Is Excel holding back your testing?

Jun 28, 2021
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    Find out if it’s time to start looking beyond Excel, and investing in a good test management tool to help you with your testing efforts.

    Excel is used as a test management, documentation and reporting tool by many test teams. At early stages, most teams rely on excel spreadsheets for planning and documenting tests, as well as reporting test results. As teams grow, sharing information using excel sheets becomes problematic. What used to be easy and intuitive, becomes challenging or logistically impossible.

    Why Excel might be holding you back:

    • The simple task of figuring out which excel has the test cases you need to run takes longer and longer.
    • Gathering the status of each testing task and your project’s progression can only be done by going ”desk-to-desk” and asking the testers.
    • A tester mistakenly spends 6 hours running wrong tests in the wrong environment because of an incorrect excel sheet.
    • Testers routinely lose their work or test results because of saving/ overwriting or losing track of their excel sheets.
    • Most test activities are not being documented or accounted for because writing tests are considered a luxury.

    If one or more of these scenarios sound familiar, you are being held back in your testing efforts by Excel! Let us discuss how excel can be a roadblock instead of a useful tool for your testing:


    test visibilityWhen you have a couple of people working on a single excel sheet, it may be easy to share, communicate and discuss the changes. But what happens when your team grows? Getting visibility across multiple excel sheets becomes more and more difficult with each added member. Also as the project progresses with more tests being added, tracking and managing changes made by multiple people across many sheets becomes nearly impossible.

    Configuration Management

    test configurationWe often express the need to configure some sort of management system for the success of a software project. Versioning and change management is crucial for that. Just like we stress upon a good software configuration management tool for our source code created by developers, we must also acknowledge the need for a similar tool to manage and maintain our tests and related documentation. Excel does not give us sophisticated ways to manage changes, access rights and save the sanctity of each and every test, test data, and test result.

    Excel sheets can easily get lost, misplaced or overwritten. Sharing and creating new versions for each change being made is also a big challenge. This is why we need to use proper test management tools that have inbuilt features for all these needs.

    Test Planning and Execution

    test planningLet’s imagine a scenario where you have a couple of hundreds of test cases in excel for your project, spread across multiple sheets based on components and features. Now you have to plan your tests for the current sprint or iteration, which will have some new tests being written and regression of the previous test areas, including a few tests from all areas. To do this and compile tests to run in one place, you might need to either create a new excel, copying the needed tests from the parent excel or you may have to work with the same excel adding more columns with tags/filters and test execution results for the current sprint.

    None of these approaches are flexible, and sharing the information across to the entire team may also be difficult, with people frequently switching between the two excel spreadsheets or forgetting which tests are or are not included in the current sprint test plan.

    On the other hand, if we look at test case management tools, they make it easy to create test plans and assign tests to involved testers directly. So test execution starts smoothly with everyone clear on what they are assigned and their tasks visible to them at all times. Execution results are noted directly on the portal and hence there isn’t a possibility of running the wrong tests or losing the test results. Some of the tools available have even greater features and functionalities making sure you never work twice

    Test Status and Reporting

    test statusWhen working with Excel, it can get very challenging to create reports across multiple sheets and files. The test manager may constantly need to run around asking each tester their test execution status for daily updates and sometimes even hourly updates when getting close to the release. Also creating a test report for a sprint or a release is a task in itself since it requires collating information from across different excel spreadsheets, a number of tests run, tests passed vs failed, defect ids, tests blocked due to various reasons etc. Even working with fancy excel formulas or macros may not result in very sophisticated reports, and any further information asked or needed will mean going back to each excel and collating once again.

    Now imagine the same for generating a Requirement Traceability matrix with user stories, mapped to the relevant design documents and the created test case is further mapped to their defects and their resolution status. Creating such a matrix with coverage reports would seem impossible with excel and maintaining it would be a real nightmare.

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    Looking beyond Excel:

    A proper testing tool would have built-in capabilities targeting the tasks of test reports generation, compiling the test results and provide complete visibility and transparency to see the real-time test status whenever needed. They can also integrate with other relevant tools like defect management tools and task boards to provide an end-to-end traceability without additional effort.

    And for those who are worried about the migration effort needed, most test management tools like PractiTest allow easy uploads and transfer of existing tests from excel spreadsheets to the portals in a simple one-time effort. Once all existing tests are migrated on to the test management portal along with their test data, they can be grouped, moved and managed easily. This sets up the stage for an easier, smoother, more flexible and transparent test management for the entire team.

    So to sum it all up, there is no need to struggle with tasks that can be performed better with available and adaptable tools in the market. Don’t let excel hold you back in your testing. It’s time to start looking beyond excel and invest in a good test management tool to help you with your test efforts. This is not something to delay for tomorrow, or like one of our customers said:

    “PractiTest enables us to organize our tests and report bugs into one database, in a unified and pre-defined mode, providing us with much-needed order and enabling us to streamline our testing process. As a service provider working in complete transparency with our customers, we found the PractiTest dashboard and reporting mechanism a superior tool for providing our customers with a clear and precise view of development status. In this way, PractiTest helps us reach our goal of maximal customer satisfaction."
    (Hila Vax, QA Team leader, Symcotech)

    Article by Nishi Grover Garg. Nishi is a Testing and Agile corporate consultant and trainer with hands-on experience in all stages of soware testing life cycle since 2008. Together with Agile Testing Alliance(ATA), she conducts various courses, trainings and organises testing community events & meetups. She has been a speaker at numerous conferences. Check out more of her content at the PractiTest QA resource center.
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