’ve been capturing this sort of information (e.g. average time to execute a set) then it’s probably easier than you think to go back through those records and work out how long the regression testing part of previous projects took. Even this small piece of information can lend credibility to your resource demands if you have it to hand for future projects.

4. Integrate with requirements management – whilst creating testcases based on requirements is only a part of the QA jigsaw it’s an important part. If your testers find it easy to pick out requirements in their test management tool then they’re more likely to create meaningful tests. Never underestimate how a small advantage like seeing up to date requirements in your test management tool can translate into big productivity gains. The easier we make the mundane tasks the more energy and effort QA engineers are likely to put into writing excellent cases.

5. Make more of your support contract – when we start using a new test management solution we’ll have no hesitation about calling on the support team from the tool vendor. However, as our usage of the tool starts to bed down we start to find workarounds for issues we encounter. Sometimes it appears easier to implement a work around than spend hours working through the real issue with a support engineer. So we never really get round to resolving those issues and instead settle for inefficient workarounds that cost us time, effort and money. Identify those issues and look to improve them. Call on the support team to help you find a resolution and improve the efficiency in the way you use your test management tool.

6. Internal support – When was the last time you were aware of someone in your team struggling to use the process and tools you’ve implemented? When was the last time you even asked anyone in your team if they were having problems? We assume that if everything is quiet that everything is okay. That’s not always the case though. Nominate someone in your team that has a lot of experience to act as an internal support resource. You’ll be surprised how many people start calling on that internal support person.

7. What data are you capturing and doing nothing with? – we all start out with grand ideas to capture and record data with complex business processes and complex data entry forms. Enthusiasm for this soon wanes within the team. As a result people either start entering the wrong data or they start circumventing the process. Ask yourself if this process or this particular piece of data really does need to be captured. Are we really reporting and acting on this data? If not bin it and make the life of your QA engineers easier (and more productive).

8. Have a 3rd party review – whether we like it or not we all become set in our ways at some point. We get locked into a furrow that we very rarely pull ourselves out of. It’s human nature. Now you might be ploughing a fantastic furrow but is that furrow headed in the right direction and does it line up with the rest of the furrows the company is ploughing? Sometimes it worth getting someone in with a fresh perspective to look at how good your ploughing is. It’s very rare that people find they are perfect at what they do. We can all learn something new from someone else at some point. Why not see if there’s something new you could learn and see if a 3rd party could help you make those improvements?

9. Upgrade to the latest version – how many companies out there have implemented a test management tool and never got round to upgrading to the latest release? There has to be quite a few. It’s too easy to just make do with what we’ve got. Do you really understand how an out of date version is holding you back and creating inefficiencies in your process? Take an hour to find out what features have been implemented in later releases and asses what benefits those new or improved features could bring to your team.

10. Look at static code review tools – it’s too easy to think that the game is only about manual and automated testing. Don’t overlook the benefits of other tools such as static code analysis tools though. Maybe you’ve avoided this in the past because you don’t have the skills in your team to implement such a tool. If you don’t have the skills why not pair up a tester with a developer and get them to implement a static code review tool between them? Test and dev might seem miles apart but it’s surprising how effective a good dev/test pairing can be.

That’s it for day 1. Another 10 ideas to help you improve your test management process will follow tomorrow. If you have other ideas you’d like to add please feel free to comment below.