"How did we miss that bug?" This question is often asked when a major defect is found in recently released software. The consequences of missed bugs can range from negative publicity, lost sales and lost customers, to potential loss of life. Often, dealing with the aftermath of such situations leads organizations to re-examine their quality assurance and testing processes during which the question "Do we need quality assurance or test management software?" is posed and discussed.
Quality assurance (QA) and testing are complicated processes involving many interconnected activities. Rapidly evolving technology including mobile applications and devices, cloud delivery models, and big data not only add complexity, but also significantly increase scope. Adding in the introduction of agile and continuous delivery methodologies, the need for coordinated yet streamlined test management becomes increasingly important. Certainly, QA and test management software can add value by mitigating many of the risks inherent to the test process.
However, determining whether an organization needs QA and test software involves an analysis of the organization 's specific needs relative to the benefits that this software provides. Here is a review of the benefits of QA and test management software followed by a discussion of some of the organizational scenarios in which there is a need for it.
A matter of risk
The most important benefit of quality assurance software is risk mitigation. Risk is the likelihood of deploying bad or buggy software, and its subsequent business effect, and is usually critical to an organization. QA and test management software reduces risk by providing a standardized, repeatable framework for testing across the organization. QA software provides a central repository for reusable test cases, which saves time, allows for more complete test coverage and reduces costs.
QA and test management-oriented software also facilitates teamwork and provides transparency into test progress and results. The collaboration features in some test management tools improves communication among team members and across teams, which can be especially important in decentralized testing environments, which have become more common in recent years. Reporting functionality not only provides informative metrics needed to evaluate risk and make decisions, but also reduces the time needed to generate status reports.
Finally, with the core functionalities of test planning execution management and defect lifecycle management, QA and test management software often becomes the foundation for application lifecycle management (ALM) by providing integrations with requirements management and test automation tools as well as release management and continuous integration (CI) software.
Does your organization need quality assurance software? Your organization needs QA software if the benefits of using it will solve process issues and mitigate risk. Although there are many scenarios in which QA software may be beneficial to organizations, there are usually some common themes.
Common themes where quality assurance software adds value
Large companies often have a need to standardize and streamline their test processes in order to shorten time to market to meet the demands of their customers and the competition. Project teams may be decentralized, sometimes across time zones, making communication and collaboration difficult. Project teams in different divisions may even have different approaches to software development and testing. These organizations need to develop a standardized, repeatable process for quality assurance and testing. Quality assurance software provides a framework for a repeatable test process. Furthermore, collaboration features can improve coordination and communication between decentralized team members and across teams. Finally, integrations with requirements and release management may be used to develop an ALM process, which provides a lot of value to large organizations.
Some organizations are plagued by critical defects found late in the development process or even in production. These defects cost not only time and money to fix, but defects found in production may also have an increasingly negative impact on the company's reputation given the proliferation of social media. These organizations need a more effective means of testing, and QA software can provide value through features such as requirements traceability, test case coverage and defect tracking. Reporting features also provide the ability to produce metrics easily. Using those metrics, project managers and stakeholders can more effectively assess and mitigate risk.
Companies in regulated industries, such as utilities or organizations in safety critical industries such as medical devices or transportation may benefit from standardized process functionality provided by QA and test management software. In organizations where the product has a direct impact on the health or safety of its customers, testing and quality must be the top priority. Regulatory authorities impose standards on organizations in these industries and usually have detailed reporting requirements. Quality assurance and test management software not only provides a framework for testing according to regulatory standards, but the reporting features also facilitate and streamline developing the documentation required.
The final scenario in which QA and test management software provides value is in organizations that are involved in agile transformation or attempting to implement continuous delivery or DevOps methodologies. Since these methodologies significantly shorten the systems development lifecycle, quality assurance must be thorough yet streamlined. Newly organized teams include not only developers and testers, but, in CI models, all team members are responsible for quality, including operations staff. The need for speed combined with easy collaboration as well as a means of facilitating agile and continuous development processes are critical to these organizations. Quality assurance and test management software that integrates with automation tools, CI tools and release management software add value to a smooth agile transformation or CI methodology.
Quality assurance software can add value by standardizing the testing process and, therefore, mitigating risk in a variety of organizational scenarios. In order to determine whether your organization needs quality assurance software, it is important to fully understand the needs of the organization relative to the benefits that software will provide. Quality assurance software is not a "magic bullet" that guarantees defect free releases; however, when it is applied to specific process issues, the quality of the testing process can be considerably improved.
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