Key Factors for successfully managing test environments
Testing teams today are challenged with unstable, fragmented environments due to fast changing business needs, and the majority of testers’ time is wasted on fixing environmental issues. In order to provide the necessary glitch-free, standardised test environments organisations must invest in dedicated Test Environment Management (TEM). This will result in test environments up and running 24x7 and also ensure the testing team only does testing.
Test Environment Management (TEM) is the process of controlling, steering and managing test environments within the IT space. Services of TEM include release management, service level management, incident management, knowledge management, environment registration and booking.
Today, ineffective management of test environment services coupled with a lack of ownership is leading to a multitude of issues faced by organisations.
On time test environment readiness and around the clock availability are the key challenges faced by organisations today.
The test environment needs to be stable, so that testing can be conducted effectively, otherwise the quality of solutions will be negatively affected, leading to monetary loss and lack of customer satisfaction. A successful test environment should be agile, catering on demand to the needs of testers to ensure they can take effective products to market quickly, without compromising on quality.
Without adequate ownership of the test environment, and without Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in place, the chances of software problems going unidentified increases. When these bugs make it into the hands of customers, resolution of incidents becomes a major challenge. In addition, if effective processes are not put into place to separate the various levels of testing, inconsistencies and instability may creep into testing. The end result of these challenges is that assets, including hardware and resources, are not optimally utilised, affecting time to market and increasing expenditure.
Ways to optimise the test environment:
► Resource Management: Efficient resource management is essential to a successful test environment. This requires complete ownership, and the establishment of a dedicated TEM team at the enterprise level. The team will serve as the single point of contact for all test environment related activities and will be held accountable for the TEM function.
► Knowledge management: The TEM team should develop and maintain a library for all TEM activities, including test environment solution documents, schedules, test environment plans, status reports, recovery procedures, incident management and others as defined by governance and audit requirements.
► Strategic planning: Defining a test environment strategy that is aligned with enterprise test strategy, IT infrastructure strategy and software release patterns improves the viability of the test environment. It is advisable to build and manage an end-to-end test environment, rather than testing applications in fragmented environments. The test environment lifecycle and scope also must be defined. At a high level, TEM consists of four activities: design; build; manage; and refresh and reuse. Each activity plays a critical role in ensuring the availability of the right test environment at the right time.
► Process Optimisation: Process optimisation and standardisation help to improve efficiency. It is essential to define, implement and adhere to best practices in the test environment, replicating best practices from production environments and measuring the performance of the TEM service by using metrics and enforcing SLAs for continuous improvements and better accountability.
Automating test environment activities is the final stage in ensuring effective TEM. Many activities in the test environment lifecycle can be automated, and proven tools are available for auto provisioning, auto deployments and test data management. By automating the provisioning process in the cloud, organisations can easily fulfil ad-hoc environment requests and ensure test environment availability with reduced cost and effort. It is also possible to automate day-to-day activities such as test environment booking, incident management, asset management, knowledge base management and service request fulfilment. Furthermore, automation of design, build, manage and refresh test environments is key to helping organisations manage the test environments effectively.
In conclusion, there are many challenges faced by organisations with regard to the test environment. Given the importance of software in today’s organisation, it is essential for organisations to establish best in class test environment management practices at an enterprise level. Implementing resource management, strategic planning, process optimisation and automation will help organisations to improve cost effectiveness of solution deployments, while enhancing quality and customer satisfaction. Investing into dedicated test environment management will realise long-term benefits to the overall IT environment and the organisation as a whole.