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Choose team collaboration tools for quality assurance

To reach their goals, QA teams must work together effectively. Here are some team collaboration tools that can ensure effective collaboration.

Collaboration is the process by which a team works together to achieve a goal. To be successful, any team must...

collaborate, whether it is a sports team whose goal is to win the game or a quality assurance (QA) team whose goal is to effectively test a software release. Furthermore, the effectiveness of that collaboration is a key factor in achieving a team goal successfully.

Due to the nature and functional goal of QA teams, several aspects of the collaborative process are of particular importance. These include clear communications, traceability and visibility.  A QA team must collaborate not only within the team, but as part of a cross-functional team. The team may be distributed across various time zones, making collaboration via the usual social collaboration tools such as Skype or video conferencing useful as only part of the solution.

Quality assurance and application lifecycle management (ALM) team collaboration tools provide functionality that enhances the collaboration process for QA professionals.  QA and ALM tools facilitate collaboration not only by standardizing the test process, but also by creating a centralized repository where all test activities are managed. These team collaboration tools provide traceability by linking requirements, test cases and defects. They provide enhanced visibility into the test process through dashboards and detailed reporting capabilities. Some of these tools provide specialized collaboration features including task tracking by tester, automated emails, real-time multiple user updating. Here is a look at few software QA and ALM team collaboration tools that provide enhanced collaboration functionality.

Seapine Software's TestTrack is an example of an ALM tool that facilitates collaboration by focusing on the aspects of clear communications, traceability and visibility. The requirements management module provides traceability by linking requirements to other requirements, test cases, test results and source code. It allows for clear communications because all team members share and update the requirements in real time. If requirements change after their corresponding test cases were approved, testers are notified so they can review and accommodate the changes. TestTrack's traceability also facilitates impact analysis, letting project managers understand the disruption of changes before committing to them. A "snapshot" function provides version control of requirements and TestTrack's review features help teams review, comment on and sign off on requirements. Finally, email tracking and file attachments provide an electronic trail of communications between team members.

Gurock's TestRail is a test management tool geared to help test teams increase their productivity through collaboration. Testers receive automated emails when test cases are assigned to them. Comments and attachments can be added to the emails which is especially helpful for distributed teams.  Test status is displayed on simple dashboard including test type, status and priority. The ToDoList page provides a personalized activity list for each tester and allows the team lead to manage the workload of the entire team effectively. The report module provides visibility into the test process and clear communication to all stakeholders. Planned versus actual test progress is used to automatically generate predictions of estimated time to complete the test cycle. Although TestRail focuses exclusively on test management it provides built-in integration to other tools including requirements management, project management, bug trackers and test automation tools.

SmartBear's QAComplete focuses on facilitating test team collaboration throughout the test process, with special features for collaboration between manual and automation testers. QAComplete provides a central hub where automated and manual tests are executed in the same test suites and drill-down functionality gives immediate visibility into supporting details. Failed tests automatically create defects which are linked together and test cases are linked to requirements, ensuring complete traceability. QA Complete's dashboard provides combined reporting of automated and manual test results. Several status screens and reports provide a transparent view of the quality of the release.

QASymphony's qTest provides collaboration features that facilitate communication among not only the QA team, but the project team. The product provides an interface to develop test milestones and assign tasks including requirements development, test case design and test case execution to individual team members. Requirements can be baselined and are traced to test cases. Test cases can be versioned and different versions of the same test case can be executed in different cycles. Test case development history is tracked; qTest provides full history of changes which facilitates the approval process. The reporting module provides advanced queries and all reports and queries can be exported to excel for clear communication among the project team. Finally, qTest provides instant notifications and shared comments.

To reach their goals, QA teams must work together effectively. Given the specific nature of their work and, often, their distributed locations, QA teams require specialized collaboration tools that facilitate clear communications, traceability and visibility. For this reason, it is important to use test management or ALM tools that provide the needed collaboration features.

Next Steps

Choosing a collaboration tool

Favorite collaboration tools

How to resolve process issues with QA software

This was last published in August 2015

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Which features do you find most critical in ALM tools?
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Customizability, high quality search, and a basic ability to handl attachments are key features I look for. With respect to custom fields, the ability to make periodic updates as projects change should not resemble moving a mountain. Being required to select a confusing response in a dropdown or include critical details in an open text field can lead to errors and miscommunication.
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Workflow, traceability and visibility. We are using our SharePoint site and manage all changes.

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Flexibility and a true reduction of manual effort. Per my observations many of ALM tools have rich features for reporting that, however, must be enabled by a lot of manual work entering data points. That creates a quite bureaucratic and distracting burden.
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I haven't used some of the other tools, but I can attest that qTest does seem to provide some level of traceability to tests.  I'm not sure I'd call it collaboration though.  I've not seen parts for team mates to comment on what's in progress.
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I opened the article with a different meaning for collaboration. I don't really see traceability of one type of artifacts to another as much of collaboration.
I thought it would be about tools like MS Yammer and Trello.
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