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The implications of using legacy testing tools

It can be tough for QA teams to secure a decent slice of the IT budget, where rapidly increasing expectations are often checked by flat or shrinking funding. But significant changes to software development practices, user demands and failure risks require an updated approach to QA. Now, virtually every company is in the customer-facing software business — and delivering quality is critical to business success.

Disruptions are driving new testing requirements, but teams can’t deliver continuous improvement to results, speed and scale without corresponding changes to the testing infrastructure. People, process or technology — something has to give. In a tight labor market, recruiting, training and retaining an expanded team of people may be tough. Optimizing testing tools and process offers an alternate path to competitive advantage and results.

Unfortunately, teams get stuck with legacy test management tools for many reasons. The business value of testing is often poorly understood. QA is often seen as a cost center that primarily delivers back-office benefits as opposed to being a critical enabler of customer value. And modernizing tools for other technology functions often comes first. Without a compelling ROI, demand for QA improvements is easily de-prioritized as a nice-to-have enhancement…maybe next year.

The cost of high-performance quality assurance may also be underestimated. QA may be seen as secondary to development efforts. It may be expected to conjure better, faster and cheaper results, with either existing legacy tools that don’t align to development methods, or with free add-ons that lack scalability and enterprise-grade features.

QA upgrades may feel less urgent than flashy new releases and fast response patches. Despite radical changes to development environments and customer expectations, obsolete testing tools may feel “good enough.”

The false “savings” of delaying technology upgrades make it tempting to postpone QA system investments. This is why legacy systems often overstay their welcome. Nobody argues that a free add-on or a 10-year-old test management tool will be faster or more effective than a modern, well-integrated system. There’s an imagined savings — perhaps purchase cost, training, or implementation. And when opportunity costs and the fear of mistakes are high, doing nothing may feel safer or easier than upending current processes to move to a new system. Unfortunately, saddling testers with obsolete and inefficient QA tools yields testing that is not effective, fast or efficient. Test management tools on life-support don’t scale, and they can waste time that would be better spent on actual quality testing and delivery.

There are no savings in keeping a waterfall-centric system that is not aligned with agile test cadences, requirements and planning tools. Nor are there savings with an all-of-the-above approach that tries to outrun obsolescence with a patchwork of single-purpose, single-platform test apps. These one-trick ponies may look lean and nimble, but without a way to keep track of them all, they can quickly become an unruly and unmanageable herd.

Short-term cost avoidance leads to a painful, persistent hangover for quality processes and deliverables. Postponing essential, inevitable investment needs just hobbles development — and by extension, the entire business — with excess delay, work and cost.

Testing should be effective, efficient and aligned with development. A testing strategy that is integrated with development enables faster time to market and results in higher quality. Forgoing a needed replacement reflects a mistaken assumption that doing so is cheaper and easier than starting fresh. Many would prefer the status quo of using their current toolset because they believe that a migration will be painful, or that it will slow them down.

But there’s a problem with that logic: The longer they wait, the more obsolete their current toolset becomes, and the further removed QA becomes from the rest of the software development lifecycle — which often means that testing continues to lag behind. And just because a test management tool came with the bundle doesn’t mean it’s the best solution; just because you already own something doesn’t mean it’s free. To strike the right balance, it’s important to recognize where QA delivers value, where it breaks down, and what it needs to succeed.

For years, IT primarily delivered applications to tolerant employee users. Failures were painful, but they were often siloed problems that didn’t impact critical data or customers. When software is a primary source of customer experience, QA is a critical defense that protects customers, brands and corporate strategies.

An effective testing process does not necessarily yield software that is bug-free, but it does find high-risk bugs early in the development process, when they are easiest to fix. Integrated workflows that enable testers to evaluate code as it is written can both mitigate risk and align stakeholders across teams to a single project goal. But legacy test management tools lack the necessary integrations to make that kind of collaboration a reality.

Integrated testing might mean the difference between a successful, on-time launch – or a catch-up release that’s days or even months late. Modern test management tools that integrate with agile planning, test automation and DevOps pipeline tools streamline workflows and simplify collaboration to help teams get better results, faster.

Quality assurance investments enable teams to test smarter, more seamlessly and at scale. These improvements also position testing to be a key enabler of business success, by facilitating critical outcomes such as faster time-to-market, better customer experience and reduced risk.

While there’s a cost for making an investment in testing, the cost of not making one is arguably greater. Deferring the transition to modern tools may offer a quick fix for this year’s budget, but these decisions are not made in a vacuum. How are competitors responding to their testing challenges? Are they making investments across the software delivery pipeline that might put you at a real disadvantage? Are testers prepared to evolve alongside accelerated development methodologies? Over the next 12 to 24 months, will the breadth, complexity or tempo of your development processes increase, decrease or stay the same? Is your current testing infrastructure strong enough to rely on, or might it fail you at a critical moment?

Once you’ve answered these critical questions, it will be easier to assess where your gaps and opportunities lie, and whether you’d be better off transitioning testing to agile processes and tools now, so they’re better prepared to meet future development and business requirements. The right solution exhibits four characteristics: it’s versatile, distributed, scalable and offers organization-wide visibility.

The right system exhibits four characteristics: it’s versatile, distributed, scalable and offers organization-wide visibility.

Versatile means it’s easy to use, consistent and easy to integrate with tools across the software delivery pipeline. A modern test management solution is also distributed, breaking down functional silos, allocating workloads and empowering testers across teams to collaborate and efficiently deliver superior results. It’s also scalable and able to accommodate a rapidly expanding test suite, so testing teams and processes can keep pace as development speed and complexity increase. Finally, a modern test management tool should have actionable analytics to streamline reporting and deliver insights that help you assess quality as a whole and optimize processes to make improvements over time.

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