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Why Excel and Word Are Not Your Best Options for Test Case Management Tools

by Thijs Kok, on July 14, 2020


Test case management tools come in a variety of sizes and shapes. However, despite the dynamic growth of next-generation testing tools available today, it may come as a surprise that many testers and project managers are still hanging on to outdated software suites, such as Microsoft Excel or even Word.

And although these “golden oldies” solutions still offer powerful advantages for creating a budget or crafting a strategic plan, using a word processor or spreadsheet in 2020 makes about as much sense as using an Atari game console to build a website!

Yes, it’s still possible to mount a successful test case management project with Excel or Word—but there are solid reasons to think about leaving this 20th Century option behind in, well, the 20th Century.

Too many cooks

(Note: Although it’s true some testers still use Word, we’re going to mostly discuss Excel because they offer similar functionality)

Many testers still love their Excel because of its familiarity and versatility when it comes to test case management. Users can craft a test script, include test cases and test steps, and share the document far and wide with all manner of human testers. However, sooner or later, an intrepid tester will—purposefully or accidentally—edit the spreadsheet in some small or significant way. Maybe it’s just a change in column size, formatting, or the addition of comments.

Before long, your pristine Excel test script has morphed into some kind of Frankenstein’s monster that barely resembles the originally intended doc—loads of time wasted with tester frustration through the roof.

Security first

According to a 2019 report from IBM and the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a data breach has risen to $3.92 million over the past year. As such, one of the top items on any test case management project checklist must be security.

Although Office software, such as Excel or Word, may offer a stronger level of security than in past versions, spreadsheets and document files can be susceptible to cyberattack. As Excel consultant Doug Tyrrell notes in a Spreadsheet Sentry article: “The encryption on Worksheet and Workbook structure passwords is extremely weak. Passwords can be cracked in minutes with free software. Even Microsoft acknowledges that worksheet and workbook protection is a 'display' feature and not a 'security' feature. Passwords will only stop the casual user and cannot be relied upon as a security feature in distributed applications.”

As a premium test case management solution, TestMonitor offers peak-level security. All communications with customers are encrypted with an RSA 2048-bit encryption (Thawte SSL). Each client receives a customized, secure domain name and database. TestMonitor executes encrypted backup every four hours and utilizes a third-party infrastructure certified ISO 9001, 27001, 14001, NEN 7510, and PCI DDS.

Beyond number crunching

Excel offers unparalleled mathematical power when it comes to all manner of calculations, statistics, and formulas. However, because Excel is not specifically designed to manage test cases, data files quickly run into limitations for project managers seeking actionable data analysis—especially when it comes to advanced reporting.

A quality test case management platform offers insights well beyond a “calculator on steroids”—real-time insights into testing status and progress. Actionable data analysis should empower your team to access integrated reports for requirements, risks, test runs, test results, and issues. Can Excel allow you to view traceability, progress, and coverage? Not to mention the review of issue reports per status, impact, category, priority, or organization.

Maintaining file integrity

The strength of an Excel or Word document’s flexibility can also quickly morph into a glaring weakness. Spreadsheets can be shared on SharePoint or OneDrive cloud drives, emailed, texted, or shared via thumb drives. And almost every PC or Mac in the modern workplace can open and edit an Office document (even via smartphones and video game consoles like Xbox). In a test case management world, co-locating various versions of files across network servers, local servers, or the hard drives of testers and team members can unravel into a nightmarish mess.

With TestMonitor, managers maintain a bird’s eye view of all test runs—past and present. The platform maintains progress of each test run and keeps track of all active and upcoming test runs in one location that can be accessed by appropriate team members. Managers can also see attachments from test results related to any issue, and they can upload attachments that were still missing by dragging and dropping them onto the issue. And communication stays in one location, with notifications each time a user makes a new comment.

Auditing: Aversion to versions

As already noted, Excel or Word documents eventually become scattered across several different versions (based on how many people might tweak the files). Archiving and tracking changes become nearly impossible in this kind of environment. TestMonitor enables QA Managers to maintain a clear overview of outstanding issues, status changes over time, and testing/retesting quality thanks to a super-powered, extensive audit trail. When tracking results per test case, managers can monitor results per test case over time, painting a vivid picture of test result improvement and stability (or decline).

Are you ready to leave Excel and Word to do what they are great at doing rather than what they can “sort of/kind of” do? Isn’t it time to leave the test case management to the proven industry leaders that were designed to get the job done?

Request a free trial of Test Monitor today, and bring your test case management tools into the 21st Century.

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