50 Ideas to Improve your Test Management Process – Part 4

February 21, 2013

Another 10 test management ideas for you to consider over the coming months.

Integrate with automation tools – If you already have automation in place but haven’t looked at sync’ing this into your test management system yet then this is an easy win. Even if you have tools from different vendors you’ll find you have access to API’s that allow you to link tools. Might be a few days effort writing some glue code but the effort is well worth it. The benefit being that you’ll have consolidated reporting of status across but automated and manual testing. True integration, however, really only comes if you have automation and test management tools out of the same stable. As always though that’ll come a quite a financial cost but wil be easier to setup. Certainly if you’re on the path to Agile or continuous integration then this has to be on your road map for the year.

Contact lists – A bit left field this one but just how much time do your team waste trying to find the right people to talk to outside of the QA team? Simple things like an up to date contact list make peoples lives easier. In many cases this information can be embedded into a test management tool that has the capability to create custom lists. In this case the contact info your team rely on so heavily is right at their finger tips.

Review your change process – Everything is changing. Environments, requirements, cases, plans, etc, etc. The question is what is the impact of that change? Change always has a knock on effect. It’s up to you to work out the down stream impact. This is where a good change process comes in to it’s own. A lightweight process that at a minimum gives people visibility of the changes and gives them a chance to react and contribute. We’re not talking some formal process that takes 3 people full time to manage here. We’re talking a light weight, efficient and effective.

Remove redundant processes – What processes have grown up over the years that are holding you back? In many companies we get requests to track this and track that and as a result we end up with data capture processes that result in significant overheads to everyone’s daily work. Other processes where people have to almost fight to get resources they need. As humans we have this habit of putting up processes that in the end look more like barriers to getting work completed. Look closely, very closely at the hoops your team members have to jump through each day. Then question the benefit of those hoops. And where you can remove them. It’s quite liberating doing this. It’s also likely to make a huge difference to team motivation.

Nominate an administrator – Pick someone in your team to administer your test management tool. Someone that everyone in the team to go for for advice, help and support. Pick someone who’s amiable and that likes helping people. Someone who’s genuinely interested in seeing the performance of the team improve through effective use of the tools at their disposal. Someone who’s prepared to act as a trainer and mentor to new staff. Uptake and correct usage of the tools you employ is absolutely key to you getting the right management information out. Don’t underestimate the commitment you should be making to ensure you’re using your tools effectively.

Improve data capture – We must spend half our working day filling out forms on our computers and tablets. There’s a form for capturing everything. We tend to accept this and just go with the flow. What’s frustrating though is capturing unnecessary data. What’s more serious is forcing the capture of data where the end user ends up making up values to enter. Cut it down or cut it out. Streamline the data you’re capturing. Remove all those custom fields that seem to pop up without anyone looking. And make sure you’re only capturing data that essential and that will be used.

Track costs – Every project costs money. Trouble is most of us have no idea how much money. Whilst I’m not a fan of time recording (people end up making up figures) the ability to understand what you’re spending your money on is important. Maybe come up with some ration of cost to defects found against each project. Keep it high level and don’t get carried away capturing data. Just rough values that shine a light on the amount of money the team is spending on finding defects. Maybe the easiest way is to track the amount of time it takes to write and run testcases in your test management tool (most tools support this) and then assign some hourly cost to this. I’m sure that’ll open some eyes.

Track defects after release – How often, as a QA team, do we ship a product then forget about it? Most of the time I guess. Never enough time or resources to follow up on a project or product after release. Ultimately though how the product performs after release is how we should be assessing our levels of success. Feedback after release is like the final score in a football match. Only a few minor defects surface after release? That’s a good game we played. Serious defects surfacing after release? Poor team performance. Need to adjust our game plan for the next match. Defects found after release determine the success or failure of our QA. Maybe link defect tracking to the support center system. Or give your end users direct access to create defects in your test management tool.

Take a look at your competitors – Have you ever assessed how your competitors are performing? It has always amazed me that companies that write gaming software manage to ship products which are relatively bug free. Shrink wrapped game software you buy in the shops has been this way for decades. Yet you go into some corporate conglomerate somewhere and the lack of resources and commitment to software testing is obvious. Yet time after time these large corporations release products which clearly aren’t ready for release. Wouldn’t it be interesting for some of those corporate types to visit a company that writes gaming software and see what their approach and mind set to QA is? Put their process under the microscope and see what you can learn.

Look for other productivity tools – We get set in our ways. We accept the short comings of our ways of working without question. We find inefficient ways to work with our existing test management systems. We just put up with it. Yet hunt around and you’ll find tools and ways of working which make huge differences to the way in which you work and your levels of productivity. For example Jing is a free tool that allow you to quickly capture screen shots and videos. It saves hours of writing to describe bugs. Try it and see how it improves the productivity of your team. Then look at what else you do on a regular basis and see if there are tools to help improve the way your work. Test data generation tools, automation tools to prepare environments. Just look at where your team is spending lots of their time that isn’t time QA time. Then see what you can find to help them be more productive.

Day in the life of a customer – How far removed are you from your end customer? Have you really got any idea what they really want? Why not spend a day with them to see how they work and what it is they’d really like to see in the product you’re creating for them? It’s all too easy to get rail roaded by your internal development and project teams into creating what they think the customer wants. Yet as a QA team you’re the last gate that ensures what goes out the door is what the customer wanted. So don’t you owe it to your customer to spend more time with him or her working out what it is they want?

Last 10 ideas and thoughts on test management to follow tomorrow.