5 essential features of the best test management tool
  January 26, 2016

Vetting software to ensure that it is ready for the market is becoming an increasingly complex process as solutions become more feature-rich, and as new end points are added to the equation. In order to simplify software testing, more vendors are turning to multifunctional test management tools. Depending on the deliverable, these tools may need to have some variation in terms of the bells and whistles.

Nevertheless, there are certain key features that every strong test management tool must offer developers. Here are five of them:

Streamlined tracking capabilities

Complicated, multi-step processes call for an organization system capable of keeping tabs on multiple moving parts. Every phase of the testing life cycle must be meticulously tracked, so as to ensure smooth progression of projects. A testing dashboard that makes tracking within test cases is hugely beneficial to current and future projects. According to TechTarget contributor Peter Walen, the traceable test management tools with a digestible interface makes it easy to detect inconsistent testing requirements. It also fosters opportunities to reuse test cases for future projects because everything is so well-documented and organized. 

"Also important, the ability to relate defects to specific test cases along with the tests for the subsequent fixes, can help with analysis of the project and lessons-learned on completion," Walen writes. For all of these reasons, streamlined tacking capabilities are a huge boon to developers, and a must-have feature for test management teams. 

Real-time reporting

Real-time reporting as a feature goes hand-in-hand with streamlined tracking capabilities. Meticulous organization is important, and while it can certainly have retroactive benefits, it must also be able to clearly outline what is happening at any given moment of a project. Herein lies the value of real-time reporting. Updates reported in the moment allow for rapid responses from QA teams, and create opportunities for adaptability. This helps software development teams - especially agile teams - in two very important ways. Firstly, it enhances the interactive capabilities of the software, which is becoming a valuable component of agile testing methodologies. Secondly, it makes it possible to establish a more continuous feedback loop that ultimately speeds up QA processes. 

Automation integration

Testing automation has become invaluable to software development processes. Regression tests, for example, that need to be recycled at various stages would traditionally be run manually, which meant a lot of repetition and plenty of room for error. The ability to automatically run test cases - either on a predetermined cycle or on an as-needed basis - saves QA teams significant time, effort and money, and this means shorter time to market. 

This is precisely why automation integration is such a vital component of the best test management software. The ability of a test management to work seamlessly automation tools as well as with popular software development suites can make or break a test management strategy. Manual testing is by no means on its way out, but automated testing is indubitably on its way in, and developers need test management tools that can support it.   

Collaborative capabilities

DevOps culture has completely and permanently altered attitudes toward software development. The process has become considerably more collaborative, and as a result, traditionally siloed teams are always looking for new opportunities to improve communication. One method for achieving this is by storing projects in the cloud, so that even physically disparate personnel are all working from the same page. More importantly, it's vital that the tools being used to create and vet a solution are conducive to collaboration, and this includes test management tools. All testing assets must be accessible in a single, shared space. This includes testing metrics, reports, data and other mission-critical information about sprints and releases. In addition to fostering collaborative culture, a test management tool with these capabilities helps keep tabs on who is doing what, and how they're doing it.    

"There should be a clear chain from requirement, to test case, to defect, to repeated test cycles, with a record of the tests executed and who was responsible," Vu Lam, guest contributor for Software Testing Help, wrote. "This alleviates potential tension between test and development, and it prevents anyone from playing the blame game."

Flexibility

Different projects will have unique demands, and a flexible test management tool will adjust to accommodate them. Likewise, the ability to exclude certain fields and eliminate irrelevant tests will reduce the risk of wasting time on needless processes. As such, flexibility is an enormously important feature of a strong test management tool. 

Furthermore, a flexible test management strategy is more conducive to agile testing methodologies, which is a big boon for teams that are inching in that direction. Waterfall testing has not altogether dried up; however, agile software development is increasingly becoming the norm. Flexibility in test management fosters more freedom to cater a QA strategy to the needs of a specific project rather than forcing testing into a mold, and it is this elasticity that truly defines agile.