Saturday, October 25, 2008

If tools are the answer for everything

Often managers are claiming they want to automate the testing process or the test execution.
Lately on seminars or conferences tool suppliers are showing their solution to all kind of answers.
Sometimes the testers are able to convince that using tools can only be fruitful when the process is in place.
Occasionally I wonder does the cost pays it benefits.

Are tools indeed the answer for everything?
When I started working in the software testing business, there were only a handful of test tools available. In certain situations the actually worked. In most cases they became shelf-ware.

If you start searching for tools to support software testing now, then you need more hands to count them. This raises a question to me: Is there no tool which can help us out? Normally I would say: it depends. In this case I'm more tending to the statement: If there are so many tools available, then there is possible a market for it. And if there is a market for it, it has to be based on the principle that "My tool is better then yours". Only other tool supplier would tell the same about you own tool. Based on the number, the chance you find a tool fits your needs is minimized. As by the number the chance on distraction will increase. This distraction might result in a wrong tool selection; which results in creating shelf-ware. Or results in uncontrolled tool implementation.

There is no way back
Perhaps I already mentioned this statement before, only I keep asking this question to myself every time the issue for automation is asked. A former teacher told me that "once you start automating there is no way back."

If you select a tool and start using it; you should have defined a plan for it about the ROI's. If you managed to embed the tool successful in you organization for that moment. You get limited in your flexibility to improve your processes as they have to fit in your tool choises.
Because of this, the used tools might withholding you to improve further.

An option for the future?
What I would like to see is that tools become more flexible. perhaps more SAAS-likely.
Give the organization the option to choose for:
- which UI to use
- which functions to use
- make the application able to use every function you need.

Possible benefits
As organization don't have the need for all functions in current test tools, the tools can be cheaper. The customer pays only for those functions he actual need. Also the need for functions can be incorporated in a improvement plan. this helps also to plan the ROI over the years. more important, the customer can decide what the life-time is for those certain functions and if the process of testing is changing, they are able to use the same tools with different functions.

Perhaps tool vendors should answer the question how they are able to support benefits in the future instead the current need. How they are working on supporting an organization not only to use their tools; also other solutions. As Tools should give an answer to a need and support an organization with obtaining their goals, not only the current processes.

Now: Tool Vendors: Support us with tools able to give us the ability to choose for functionality whether it is your functionality or others to make us succesful using our solution.

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