Evaluating software testing tools:
A step-by-step guide
The software development lifecycle (SDLC) world is constantly evolving, so it is of no surprise that software testing activities and the supporting testing tools are evolving as well at an exponential rate. When looking for Software testing tools, there are a variety of categories ranging from automation tools, to load testing tools, dedicated mobile testing environments, test management platforms, and more, with many options in each of these categories.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed with the large variety of options, This is why we prepared this step-by-step guide to the software testing tools evaluation process.
- Step 1: Evaluate your current situation
- Step 2: Define your Requirements
- Step 3: Establish an evaluation team
- Step 4: Start hunting possible testing platforms
- Step 5: Read public testing tool reviews
- Step 6: Points to consider (but not limited to)
- Step 7: Step 7: 1-2-3-DEMO!
- Step 8: Plan your deployment
- Step 9: Stay up to date with updates
No matter if you are currently not using any tool or have been using one for many years and are looking for a more up to date replacement, any tool evaluation process should start with an understanding of the current situation.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How do we currently perform testing activities in our organization? Does this process fit our current needs or do we need to introduce any changes? Have we made or plan to make any changes in our testing methodology? In the QA and testing context, many organizations have introduced Agile and DevOps methodologies in the last few years while dropping or reducing the use of the traditional Waterfall model.
- Who are the professionals who are involved? Is it only testers/QA professionals or are there other stakeholders involved in this process such as developers, business analysts, and customer support?
- In our current process, what aspects are working well? This is an important aspect as change should improve what's needed to be enhanced, without harming the parts in the process that are working well.
- What are you aiming to improve? If we currently have a solution, what are the pain points that we are hoping to solve with the new testing tool?
Once we have analyzed our current situation, we are ready to proceed to the next step.
No one size fits all:
There are no two companies that are exactly alike, and this is also true for testing and QA teams. Some only have 1 tester, that is doing everything testing related, some combine developers and testers in small teams while others have a testing organization with dozens of testers. Similarly, there is no one testing solution that is a good fit for all teams.
This is an important understanding, as you might hear very good or bad feedback from a friend about a tool that is being used in her company, but as organizations vary, so do the better fitting testing tools.
The RFP (Request for Proposals) process
The RFP (Request for Proposal) process is common use in the corporate world. Once there is a clear definition of the needed elements the tool should have, companies share a request for proposal, asking software providers to submit their answers to the RFP document. This documentation specifies the desired requirements that the testing tools should provide.
Typically, an RFP will distinguish between requirements that are mandatory and those which are optional, exactly like you should do with your requirements. Some are a must and others are nice-to-have.
In some cases, this is where consultants come into play. QA consultants bring their expertise in defining the right process and as a result, the tool that should support your process. If you don’t have an in-house capability consider hiring one externally.
The selection of a tool, which will have a major impact on the everyday work of your entire team should be done by more than one person.
Ideally, you should include in this process both experienced professionals, who are familiar with your organization’s requirements, as well as more novice users, in order to understand their point of view about the everyday usage of the system and intuitiveness.
In the current testing environment, both manual and automation professionals should be included in the selection process, as they hold different perspectives.
Similarly to other types of tools, the number of potential tools to choose from can be overwhelming. As such, it is recommended to narrow the list based on your defined requirements. A good source for information can be rating articles such as:
These are dedicated to software testing and assisting software and QA professionals in enhancing their testing knowledge with many tutorials and other resources. These sites offer lists of software testing tools in many categories so they can help you narrow down your list of options. We recommend reading a few, which will help you realize what leading solutions you should evaluate.
Another possible source of information, that is mostly valid, if you are a larger enterprise company, is analyst firms publications such as Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for test automation, or Forrester’s Wave, and Nelson Halls.
Websites like G2 Crowd, Capterra,in addition to Jira marketplace or others, can be a good source of information, to hear what other customers like and dislike about the solutions you are evaluating. As mentioned before, every organization has its own set of requirements that are not necessarily identical to those of another organization, but still, reading actual user reviews can help tune points that require a closer examination of the tools you have selected for evaluation.
The various software testing tools vary significantly not only in their capabilities but also in their price tag. As budgets are predetermined in many cases, make sure to choose a tool that is in the range of what you are looking to spend, but keep in mind that cheap sometimes causes more trouble in the long run and the right question should be not how much you actually spend but is implementing the tool that will have a positive return on investment (ROI).
Integration. Integration. Integration. - Compatibility with existing tools you are already working on.
The software testing tech stack is ever-expanding and it is important to ensure that you are using tools that can be integrated into other tools via built-in integrations or a selection of REST APIs. Working in siloed technology can have negative effects on many areas. This is especially true when it comes to testing solutions.
The decision regarding product quality and readiness for deployment should be based on the testing that is being done across all of your tools, and lack of connection between the various tools can lead to a wrong decision - whether it is deploying a faulty software or delaying a release that results in negative business outcomes.
Go cloud or go home
Ensure growth options - too often do we hear customers who are locked down into a solution that is no longer best suited to fit their current needs.
Unlike the old days where organizations had to install servers on their locations and decide upfront what will be the required hardware to support the Software testing tool usage, today, there are a variety of options available. You can still choose an On-prem deployment model, and the reasons companies typically choose this option is due to security concerns so this is widely common for highly regulated industries such as banking, financial services, and healthcare, but this is no longer a must.
Cloud offering has grown exponentially, and cloud offers can now provide high standards of security that comply with strict regulations such as SOC-II, ISO 27001 and GDPR.
Choosing a cloud solution has the added advantage of allowing easy scalability, without the need to invest upfront in extra hardware.
Dashboards and reports are not only an important tool in your testing toolbox but also the face of your testing work when presented to other stakeholders in the organization. They provide your management with clear graphs and data visualization which enables them to make wiser and better quality-related decisions. Make sure to choose a tool that has advanced test reporting capabilities.
The ability to share test results with external stakeholders who do not have access to the testing software is also a growing necessity and so is the ability to share testing results on an external Wiki dashboard such as confluence.
Ease of work and User Experience
Gen Z is establishing its presence in the workplace, while baby boomers are gradually retiring. This has implications for multiple elements in the workplace.
One of those is lowered tolerance for “traditional”, heavy, and non-user-friendly enterprise software. These users, who were born with smartphones in their hands, expect business software, just like a consumer one, to be intuitive and easy to use.
Make sure to select a software testing tool that also meets the requirement of your users in relation to how easy it is to work with. Traditionally, enterprise software was considered more complex than everyday software. This was the reason bad user experience was tolerated. But this tradeoff between usability and sophistication or ability to support complex requirements is no longer a necessity.
Narrow your options down to 3 alternatives at the most. A thorough examination of software takes time and effort. Keep in mind that in most cases you will not find a perfect solution that meets each and every requirement you had dreamed of, so be sure to focus on the important ones and check that the relevant solution shortcomings are something that you can live with.
Make sure you see a demo for each of the options, preferably a live demo, where you can ask questions relevant to your organization-specific needs.
This is also an opportunity to check how responsive the support team of each tool is. When introducing a new tool, you might encounter difficulties and unfortunate surprises. Make sure the tool you choose has actual people behind it that are willing to assist in a timely manner.
Although enterprise software requires time to support complex scenarios, this is not a reason to choose an easy to use tool that is lacking in capability. It is important to make sure that the tool you have selected has sufficient training programs.
Such a program will include some or all of these options:
- On-site training sessions
- Remote training sessions
- Help pages
- Discussion forums
As mentioned above, support availability is an important point that is often overlooked. No matter how well trained your users are, occasionally you or someone from your team will encounter an issue that needs resolution. A fast response can help streamline your work and increase your users' satisfaction.
If you have many users and projects it is recommended to deploy a new tool gradually to ensure your Service Levels are intact.
Assuming you did a good job selecting your software testing tool, it will have a development roadmap to ensure your product fits not only the current but also future requirements. This is great news but requires you to make sure you are up to date with new features and enhancements that are released and relevant to improve your team’s testing process. Assign a member of the team to keep track of new feature releases and make sure they update the team at least once a quarter.
If certification programs are available, encourage your team to take them. These typically improve the team’s proficiency in the software you have selected but also require thinking about testing from a different perspective which makes users better testers.
In this guide, we reviewed the recommended steps one should take when evaluating software testing tools. Although this process may seem overwhelming at first, we hope that following the suggested steps will ease this process and assist you with finding the software testing tool that is best suited for your organization and your test process.