Featured

PractiTest – Test, Requirements and Issue management in your own custom way

I am very pleased with the methodological change taking place in recent times where we are paying more attention to the requirement management activities and ensure their traceability throughout the testing process.   How can we achieve this?  A big part of this is due to the tools (old and new) available in the market that make this effort possible and valuable to the whole product team. Been this the case, I hope my reviews will help you choose the right tool for your needs and your organization.

What are we reviewing today?

PractiTest, a web application hosted solution to manage your tests, requirements and issues; enhanced with very powerful customization capabilities.
 
We should expect two things of this type of applications:
  • Very high usability
  • Customization options in order to be adapted to your needs
Since I already reviewed a number of applications of this type, instead of beginning by describing the requirements functionality, I will focus on the things that make PractiTest stand-out among the others, focusing on the features that play a considerable role in the correct software development process.
 
Product Overview
PractiTest is divided into five main functional tabs:
  • Dashboard
  • Requirements
  • Test  library
  • Test sets & runs
  • Issues
In addition to these, it also has a comprehensive settings section, as well as a Report Center where users can generate and store their customized reports.
 
Does all this looks typical?
 
At first-glance the answer may be ”Yes”, but at a closer look the system has a number of intelligent and interesting features that we will explain below.
 
The first striking feature we found is the “Follow” flag.  We know it from Twitter and Linkedin, and here it serves more or less the same function. Being a follower of the object (bug, test, etc), we get notified via email of any changes done to it.
Batch edit is the next cool feature, rarely seen and highly useful, it allows users to select large numbers of requirements, tests and issues and modify them in one go,  speeding up the editing process when making changes or adding new fields to your existing forms.
 
A feature not available on any other system but standard in PractiTest is the “Hierarchical Views Tree” that allows you to catalogue, organize and navigate between your entities.  We will explain more about this feature later, but the fact that the tree can be hidden or displayed helps to provide more or less space to see the data of the tests, requirements and issues in the system.
 
Forms and Fields customization is another PractiTest strong side. If you want a methodological head start PractiTest comes with a number of default system fields that will fit most organizations.  Still many time you need more advanced customizations, and for this you can also add an unlimited number of custom fields with many useful types such as lists, linked lists, checkboxes, memo fields, etc.
 
The application allows to quickly and easily add fields to any entity, make them mandatory or even give them default values; additionally you can customize the look of your forms to make them more appropriate to your process.  Adding these fields to your entities, enable you to organize the information in your projects the way you want with the Hierarchical Custom Views.
 
Hierarchical custom views – the smart way to organize your information
Here resides a big part of the power of PractiTest, improving on the limitations of many of the other solutions.  We have all gone through the experience of needing to organize our tests or bugs, and been frustrated by the how folders don’t give us the flexibility and control we need to make sense of all the information in our projects.
 
Sometimes different users want to organize tests in different ways, other times we run into problems when tests may need to be displayed under two different folders or places in our test tree, or when we want to organize our tests both by the type of coverage they provide (e.g. regression vs. sanity) but also based on what module or feature they are covering.
 
Traditional systems rely on folders to organize the information, but they provide only one rigid way of organizing information (once you have a structure you need to live with it), and what’s more you can sometimes make mistakes and place one test under the wrong folder only to never find it again.  This headache will be increase as the size of your project grows or as you need to manage multiple (related) projects on the same system.
 
On top of that, when we need to generate reports or graphs for our managements, we start feeling a sense of loss that comes from knowing all the information is there, but it will be incredibly hard and time consuming to display it correctly.  And only in the best of cases, we may employ a programmer to pull data from the database using SQL or some other magical way.
 
PractiTest’s Custom Views provide  one of the best tools to organize your project’s information. Taking advantage of the metadata (the fields describing your requirements, tests and issues/bugs) that you already have as part of our process, you are able to organize information by easily creating multiple levels of filters in a more flexible way. When working with the views (instead of folders) you can even display the same tests as part of multiple trees in parallel (e.g. once by Test component and Feature, and once by Test Level and depth) without duplicating tests or working with flat searches or views.
 
What about using it in Agile/Scrum projects?  We think that with views and their hierarchy you can organize your requirements and Issues based on Sprints and User-Stories, allowing teams to manage their backlogs, tasks and all their additional artifacts in a single place.
 
 
As part of their usability approach, when creating a view we can define not only the filter, but also the fields you want to display in the table of grid of your tests, issues or requirements.  Using the mouse, it is really simple to create even the most complex filters and formulas using AND & OR queries.  Their approach is so simple that it makes us wonder why haven’t other companies implemented it?
 
Dashboards – because one picture tells a thousand words
Anyone using iGoogle will understand this feature right away and understand exactly what I’m talking about next.
We humans use our sight as our main cognitive channel.  This is why we prefer to see information as a (pretty) picture instead of reading sentences or paragraphs filled with data; and it is even better if we have the liberty to design these graphs and tables ourselves.
 
In PractiTest users can define their own dashboard or set of dashboards with the help of graphical objects called items or portlets.   These portlets include elements such as pie or bar charts, distribution tables and even tables listing the latest items modified in the system.
 
A feature that adds strength and interactions to the dashboards is the drill-down mechanism incorporated into every chart; just click on a section of the graph and you will be taken to the specific data been displayed. For example if you see a pie chart with the open bugs on the system, you can press on the area showing the rejected issues to go over them and modify their status if needed.
 
Of course, the dashboard allows you to reuse the views (and filters) you created previously, letting you display exactly the information that you expected and making sure it is always up-to-date and relevant.  This feature is simply easy, functional, valuable, and allows to quickly expand our reporting capabilities.
 
 
Test definitions
The screen for creating and editing tests in PractiTest is both simple and impressive, with many interesting and out-of-the-ordinary features.
Besides the General tab, where you can store the meta-data for the tests, we have:
 
Steps
A standard feature in many systems, where you list the steps to run as part of the test.
In this area the system could provide a little more transparency and feedback to the user, for example, it is difficult to differentiate between one step and the next one in line.  Additionally, removing a step does not pop a confirmation message to the user, something that can cause some frustration.   Still, everything in this tab works correctly, you can move between the steps easily.
 
Instances
Given that each test can (and maybe should!) be performed many times in different stages of the project, this tab will allow us to see each test instance and it’s execution status, as well as any bugs reported from it.  This is an easy and effective way to see the history of the test and get more information about it and it’s value for the testing process.
 
Traceability
This is a “natural consequence” of working in an organized matter with requirements, bugs and tests. In this tab we can learn a lot  about the dependencies of the Application Under Test, and the places where particular care should be taken with the quality.
 
Comments
The comment log is the place where the correspondence or the explanations regarding changes or reviews to your tests should be stored.  By having them in the body of the test, instead of via emails for example, you are able to keep track of the changes and the reasons behind them.
 
History
The history tab allows users to understand what changes where made throughout the life of the tests and by what person in the team.
 
Attachments
It is interesting that in addition to files that you can physically upload to the server, you can also add links to files, articles, etc.  The only thing we would wish for is the ability to add multiple attachments at a time.
 
 
Summary
Once again, as we get exposed to new ideas and approaches (from trying out new applications) I always find there is something interesting that can be taken and implemented in order to improve my own testing process.
 
An additional plus for PractiTest is that it is easy to integrate with systems like JIRA, Bugzilla and it provides csv import and export features.
 
What can be improved in Practitest? Some issues related to usability like some tooltips missing in part of the screens that would help users make better use of the system.
 
I must admit that PractiTest surprised me positively with some smart solutions to everyday problems, and the application has a bright future as long it keeps with providing more such new ideas.
 
Finally, after talking to the guys at PractiTest, they have offered to provide an additional 10% (on top of their existing discounts) for the first year of usage to all new customers to subscribe until the end of October who mention during their subscription that they heard about PractiTest from this review in tools & trial.
 
You can always check their demo, or subscribe for a 30-day free evaluation of their product.
 
Links
Practitest Home
 
 

Discussion

One comment for “PractiTest – Test, Requirements and Issue management in your own custom way”

  1. Very nice post. This is very interesting to see some post on Test, Requirements and Issue management. I would to know what other QA Testing engineers think about this.

    Posted by Lisa Davidson | September 5, 2011, 10:45 am

Post a comment