Testing Tools

Michael Hackett – Senior Vice President of LogiGear Corporation and Editor-in-Chief of Logigear Magazine, offers his thoughts on testing tools. 

Testing tools – very important, very often overlooked, and very often where mistakes are made.

First, the most common mistake people make about tools is thinking tools are only about test automation! False. Automation tools are merely one type of testing tool. We will try to balance this issue between test automation tools and other test tools.

I heard a story about test automation, very recently in fact, of a company that paid a large licensing fee to a major tool vendor, and invested a lot of training and time to develop a phase 1 automation project. The intent was to scale up the initial phase into a large product suite automated regression tool. After just 6 months the project was dropped due to high test maintenance costs, over-idealized expectations, and time demand. A whole lot of money, time, and tester goodwill went down the drain! I have heard too, too many of these stories with test tools, and specifically automation tools.

This story is not new. I heard nearly the same thing in 1994. This really highlights the need to address issues like designing code for testability, high reusability automation frameworks, lower maintenance test design, unrealistic tool vendor marketing, unrealistic staff expectation, etc.

Even after twenty years, too many teams still suffer from the problem of shelfware. Shelfware is slang for owning or licensing software that you don’t use (e.g. it sits on a shelf). It was a story I first early in my software career. And it’s particularly problematic with test automation tools.

Clearly, do whatever it takes to avoid shelfware at all costs! Be part of the tool evaluation process; Demand training; Get direct vendor support; Make sure teams are aware of possible long ramp-up efforts; Make sure there is significant set-aside automation time, separate from testing time. And, always, treat automation development as its own development project!

A great suggestion these days is to get professional services to help to jumpstart your automation program. There are experts who can build a framework-specific to your application of the environment or work with you side-by-side and who can give  1-on-1 coaching to get the project started right or repair a broken automation effort. Yes, shelfware is a preventable problem.

Tools are meant to be the solution, not the problem. But evaluation and selection is a unique process. We provide a few tips and there are many great articles on how to go through a tool evaluation process that will help you and your team get the process right! Don’t just rely on a tool comparison article. For starters, there are some past LogiGear Magazine issues devoted to testing tools. In 2012 (logigear.com/magazine/2012/09), we focused on Integrated Test Platforms such as ALM tool suites like TFS/Visual Studio, Jira, Rally, Rational/IBM, Thoughtworks. It’s worth a read. When carefully selected, carefully implemented, and you allocate the time and effort to maintaining your automated tests, automation tools are a huge bonus!

Tools help you do things. They can help you test better, faster, more informed, and help you isolate issues. Good luck!  I hope you add some useful tools for your test effort.

Read LogiGear Magazine.

Michael Hackett
"Michael is also a co-founder of LogiGear Corporation, and has over two decades of experience in software engineering in banking, securities, healthcare and consumer electronics.

Michael is a Certified Scrum Master and has co-authored two books on software testing. Testing Applications on the Web: Test Planning for Mobile and Internet-Based Systems (Wiley, 2nd ed. 2003), available in English, Chinese and Japanese, and Global Software Test Automation (HappyAbout Publishing, 2006). He is a founding member of the Board of Advisors at the University of California Berkeley Extension and has taught for the Certificate in Software Quality Engineering and Management at the University of California Santa Cruz Extension. As a member of IEEE, his training courses have brought Silicon Valley testing expertise to over 16 countries."

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