I recently had lunch with a friend who isn’t directly connected with the test management world but who knows a great deal about both business and IT. He kept pressing me on how our own software testing management tools could continue to compete with open source alternatives.
“Just look at the Encyclopedia Britannica compared to Wikipedia. And how often do you use Firefox over IE these days?” he asked.
My good friend pulled out his iPad and showed me a few open source testing solutions. I was familiar with most of them, of course. They’re direct competitors. But I noticed something very peculiar about the majority of those software test management tools that offered comparable benefits to our own suite.
They had nice designs, interesting features, and sometimes (very occasionally), a user-friendly interface. And of course, these solutions were all free.
What I noticed, however, was the relative lack of updates. One popular software testing management tool, in particular, had only one major improvement in the past 12 months.
Honestly, how can any software testing platform be considered “active” with such infrequent updates? It’s simply not possible.
Software Testing Management Tools Are Alive Because…
Software is a living breathing entity. It must constantly evolve, and thus, the tools used to design it must also continuously evolve.
This much is true if you’re the only software testing competitor on the block and you service a target market whose tastes never waver, because:
- hardware compatibility requirements change over time
- 3rd party software requirements constantly evolve
- new testing methodologies and techniques emerge
- processing speeds constantly go up
But this need for constant improvements is especially true in a world of seemingly infinite competition and forever-changing consumer tastes. Even if you had a super stable platform to begin with, it would become obsolete quite quickly because your users would demand more, better, and faster. That’s simply the nature of the beast.
Open Source Software Test Management Missing a Huge Opportunity
This is what surprised me so much when I took a closer look at some of our open source competitors (and closed source competitors for that matter).
You see – open source often benefits from endless updates and add-ons from a massive universe of very determined contributors. I feel that Testuff has one of the best programming teams on the planet (I’m biased obviously), but there’s no way that a handful of guys could compete with a global network of programmers.
However, in the absence of such a community, open source software testing management tools lose their primary competitive advantage – i.e. the ability to quickly fill gaps at minimal cost and with limitless input.
They also fail to leverage their greatest single resource – constant user feedback. How else will you know what market gaps to fill if you don’t have people out there helping you to identify new problems and opportunities?
In other words, being “open” doesn’t automatically confer greatness to a project. One must cultivate a community of dedicated users and contributors in order to compete.
And at Testuff, we’ve done exactly that, despite being a commercial business. We actively engage a community we’ve built up over the years. Their feedback is invaluable, and it allows us to release monthly updates, with mega updates spread sporadically throughout the year. If we had the resources, we’d adopt an even stricter schedule, but like I said, we’re a relatively small outfit.
Which Software Testing Management Tools Will Be Around Tomorrow?
When we first launched Testuff, like any new business owner, I surveyed the competitive landscape to see what we were up against. Things like features, market capitalization, and client lists definitely kept me awake at night. I took these as a pretty good indication of how any given software testing management tool would perform in the years to come.
However, when I do such surveys these days, my criteria are very different. We have thousands of clients spread across the globe. And on features, I know that we can always compete – our users are way too vocal and involved for us to do otherwise.
One of the most important things I look at is a software test management tool’s version history – i.e. how significant and regular are the updates. Such improvements are no longer a competitive advantage… they have become a business necessity.
And so while I’m understandably respectful of the potential dangers that open source poses to our unique SaaS business model, I’m more concerned with any competitor (open or closed) that manages to build a formidable community and release software testing updates better than we can.