Before I start talking about test management tools, let me clarify what I mean by the term test Management tools... I am not taking about your office excel program where you store your test cases in. I'm talking about bespoke test Management tools, your quality centers or Microsoft test manager...
In the strict case of the term test Management tool, Microsoft Excel can be used as such, but heck, so could a notepad if used in the right way... For the sake of this blog post I am talking about bespoke test Management tools.
Firstly, what test tools are out there? There are many more out there today than when I first started in QA over 5 years ago. When I started the market was primarily dominated by a tool called Quality Center, this would run in a browser (only Ie unfortunately) and was hosted on a server.. Nowadays it's market share has somewhat dwindled, and there are some new kids on the block.
One of the more popular tools is that of Microsoft Test Manager, it's biggest selling points in my eyes at least are its Team Foundation Server (TFS) integration and that it's free with Visual Studio Ultimate edition. The TFS integration can not be under valued, in that it allows everyone who uses the TFS toolset to be able to see what tests there are, and by TFS Toolset, I'm not just talking about MTM, but Business Analysts or Product Owners who use Visual Studio to input PBIs and COAs can see what tests have been created against any given PBI.
Then there's also JIRA which can be used as a Test Case Management tool, whilst I haven't used it myself, from what I have read it is effectively useful for manual test cases and requires some third party plugins for automated test cases. However, it offers greater visibility than a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, so it's only fair that I include it in here.
So above I've gone through some of the more popular Test Case Management tools and explained briefly what each one can do, so what benefits can you get as an organisation from using the above tools.
It's hard to generalise, as each tool offers different functionality, however, in the case of this blog post (there will be a future one where I compare Quality Center with Microsoft Test Manager and the pros and cons of both) I will be generalising a fair bit...
The benefits of Test Management tools can be split into 3 areas:
- Automation benefits
With regards to management, using an actual test case management tool like those listed above, in my opinion offer better maintainability of the tests, if a step needs changing, if the tests are structured correctly with reusable steps, then you will only have to edit the step in one place and it will update it in every test case that uses that step.
It's also easier to see an overall view of what tests you have against an application without having to open multiple windows of excel and see what tests you have against the whole application. You can also easily see what reports on multiple test runs a lot easier, and see metrics for test results over a period of time so can identify problem tests or problem areas of codes that are repeatedly being broken, and then
With regards to traceability, MTM will offer traceability right out the box, if there is a PBI raised in TFS then you can easily attach tests to it, which will enable you to view tests against PBIs and even defects against PBIs. QC offers a similar functionality, but will require the testers to input the PBIs into QC and isn't as user friendly in my opinion.
Finally, they offer benefits when it comes to automation, QCs obvious tool is QTP, which in my eyes is clunky and outdated, much like QC. MTM will allow you to run automated tests and get reports on these automated tests on a consistent basis.
The downfalls of using Excel in my eyes are easily counteracted by using a test case management tool, Spreadsheets do not scale well at all, it's extremely difficult to have multiple users working on a test case in Excel for instance, nobody knows immediately where the latest version of the spreadsheet is, what if someone makes changes to an old version, then you have to manually merge the 2 files and a nightmare is likely to ensue.
So, there are an abundance of advantages to using a test management tool, however, some tools have specific disadvantages, an obvious one being £££ and the cost of licenses for the software, this in my eyes is heavily outweighed by the benefits that it offers.
Obviously, not one test tool is going to suit every companies needs, in future posts I will compare 2 of the more popular ones and the benefits they give and in what type of company they would work best.