In the current IT world, there is a massive drive to adopt modern technologies to enhance the software development lifecycle mechanism, accelerate releases, accelerate Time to Value, and reduce time-to-market. Quality assurance is an essential part of the SDLC process, but unfortunately, according to recent research, companies tend to exhaust their IT budgets on inefficient routines rather than on innovation. Test environment management is one such area that is often overlooked or seen as a discretionary expense. While it’s one of the most significant factors that could contribute towards successful quality assurance measures. Software quality automation is widespread; however, in the majority of organisations, there is a gap in the process which can be enhanced by Test Environment Management (TEM).
One of the most common issues that remain unsolved, especially among distributed teams, is shared environment utilisation. Environment conflicts, complex interfaces, inadequate environment config details, and tracking of deployments/defects are a few other common challenges encountered in day-to-day delivery. These challenges introduce significant risks to the quality of projects and their timely delivery.
Test environment management can be that one-stop solution that could help timely project delivery alongside driving a quality outcome.
What is Test Environment Management?
If you have ever been engaged in the SDLC process, then you’ve probably dealt with test environments. When preparing for a software release, many concerns about test environments come forth, which are generally hidden.
You may have encountered or been part of conversations that include statements such as:
- “Please don’t deploy to staging; other projects are load testing on it,”
- “Can you refresh the test data so that the business team can regression test on it?”
- “It failed in live because we didn’t have the same version of the software in the test environment. Another program moved the production environment forward, and we didn’t know.”
These types of requests are often raised ad-hoc, and how those requests are processed through effective communication is nothing but test environment management. These communications comprise risk elements like tracking dependencies, scheduling data refreshes, building new testing environments, and dealing with conflicts between end users.
Test Environment Management (TEM) is a set of processes that helps organisations to speed up their software releases with active collaboration between all team members, capture environment demands, establish a simple and transparent environment utilisation, organise effective cooperation through planning and scheduling resources, and control their lifecycles.
It is an essential practice that helps streamline the software delivery process by providing validated, stable, and available test environments to delivery teams when they need them to execute test scenarios or reproduce incidents.
An effective and efficient test environment management process will help drive focus on the following key deliverables:
- Ensuring complete transparency of test environments, including software version history, deployment details, and availability of test environments. A clear understanding & control over your environment creates a path to optimise and innovate.
- Allocation of test environments across project teams, individual test engineers, and DevOps teams.
- Tracking of resource utilisation, defining simplified methods to acquire and release resources (environments).
- Organising simultaneous shared access to environments.
- On-demand creation of new test environments, upgrading or decommissioning existing outdated test environments to sustain the necessary resources.
- Continuous improvement, innovation, and automation to eliminate the amount of routine manual tasks and optimise infrastructure costs.
- Standardised environment usage by simplifying daily tasks and operations.
Why is Test Environment Management important?
Most organisations’ project / DevOps / Support teams typically need a number of test environments for each production application. Depending on the circumstances, this could be a single test environment or multiple environments with different purposes on a path to production.
Mostly IT architecture comprises distributed systems, various integrations, development, and testing across shared environments. All of these factors add additional complexity to managing projects, releases, and even achieving business goals.
With the rapid rise of Agile and DevOps culture, the necessity for regular and even more frequent software releases has spiked significantly, sometimes to the level of daily and hourly or on-demand. It is, therefore, important to have a TEM practice to manage this and assist in achieving desired outcomes.
A well-defined Test Environment Management practice helps answers the questions below:
- Is there a way to effectively manage & coordinate all scheduled releases?
- How to avoid utilisation conflicts between different teams (DevOps, QA & Release Management) when using a shared environment?
- Is the information regarding the availability of a shared environment up-to-date?
- Is it possible to reuse/re-purpose the same test environment again?
- How can you track all software package versions across all environments?
TEM enables companies to:
- Significantly increase team productivity. This is achieved by eliminating ad-hoc methods of communication & complicated tools interaction to help identify development and test environment availability. Also, by tracking resource usage, providing an easy mechanism to acquire and release resources, and organising simultaneous shared access with specially designed TEM tooling, such as Enov8 or Plutora. Any distributed team can easily access the schedule for shared environments, book use of the environment, and deal with a single point of contact for this.
- Accelerate software releases and time to market. When organisations comply with standardised and repeatable TEM processes, it will significantly help to speed up go-to-market time.
- Cut IT and Test Environment costs. Properly implemented Test Environment Management eliminates a number of elements that risk leading to overspending, helps to identify underutilised resources, and prevents the creation of extra test environments without real demand.
Test environment-related problems can have a huge impact on the success of project teams, as research has shown that they can consume almost a third of the project teams’ effort. Unfortunately, testers spend an average of one day per week identifying and resolving environmental issues, resulting in a 20% reduction in resource availability. Moreover, a third of environments are not adequately or efficiently utilised. These unnecessary costs have an adverse economic impact and contribute to unsustainable practices. It is essential to ensure test environment-related problems are properly managed so project teams can work effectively and maintain crucial “green” standards.
By appropriately employing good environment management processes, both the costs and time wasted as a result of these statistics and examples can be dramatically reduced.
Before and after view of TEM implementation:
What are your main frustrations with your test environments? By taking our Test Environment Survey you’ll get a personalised summary of how you measure up to best practices in your industry.
Article written by Rajiv Radha, TEM Senior Consultant, Experimentus