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What are test management tools? Simply put, they are tools used to track, organize, and control software testing. Most of the time, they’re used to support and monitor manual testing but they can be useful for automated testing as well. 

In this article I’ll cover:

There are a lot of test management tools available that provide quality assurance. Each one is a little different but there are some key features that the best have in common. But, before we look at these key features, let’s briefly examine how test management tools can benefit any software development project.

Benefits Of Using Test Management Tools

The main benefit of using test management tools is that they improve the test process, delivering a better product faster. They are also essential for controlling the overall cost of testing by using automation testing to help ensure that the process goes smoothly.  

Here are the specific ways that test management tools benefit test execution workflows:

  • They give you a better picture of the system under test, keeping the entire process on track and coordinating test activity.
  • They help fine-tune the testing process by supporting collaboration, communication, and data analysis.
  • They track tasks, defects, and test results, and simplify the process by doing it all in a single application.
  • They are scalable and can be used as testing activities become larger and more complex.

So, as you can see, test management tools really help to fine-tune the software testing process. Now I’m going to take a look at 6 key features that make up a top-notch test management tool.

6 Key Features Of Test Management Tools  

There are a lot of test management tools out there. Some of them are made good, some of them are made great. Here are 6 key features that constitute a great piece of test management software:

  1. Attractive user interface and easy-to-use design
  2. Allow for multiple projects and user permissions
  3. Traceability
  4. Facilitates scheduling and organization
  5. Monitoring and metrics
  6. Flexibility

Now let’s unpack them in more detail.

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1. Attractive User Interface And Easy-To-Use Design

If you’re creating an application, you already know the importance of a clean, attractive, and intuitive user interface. It just makes everything more pleasant, right? Your team members and devs will appreciate being able to glance at the UX and know exactly where everything is, how to access popular functions, and where their most needed data is stored. Complexity does not equate to a smarter or more advanced platform. Simple is beautiful.

2. Allow For Multiple Projects And User Permissions

As you’ll know, good software development requires teamwork from a range of individuals, including the product owner, project management professionals, product manager, testers, and coders, and all of whom need access to different information depending on their status. Some stakeholders will only require read-only access for reporting and analysis, while others will need full admin access to everything in the platform’s backend.

The capability to host multiple projects should be a given, too, even if it comes at an additional cost. Scalability is key when it comes to finding the right test management tool. You never want to be held back by simple product limitations. 

3. Traceability

With testing software, being able to trace every piece of the work and every change that is made is invaluable. Test management tools should support tracking and traceability, ensuring team accountability while also amassing useful data that you can refer back to later. 

Good test case management tools let you follow every change, from the very first test case through all the repeated cycles, and easily tell you who is responsible for each change. Not only does this let everyone on the project know where they stand, it also provides accountability for every person involved. 

4. Facilitates Scheduling And Organization

Planning and scheduling are crucial aspects of efficient software testing. One of the most important tasks in software testing management is figuring out how long the project will take, and you can’t do this without effective scheduling, planning, requirements management, and organization. 

Planning includes defining the scope, approach, and resources needed to complete the project, as well as creating a schedule for the work needed. Without a good test plan, the project is unlikely to proceed smoothly—and this becomes even more obvious with larger scale projects.

Therefore, great test management tools should enable you to organize. This means figuring out how the testing and development teams are going to execute test plans and test suites. Test management tools should help with every part of this process, ensuring that the testing itself runs smoothly and helping with planning and management issues as they arise. 

5. Monitoring And Metrics

A test management solution should also help with monitoring and metrics. These are important parts of the testing process that ensure the project is running as it should, on time and on budget. The best test management tools will allow you to configure exactly what you are tracking and what the data visualizations look like. 

Test management software helps you define the project’s goal and keep on track as it progresses. It compares the actual real-time progress with planned expectations, and records and reports any problems. 

6. Flexibility

Something every test automation tool needs is flexibility. Every project is different and should be treated as such. Test management software that combines transparency, traceability, and flexibility in an easy-to-use, clean, and attractive interface is the ultimate goal.

Flexibility is especially important if your team works on a variety of projects with different methodologies, such as Agile testing, DevOps, or Scrum, and you need something that works for everyone. When you can’t find a single testing tool that ticks all the boxes, using more than one tool is always an option.

Choosing The Right Test Management Tool

There are a lot of awesome test management tools available, but how do you know which is the right one for you? Here are some useful tips to help you choose:

  • First, you have to understand the project. Unless you know exactly what you’re trying to do, you won’t be able to choose the right tool for the job. Think about the types of projects you usually work on and what types of functionality would best help you test more effectively. Remember, most of these tools are somewhat versatile but each one is different, so it’s worth taking the time to figure out what you need to get the best final product. 
  • Consider your budget. While there may be a tool available that seems like the perfect fit, if it’s well outside the limits of what you can safely spend, it’s not worth investing in. Choose something that suits your budget and has the features you need to get the best return on investment. As we’ll discuss below, there are both commercial and open source options available.
  • Mixing-and-matching is okay. If you can’t find a single tool that has everything you need, don’t worry. A lot of software management tools are compatible with one another. You should be able to find a few that work effectively together to deliver all the features you need. Synergy baby!
  • Look at the basics of getting started. Don’t get so caught up in the features that you forget about things like maintenance costs, security, privacy, and IT support. Ultimately, if maintenance costs are too high, or if security and privacy are an issue, you may end up not only with a delayed project but with other major issues as well. 
  • How much time for onboarding? Consider all of the work that’s required to integrate a new tool into your system. Make sure you know what is entailed, whether you’re capable of handling it, and how long it will take to get up and running. 
  • Know your most desired features. When looking at a test management tool, make sure it has all the key features previously mentioned before jumping into other features like test design, test case reuse, test regression, or exploratory testing. It doesn’t matter how many functions it offers if the interface is difficult to use and the whole experience ends up taking more time and costing more money. 
  • Tools should play well with others. Make sure that any tools you choose are compatible with any add-ons or tools you already use, whether through native integrations or an API. It’s especially important to ensure that any new tools integrate with any current defect management system in place, as well as related tools such as those for application lifecycle management (ALM) or issue tracking.

Test Management Tool Examples

While some smaller companies and teams might be fine using Excel or a spreadsheet for managing test runs for smaller projects, most organizations will require dedicated test management software. 

Here are some examples of test management tools that are popular on the market:

Read a full review and comparison of test management tools.

Open Source vs Commercial Options

All you open source advocates will be pleased to know that there are many open source, as well as commercial, test management tools. Each option has its pros and cons, and it’s important to consider them when deciding which test management tool is right for you. 

Open source tools are cheaper and more versatile, but you have to do a lot of the customization yourself, which means you need a strong technical team. This makes them better for small applications as they are usually too slow for larger ventures. Also, open source products generally do not give you the same level of technical and customer service as commercial products. 

Commercial tools are generally more suitable for large organizations. They integrate easily with other test management tools and often feature bug tracking and automation tools. The main disadvantage of commercial tools is, of course, the price. They can be quite expensive to license in the first place and also to maintain thereafter. 

That being said, commercial tools are preferred if your company is so large that it needs to be concerned with things like lawsuits and audits.

Open SourceCommercial
ProsLess expensive
More versatile
Great for small applications
Easy to integrate with other tools
Often feature built-in bug trackers and automation tools
Better for large organizations
ConsRequire a lot of customization
Usually too slow for large ventures
Lack technical support and customer service

Before choosing an expensive test management tool, you have to consider if it’s worth the investment. For smaller companies, especially those with significant technical talent, an open-source test management tool is probably a better option. 

For larger companies, you might find that a commercial solution is quicker to set up, and offers better support and security, making it a better investment in the long run.

What Do You Think About Test Management Tools? 

Now you know a bit more about test management tools. If you have any lingering questions, be sure to poke around on our site. We have tons of helpful articles written for QA professionals by QA professionals, as well as lists of software for specific test management use cases, like free test management tools and test management tools for Jira. Also, feel free to leave a comment with any questions or recommendations of your own.

We also have a library of podcasts we're sure will help you take things to the next level. Take this one for example: AUTOMATED TESTING W/ TESTRIGOR CEO ARTEM GOLUBEV & PAUL GROSSMAN

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The QA Lead Team
By The QA Lead Team