Within the software testing world, there exist a range of different tools, such as automation tools, bug tracking, test management and others. While it is possible to select each tool ‘a la carte’, some of the major releases come as all-or-nothing application lifecycle management (ALM) suites that combine all the potential features into one convenient package.

There are many advantages to the ALM approach. When delivering a complete product, ALM suites could have been be ideal, theoretically, since they combine project management, software development, and test management into one system, allowing for better integration between the different parts. Administration also tends to be easier, as are information sharing and overall project development. However, there are also drawbacks to the all-or-nothing approach. Imagine carrying a Swiss Army Knife with you at all times when all you ever really need is the toothpick. Many users don’t need all the extra bells and whistles, and they remain reluctant to pay for them. Such items not only carry higher costs at the time of purchase, but they can also consume more hours in the form of training, installing, and troubleshooting.

Whether to opt for the “total package” solution or the “a la carte” solution is ultimately up to the user. While we do offer integration with a range of automation tools, our focus is on test management, bug tracking, and how best to combine the two. We adopt this focus for a number of reasons, chief of which is the feedback we’ve regularly received from our target market – software testers who don’t typically need the added features that come with standard ALM suites.

Having settled on test management and bug tracking, there still exist a range of options when selecting tools – should you buy prepackage solutions (and limit expandability) or should you go a la carte (and face potential interoperability issues)?

Again, there are no easy answers to this since each user’s needs are slightly different. Our approach is to offer a pre-packaged solution that works seamlessly with whatever components a user may want to add further down the line. Even still, we initially faced a chicken-and-egg dilemma when deciding in which area to begin our focus – the bug tracking or the test management.

Ultimately we chose to concentrate on bug tracking first, building our test management suite around it from the ground up. The rationale behind this was simple – we discovered that for the average company, adding “test management” solutions was typically Stage 2 of a product’s evolution. While designing and testing new software, developers usually add the bug tracker component prior to handing the package over to those in charge of test management.

This of course makes perfect sense. To accurately test a product, you must have solid infrastructure for finding, tracking, and duplicating errors. Companies that fail to understand this usually find out the hard way that optimal testing is next to impossible if they don’t have the proper support tools and methodology in place before running their first trials. Because developers come first sequentially in a product’s release, we designed our own suite to reflect this tradition.

Another danger that many companies face is having great support tools (i.e. bug tracking) that don’t mesh well with test management tools further along the chain. Interoperability can be a major issue, forcing some testers to abandon and replace many of the tools originally recommended by developers. This can create redundancies (at best) and non-functioning components (at worst).

In serving the ultimate end-user, neither result is ideal, and so we’ve designed our own suite to be as flexible as possible by keeping integration as simple as possible. We’ve accomplished this by limiting our own internal bugging functionality and ensuring optimal integration with as many bug trackers as our technology allows. Currently, our suite integrates with as many as 20 different commercially available bug trackers, with more slated for future releases. Our attitude regarding this is simple – there are countless bug trackers out there, each serving very different needs. Rather than compete with all of them at once, we’ve opted to work with each one individually instead. In this way, users never have to abandon whatever bug tracking preferences they’ve already made prior to using our products.

That being said, we have noticed a trend in recent years as clients increasingly request more comprehensive solutions to the limited bug tracking that currently comes preinstalled in our test management suites. In effect, they want the convenience that prepackaged, all-in-one ALM solutions offer and the flexibility and variability that a la carte solutions typically bring.

This is a unique challenge since the two approaches have historically been mutually exclusive. However, as technology continues to evolve, we constantly discover new ways of fusing the benefits of both the menu approach and the a la carte mentality. While keeping integration and expandability central to our core design, we plan to offer more functional internal bug tracking pre-installed with our standalone products.

Our plan to expand internal bug tracking while enhancing the integration we already support is in line with our general philosophy regarding comprehensive test management. Even with monthly releases and regular feedback from customers, it is not possible for any test management company to perpetually remain ahead of the curve – user needs change faster than our own developers can constantly anticipate. Thus, we plan to weave both flexibility and expandability into our products to ensure that customers never need abandon their current environments or protocols as their requirements change over time. As with all Testuff products, our goal is to fit around our users’ current and future needs rather than forcing users to fit around ours.