Managing a software development project is difficult, but testing the results can be even more arduous. Unfortunately, too many organizations rely on ineffective manual methods when managing their QA (quality assurance) efforts and wind up approving deficient software. Companies facing shorter development cycles all too often are tempted to cut corners on testing software, which is usually the wrong decision.
Whether you’re creating software to build an e-commerce site, manage inventory, or massage a data feed, there is no substitute for a testing process that checks the software against requirements. Mercury Interactive Corp.’s TestDirector 7.0i fills the gap between development and testing processes.
TestDirector provides shops with the power of a database-centered test management product and the convenience of a Web-based tool. This improves document-and spreadsheet-based defect-tracking methods by giving QA teams a more flexible way to manage the testing process. In our evaluation of an early access release and a late beta general access release of TestDirector 7.0i, we found it to be an excellent tool for improving the effectiveness of testing in almost any environment.
Test of patience
Whether QA is new or old hat to you, looking at ways to apply the best practices of software testing is worthwhile.
The testing process can be broken into four phases: defining the requirements, planning the tests, executing the tests, and analyzing the results. In practice, the three later steps often happen in a series of testing loops based on increasingly functional beta releases.
The requirements phase begins with the documentation of the product being tested to determine what it’s expected to do. The goal here is to identify the test objectives and the strategies for achieving them, thereby allowing the test designer to create, detail, and prioritize the testing requirements. Review the requirements against the testing scope periodically as a reality check.
Once the requirements are clear, develop your test plan. Start by defining your test strategy and resources, then define the test subjects by carving up the application into its functions. A common model for this abstraction is a functional tree, divided by subject and task. Armed with this exploded view, you can then determine what tests are appropriate and how they correlate with your requirements.
Next you design the actual tests and their expected results. This intricate process often requires a click-by-click analysis of the ways in which users interact with the application. Based on the specifics of each test, you can automate those functions that don’t require meatware.
With test plan in hand, you now can organize your testing, run the tests, and analyze the results. Tracking and prioritizing defects as they surface is critical.
As you analyze defects and apply fixes, you must test and retest to ensure that new problems haven’t cropped up.
Lights, camera, action!
TestDirector 7.0i offers many new features that greatly simplify test management. Now a Web-based application, TestDirector boasts four new components: the Requirements Manager, the Test Plan Manager, the Test Lab Manager, and the Defects Manager. Each one addresses a phase of the testing process, and the back-end database allows you to link multiple requirements, tests, and results.
Using TestDirector was simple and straightforward, although we were grateful for the printed and the online documentation. Creating and modifying requirements with the graphical Requirements Manager was easy, and later we were able to link them, with a few mouse clicks, to tests we’d created. The Test Lab Manager proved adept at generating WinRunner scripts, and the Defects Manager provided a wealth of tools for analyzing the test results.
Database management for each project is handled via one or more specialized utilities, instead of the application itself, which is usually an appropriate division of responsibilities. TestDirector does not use Windows NT’s built-in tools to manage security; customers must instead maintain a separate security structure with the application.
Overall, we were impressed with TestDirector’s capabilities. The flexible Web-based interface and the powerful reporting tools combine to give a clear visual look at the state of a software-testing project. Although the price tag may seem steep compared to that of generic project management tools, TestDirector’s notification and tracking capabilities can increase the productivity of your QA team and help your shop produce better applications. In today’s e-commerce world, the better application isn’t the one using the newest technology; it’s the application that meets your business needs.
P.J. Connolly ([email protected]) is a senior analyst for the InfoWorld Test Center.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BETA
Business Case: In an information-driven economy, the software is the business. Businesses that use solid software testing methods will be able to deliver superior products faster than those that don’t.
Technology Case: Companies can make their testing processes more efficient by automating procedures and simplifying defect tracking. TestDirector 7.0i provides an excellent, easy-to-use front end for powerful testing and reporting tools.
+ Web-based interface allows for easy access
+ Enterprise Edition supports SQL Server, Sybase, and Oracle databases
– Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) for Web server may create security problems
Cost: Basic Edition, US$22,490(five concurrent users); Enterprise Edition, $45,000 (five concurrent users)
Platform(s): Windows NT 4.0 Server with IIS
Shipping: Basic and Enterprise Editions shipped Sept. 6
Mercury Interactive Corp., Sunnyvale, Calif.; (408) 822-5200; http://www.mercuryinteractive.com.
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