Saturday, 28 March 2015

Excel - Best. Test. Management. Tool. Ever.

OK, I may be talking that one up, Excel is not the “best test management tool ever”, but I bet you either of the following ring true:
  •          It’s as used a most of the big name test management tools
  •          It’s what gets rolled out when there is no tool in place
  •          You just did some test/testing management stuff with it recently
There are a number of good quality, free and low cost test management tools out there, but even with that we’ll end up using whatever;
  •          The customer already has in place, paid/free/other
  •          Is easiest for the test team and stakeholder community to work with
I’ll bet you again that where a tool isn’t in place that, whatever-test-management-tool-is-easiest-to-work-with, is Excel.

Given this, we need to make sure we’re up to speed on how to make useful Excel documents that can provide, capture and report testing information and status.

Let me emphasise this again, you ARE going to use Excel extensively in your testing career – so invest some time learning it! Now, this may use may not be so prevalent in a more agilistic environment, but don’t bank it. Just because “we’re agile here” doesn’t mean the definition of what tests will be run and what the outcome was suddenly goes away.

Use it for what?
What might we used Excel for?

  • Test Cases – defining them and capturing test run information
  •  Coverage Matrix – defining system coverage by test cases and tracking status of coverage
  • Test Status Tracker – a dashboard of status for test preparation and execution
  • Status Dashboard – analyse data, conditions, status, etc. and present a view to the world
  • Burn Down Dashboard – Number of test cases over time against actual? Excel will map this too
The above might be separate Excel workbooks or combined, they might be cross linked or standalone. You decide what’s best.

As always, there’s no hard and fast rule of what you’ll need to use or how you’ll use it. Take the templates and ideas as just that, then build them out to meet the specific needs of your software testing project.

But why EXCEL?
Most of what we deal with is the presentation, capturing and representation of data with some guidance narrative text. That its best in Excel. Sure, you could have Test Cases in Word for example. But how are you going to analyse the numbers and conditions of the data sets? How will you create pretty charts and dashboards?

Just stick with Excel and use other tools for the management extracts you might be called on to provide for the senior levels in the business.

Using Excel is not without issues. The biggest problem is you’ll most likely en up emailing the document around. Uh oh… filling everyone’s email box up and worst of all - version control nightmare. My advice is don’t do it. Stick it on a shared drive or better still use some extra tool like SharePoint, assuming the client has this and they’re a Microsoft house. You can at least check-out the document then so people know you’re editing it.

Middle ground is have the document on a shared network drive and use the ‘Share Workbook’ feature. You might what to practice using this before doing so in anger.

Be VERY careful clicking that orange highlighted check box...

At worse, stick with an agreed document versioning method and sort out How You Do Documents™. Have a look at my paper on that very topic: A Documentation Model

Where to Get Excel
So, you’re sat here starry eyed at the thought of all the amazing Excel in your future, but what’s that, you don’t have access to a copy?! I would be stunned if this was the case these days. Apple computers haven’t taken over like Windows and office is usually there somewhere on a Windows machine.

If not… then hit or possibly and sign up for an account. With that you’ll have online access to the office suite and email.

If you need a personal install, go grab a copy from Amazon, using my affiliate link of course (you get extra karma points for that).

Be sure to have a look over the site and review the various Excel templates available there:

Have fun!


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