5 reasons why testing using Word and Excel really can’t be done anymore

By Lisa Stephenson, December 16, 2016

Excel is really useful, you can use it for all sorts. Need to make a list of actions? Quickly draw up a schedule? View financial data in a pivot chart? With Excel you can do this really quickly. If you need to make a formal letter or write a report, then Microsoft Word is your friend. Both of these programs can do just about anything, similar to a Swiss Army knife.But can you test software with Excel? Well that depends. Can you cut down a tree with a pocket knife? Eventually you will succeed. However we think that testing software with Excel or Word really can’t be done anymore. Here we list 5 reasons why.

1. Excel and Word can do everything, and anything goes with them.

Create a test script in Excel with test cases and a number of test steps and distribute this among your testers. All is going well until someone discovers that you can also add comments in a different column. All the formatting features seem to work too. This means that users have the freedom to manipulate all the cells. Before you know it your test script has become complete and utter chaos. This makes for a poor starting point for structured testing.

2. Excel is a computing genius, but it isn’t a strategist

Excel is not just a calculator but it has hundreds of functions for statistics, logic and text manipulation and much more. An analysis of your results is therefore made very simple. But what if you, as a test manager, want to know how the overall test process is going? Or if you want to know what the average resolution time is per supplier? Do you then link all your loose sheets in Excel together? What if you want to compare multiple years of results, is that possible? Excel is fine for a nice short term approach, but it isn’t a big data solution. That’s something Excel was never made for.

3. Is testing with Excel safe?

Have you ever wondered what test results give away? A screenshot of your primary system or a test phase in your work process for example? Test phases, test results and issues need to be protected, even if they have been made completely anonymous. It wouldn’t be the first time that software testing leads to a data leak. Securing this data in a Word document is not so easy. A password in an Office document is easily cracked. Encryption using Sharepoint or OneDrive is better, but is not the best solution because you can either access the document or you can’t. And after all this if you receive such a document, what’s stopping you from quickly sending it to yourself when no one is looking?

4. You always have Excel at hand, but are your test results and issues complete?

Before we had Office in the Cloud and portals for working from home all your documents were on the network drive of your organisation. Fortunately, that is not the case anymore. Yet it can be difficult to keep such documents in the right place. For example, a tester downloads the test script on their desktop because that’s a bit easier and quicker to open. A supplier writes you an e-mail about an issue because he can’t get to the Sharepoint location. Those print screens have been made but they are in a folder which hasn’t been shared with you. Information can quickly become fragmented and it’s difficult to keep track of all the different changes.

5. Auditing: every test result is safe and can be traced

Software acceptance testing is a tough job with a lot of responsibility for the accepting party. Has everything been tested? Is all the data correct and completed by the appropriate people? Was every issue dealt with properly? When it comes to tracking changes in Word documents, there are few options. “Track Changes” is convenient, but soon becomes cluttered. Maintaining a file archive is possible, but it will also soon become unmanageable: issues_20161201_final2.xls is now the latest version or was it a different document? Convincing an auditing party of data integrity and traceability is an impossible task using these methods.

A real shame?

Is testing with Word and Excel actually a real shame? No, because testing software is always better than doing nothing at all – “it’s the taking part that counts, not winning”.

A test phase can be made in 10 minutes, but you will lose out on time and make costs for the time needed to keep a grip on larger projects.

But therein lies our most import message as well as to why you should move away from these two all-rounders: a test phase can be made in 10 minutes, but you will lose out on time and make costs for the time needed to keep a grip on larger projects.

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