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Is an ALM tool your best option for test documentation?

Many QA organizations avoid turning to ALM tools for test documentation, but using them can make it easier to manage test cases and scripts.

I have struggled for years to get QA testers to stop using applications like Excel or Word as test documentation tools. Granted, most employees know how to use both of these applications at an expert level. You can create attractively featured test cases in either one, including charts and graphs, or even graphics. Both applications, especially Excel, can handle enormous amounts of data, as well as complicated scenarios.

So, why not use them as test documentation tools? There are numerous reasons why using dedicated test documentation tools or application lifecycle management (ALM) tools make test cases and scripts more manageable, trackable, measurable and reusable. Using an ALM tool to develop, store and execute test cases or scripts improves financial returns by organizing work so it can be reused and repurposed as needed. Additionally, software quality improves with additional time spent testing rather than writing or digging through reams of documents, or worse, complex and confusing Excel sheets that can be both illogical and so complicated to follow they are unusable.

An ALM tool provides a storage location that is known and customizable to your QA organization and many are integrated with development to house and manage both. An ALM tool provides a decent editor for creating test cases. Granted, you can't add charts, graphics or anything beyond attachments or colored or formatted text. However, test cases are focused on testing the software and can be as simple or complex as desired. All the tests are backed up regularly and saved in servers for long-term storage. You won't lose test or execution results in the event of a system failure.

Additionally, test development is trackable and measurable. QA knows who wrote the test, when it was executed and the result. Test executions are easily organized and measured by release regardless of how often new versions of the software are released. Reports and metrics are available in a default format or can be configured to fit the business need. The best part is you don't need to duplicate tasks or spend hours manually calculating metrics or test execution results.

The cost of some ALM systems may be prohibitive to many QA organizations. In that case, consider open source test documentation tools like Tuleap, Endeavor or OpenALM. You can research any number of available open source options online that could help reduce cost and improve overall software quality.

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