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Test maintenance is a chore. Like laundry or house cleaning, it’s a task most don’t want to perform. However, chores are often critical for our well-being. Test maintenance is a critical step in the QA testing process. Make sure you’re getting the best value from testing by performing continuous test maintenance.

Test maintenance is far from glamorous. If software testing includes any glamour and excitement, it’s not achieved by performing test maintenance. The fact is test maintenance is critical to keep testing valid and executable. Automated test scripts require ongoing maintenance anytime the application functionality changes.

Test maintenance is also necessary for manual test cases. No one wants to assign test cases that are inaccurate or confusing. Test cases and scripts reach maximum potential when they are well maintained. Performing ongoing test maintenance increases the speed and effectiveness of testing and reduces chaos. Add business value to the testing team with accurate and timely test maintenance management.

This guide discusses the importance of routine test maintenance, best practices and ways to leverage maintenance to add to testing’s business value.

What is Test Maintenance?

Test maintenance is the process of editing test cases and scripts, so they reflect the current functionality of an application. Applications get new features, bug fixes and edits made daily. Agile teams can look at the task board and understand all the test maintenance that needs done for each code change. Consider most user stories or feature changes also involve updating the related test cases.

Test maintenance is like doing laundry and cleaning your house. Cleanliness improves the look, feel and health of your home. Few people love doing laundry and house cleaning, and that’s why both are referred to as chores. Software test maintenance is the laundry of the QA testing process. Incredibly essential but boringly mundane.

Why is Test Maintenance Necessary?

Performing test maintenance is necessary because it improves software quality and increases testing efficiency. For example, imagine a regression test suite containing 1,000 manual and 3,000 automated test scripts. Let’s say 50 or 60 of those test scripts are not updated to reflect the current functionality of the application. When regression testing is executed, be it internally or handed off to a test service or offshore team, chaos will ensue when test cases are invalid.

Test case maintenance prevents:

  • Chaos and confusion
  • Back-and-forth communication on proper testing steps
  • Unnecessary automation failures and failure analysis
  • Test execution delays
  • Invalid defect reports
  • QA tester frustration

By not performing ongoing test maintenance, you are setting the test team up to fail. Invalid or incorrect test steps cause confusion and extensive communication and follow-up. Unmaintained tests simply waste enormous amounts of time and work effort. Invalid tests may also enable defects to go undetected during testing.

All automated test failures require failure analysis. Failures in the test scripts must then be fixed and the tests re-executed. At the same time, testers are entering defect reports that are not valid. Invalid defect reports are then reviewed by product managers and developers and are more than likely closed. More time wasted.

Tester chaos is no joke. Chaos causes confusion about how the application functions and the recurring need to consult documentation, development or product management. Team collaboration is great, but not for clarifying application functionality among the QA testing team because the test cases are not updated. Testers get frustrated as does the rest of the development team.

Effective test case management includes continuous test maintenance. Improving software application quality relies on the accuracy of the tests being executed. Tests represent business value. It’s important to the success of an application and a development team that tests are developed and maintained to hold their business value.

What are Best Practices for Managing Test Maintenance?

Here are some best practices to manage test maintenance:

  • Create well-designed test scripts to add to the testing team’s value.
  • Use test management tools that enable easy accessibility to develop and update test cases.
  • Use a standard template for automated test scripts and manual test cases.
  • Create reusable tests that enable quick and simple editing.
  • Practice ongoing test maintenance.

Creating higher-quality test cases means you may have fewer tests, but the higher-quality tests will identify more defects and provide greater value over time. In automated test development, create scripts that contain specific and accurate verification points. The same applies to manual test development. Ensure verification points are included and are both specific and clear.

Using test management tools makes editing, organizing and executing tests simpler. Easy-to-access and well-organized test suites mean testers can find tests to reuse rather than creating duplicate tests. Reusable tests save time. With reusable tests, testers spend time maintaining or updating tests instead of starting new tests from scratch. The key to test reusability is being able to find and edit the correct test.

Don’t create extra work for the test team by making test maintenance a separate work effort. Have testers perform ongoing test case maintenance during the development cycle. For every new user story or requirement that changes the application display or functionality, there’s likely a test, or 20, that needs updating.

If you share tests with external testers, consider allowing them to update test cases as needed. Make sure external test teams are familiar with your team’s test case standards, if any exist. Also, assign either a senior QA or a new QA learning the ropes to review the test after editing. Keeping the value of existing tests is important to maintaining a consistent and credible test execution experience.

Another option to get testers excited about test maintenance is incentivizing outcomes. For example, one way is to add test case maintenance as a line item in your performance reviews. Or make a game or challenge out of it. For every test case updated, give testers a point toward prizes, gift cards or other rewards. Eventually, the team will be excited about having to do the chore of test maintenance.

Can Test Automation Tools Help?

Depends. Modern test automation tools that leverage AI and ML to self-heal broken test scripts can help keep automated scripts updated automatically. A word of caution: Be sure a knowledgeable QA reviews the changes for accuracy and validity. It’s not enough the tests pass during execution—they need to identify all possible defects. Anyone can simplify an automated test script so that it executes. It’s making valid and credible tests that can identify defects that is actually valuable to the team and the business.

Managing test maintenance is critical for QA testing speed and effectiveness. Proper test maintenance reduces waste in the QA and software development process. Well-maintained tests also contribute to higher quality and accurate defect reports. The better the defect report, the more complete the code fix.

The problem with test maintenance is it’s viewed as a chore. Editing and updating test cases and scripts is not exciting or glamorous, but it is necessary for a QA team to operate at peak performance. Find creative ways to get your QA team interested in ensuring test cases and scripts are always up to date with application changes.

Do you need a solid, quality codeless test automation tool for your development and QA teams? Create effective and efficient codeless test automation using Test Studio. Test Studio leverages AI and ML technology to automate tests, identify defects and automatically maintain test scripts. Keep your development teams and testers productive with Test Studio.

About the Author

Amy Reichert

A QA test professional with 23+ years of QA testing experience within a variety of software development teams, Amy Reichert has extensive experience in QA process development & planning, team leadership/management, and QA project management.  She has worked on multiple types of software development methodologies including waterfall, agile, scrum, kanban and customized combinations. Amy enjoys continuing to improve her software testing craft by researching and writing on a variety of related topics. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, cat management and the outdoors.


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