The Importance of Test Management in Software Testing
Testing is one of the most important steps in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). It ensures that a software product is free of bugs and errors, is optimized for the right devices and operating systems, is protected against current and potential future cyber security threats and is easy for the target audience to use.
But, with so many ways to incorporate manual and automated testing into the SDLC, adopting the right software testing strategy can be tricky. This is why most software development teams have a system in place to manage their testing procedures, and a dedicated test manager or test team lead to oversee the testing activities.
What is Test Management?
Test management is the practice of managing the testing activities that take place in the SDLC. This is achieved through the use of a test management platform, which gives the test manager and the test team a big picture overview of all software testing activities. The purpose of test management in software testing is to break down each testing process into manageable chunks, so that the test team knows exactly what type of tests to run, when to run each test, how to run each test, and how to compare the test results with the performance and functionality expectations of the software product.
What Does a Test Manager Do?
The role of the test manager is to manage the entire software testing process from start to end. They determine the unique testing requirements for a software product, such as choosing the right test management platform, estimating how much time and labor and resources are needed for each test, and determining when to use manual and automated testing in specific scenarios.
Test managers are also responsible for establishing the software testing team. They create roles, assign candidates, and manage the test team in the same way as a traditional manager. They also make sure that the testing activities comply with the relevant company guidelines and industry regulations, such as the internationally agreed standards set by the ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119-1:2022 Software and Systems Engineering.
Is Test Management the Same as Quality Assurance (QA)?
Not exactly. While there are similarities to test management in software testing and QA, in the sense that they both relate to quality control, they each have their own processes and goals. The easiest way to distinguish between the two is to understand that testing is about assessing the quality of the software product, while QA is about testing the quality of the methods and processes used to create that software. If you were to compare this to cooking, then testing assesses the quality of the meal, while QA assesses the quality of the recipe and ingredients used to make that meal.
This begs the question: does every project need a Test Manager, QA Engineer, and QA Testers? That depends on the scope and complexity of the project. Some smaller projects, such as developing a single-use mobile application, may only need unit testing (a process in which the smallest testable parts of a software product, called units, are individually and independently assessed) to ensure the software product meets the agreed quality standards.
Meanwhile, larger-scale projects, such as developing an enterprise-level web application with several features, will require the combined input of both a Test Management and Quality Assurance system. The QA engineers and testers will ensure that the activities being performed are conforming to the expectations of stakeholders, while the test managers and testers will identify and resolve defects in the software product.
Benefits of Test Management in Agile Software Development
There are many benefits to having a test management system in a software development project. These benefits apply to not just the development team, but also the clients that hire those teams. By hiring a software development team that uses test management to its full potential, they are more likely to receive a high-quality software product, one that works as intended and is delivered on time and within budget.
Minimize data duplication
When siloed teams run tests, they risk collecting the same data. Having duplicated data across multiple databases creates clutter, which makes it harder for developers to review the test results and make informed decisions. A test management process resolves this by consolidating all test data into a single point of reference. This gives the team manager and the test team a big picture view of the entire testing environment, enabling them to monitor all testing activities, review the results, and create detailed reports.
Accurate delivery estimates
A test management process makes it easy to track progress, measure results, and use that data to make informed decisions. This enables the development team to gauge how far along a software project is, and then decide when a software product is most likely ready for release. The development team can also use the time and budget estimates made by the test manager to propose a deadline that is realistic and achievable. As a result, clients get a more transparent view of the development cycle, giving them the confidence that their project will meet the deadline.
Standardized testing procedures and compliance
When developing software for a specific industry, they typically have their own rules, guidelines, and regulations to follow. For example, the Australian medical industry requires all software-based medical devices to standards set by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). A well-planned and well-coordinated test management process in place makes it easier for the team to ensure that the software meets all compliance requirements.
What Does the Test Management Process Look Like?
Below is a simple breakdown of a typical test management pipeline. This pipeline outlines the steps that test managers, and the test team, follow in order to meet all testing requirements in a software development project.
The first step that the test manager takes is to plan for the project ahead. This involves performing a Risk Analysis, Test Estimation, Test Planning, and Test Organization. Each of these steps is crucial in the development of a well-planned and well-coordinated test management process.
The test manager will identify all the potential risks, including bugs and errors, that may arise during the SDLC. They will then put in place solutions for those anticipated problems before they happen. Early detection helps prevent such issues from roadblocking progress.
The test manager will calculate the amount of time and budget required for all testing activities. This includes the time and cost of performing individual tests, reviewing the results, and sharing the results with the rest of the team. These estimates help give the software testing team a clear expectation of the project deliverables and milestones, including the deadline.
The test plan is a document that outlines every aspect of the testing process, including the testing scope, timeline, budget, staff allocation, use of resources, and the objective of each testing activity. The test plan also outlines the Entry, Exit, and Suspension criteria for each testing activity. These criteria determine the conditions that must be in place before a test begins, stops, and is suspended.
Once the estimates and test plan are final, the test manager builds the team. They create the roles, determine their responsibilities, and assign suitably qualified staff that best fit the project requirements. They may also prepare the contracts to formalize the employment agreement with the test team.
The Execution phase is when the initial plan is put into action. The test manager will prepare the individual test cases, execute those test cases, and make sure that the test activities are carried out in a way that aligns with the time and budget estimates.
Test Monitoring and Control
This is when the test monitor closely monitors and controls the testing activities. If they discover that the activities are falling short on time, on resources, or on budget, the testing team will step in to modify the activities until they fall in line with previously established estimates. Alternatively, they may request additional teams and resources to better suit the changing project conditions.
Any unforeseen or expected bugs, errors, and problems that arise are dealt with in accordance with the test plan. This ensures that the final software product is bug-free, but also, that the delivery pipeline is as streamlined as possible, so as to meet the budget and timeline constraints.
Test Report and Evaluation
Once the project is complete, the test manager and team will evaluate the results. They will assess the quality of the staff, the testing measures, the frameworks, and the systems they used to perform the testing. What worked? What didn’t work? What could be improved? These questions are asked and then answered, so that the team can use it as a learning experience to streamline the process for next time. The given test results may serve as a framework for future similar projects, which can help save time and resources on future testing efforts.
Test Management: A Recipe for Success
Testing is one of the most important steps in the SDLC. By integrating testing into each phase of the cycle, from beginning to end, not just as an afterthought, then the odds of the testing strategy resulting in a higher quality software product increase dramatically. It makes it easier for the test team to identify bugs and errors, report those issues, and have the development team resolve them in a timely manner.
Most importantly, the use of test management tools gives the test team, and other departments, a clear, big picture overview of the entire testing procedure and the results it gathers. With this information at hand, all departments of the development team can collaborate, share ideas, and work together to produce the best possible software for you, the valued client.