Test Environment Management What, Why, and Best Practices

Test Environment Management | What, Why, and Best Practices

Test environment management is an important process in software testing. It involves setting up and managing the necessary resources such as hardware resources, databases, user stores, operating systems, browsers, test data, and configurations for accurate and reliable testing. By doing this effectively, organizations can speed up testing, improve the quality of their software, and bring it to market faster. 

This article explores the basics of test environment management, including why it’s important, its goals, and the best practices to follow.

What is Test Environment Management?

Test Environment

A Test environment is a dedicated setup or infrastructure where software testing activities such as smoke test, regression test, new feature test, and issue verifications for bug fixes would take place. It is an isolated and well-managed environment created to replicate the production environment or specific conditions required for testing.

Test Environment Management is planning, setting up, maintaining, and controlling the test environments used for software testing. Ensuring accurate and trustworthy testing requires setting up and maintaining an appropriate environment such as a QA environment that closely resembles the production environment. By giving testers a reliable and constant environment, the main objective is to improve the efficiency of the testing process.

Why is Test Environment Management Important?

In software testing, having a well-managed test environment is crucial. Think of it as the foundation upon which your testing efforts stand. Let’s dive into why test environment management is so vital:

  1. Diverse Application Needs: Each production application has unique demands. Some require just one test environment, while others might need a multitude. Think about it – the variety is vast, from single instances to hundreds. Effective environment management ensures your testing landscape matches the application’s complexity.
  2. Tech Landscape Complexity: Modern IT architecture is a puzzle of distributed systems, intricate integrations, and shared environments. This complexity amplifies the challenges of project management and achieving business objectives.
  3. Agile Release Demands: Agile development has pushed the boundaries of software release frequency. Daily, hourly, on-demand – the pace is relentless. Efficient test environment management aligns these rapid releases, preventing chaos.
  4. Seamless Coordination: When numerous teams handle different aspects of the development lifecycle, coordination is vital. Test environment management bridges the gap, ensuring releases are well-orchestrated.
  5. Conflict Resolution: Shared environments often confuse DevOps, QA, and Release Managers. A robust management strategy minimizes utilization clashes and keeps everyone on the same page.
  6. Current Availability Information: Imagine knowing the exact availability status of a shared environment. Test environment management provides this clarity, streamlining resource allocation.
  7. Optimized Resource Reuse: Reusing the same test environment can save time and resources. Proper management facilitates efficient recycling, maximizing your investment.
  8. Version Tracking: Amidst the flurry of changes, tracking software package versions across environments becomes a puzzle. Test environment management offers the puzzle pieces, letting you know what’s where.

In a nutshell, test environment management isn’t just about managing spaces and resources. It’s about aligning your testing process with the intricate dance of modern development. It’s the difference between chaotic releases and smooth sailing toward your business goals. So, if you aim for testing success, don’t overlook the importance of a well-orchestrated test environment.

What are Test Environment Management Functions?

Test Environment Management (TEM) functions refer to the specific activities and responsibilities involved in managing test environments effectively. These functions typically include

TEM Functions
  • Transparency and Optimization: Complete transparency of test environments allows for optimization and innovation. 
  • Environment Allocation: Allocation of test environments across projects, teams, QA engineers, and tasks. This function involves effectively managing and assigning resources to ensure the availability of suitable environments for testing.
  • Resource Tracking and Management: Tracking resource usage, acquiring/releasing resources, and organizing shared access.
  • On-Demand Environment Creation and Maintenance: On-demand creation and maintenance of test environments to sustain resources.This function enables quick provisioning of environments. It includes necessary configurations and resources. It ensures the availability of required testing environments when needed.
  • Continuous Improvement and Automation: Continuous improvement, innovation, and automation to reduce manual tasks and optimize infrastructure costs.
  • Standardization of Environment Usage: Simplifying daily tasks and operations can help standardize environment usage. This function focuses on defining and implementing consistent processes, guidelines, and best practices for managing and utilizing test environments effectively.

Activities Under TEM Functions

Test environment management is pivotal in ensuring smooth and effective software testing. Let’s break down its key functions:

  1. Information Management: Maintain a central repository containing details of test environments, including their latest versions and connectivity information. This ensures everyone’s on the same page.
  2. Demand Management: Allocate test environments based on teams’ requirements. Think of it as booking or scheduling resources for different testing needs.
  3. Supply Management: When new testing environments are needed, create them promptly to match evolving demands.
  4. Monitoring: Keep a watchful eye on the test environments. This helps detect anomalies, potential issues, or bottlenecks early on.
  5. Housekeeping: Regularly update and clean up the repository by removing outdated or unnecessary test environments. This keeps the space organized and efficient.
  6. Incident Management: If issues arise in the environment, handle preliminary investigations and coordinate with relevant teams until a resolution is reached.
  7. Problem Management: Analyze data to identify patterns and trends in environment issues. Take proactive steps to address these issues and work towards long-term solutions.
  8. Test Data Management: Ensure test data is accessible and available when testers need it. This could involve using a Test Data Management (TDM) tool or refreshing test data from other environments.
  9. Status Accounting: Report on service, usage, and availability metrics, offering transparency into how test environment management performs.
  10. Continuous Improvement: Regularly evaluate the services provided in test environment management. Look for areas to enhance, whether through refining processes, tools, or the people involved.
  11. Automation: Minimize manual tasks by introducing automation wherever possible. This boosts efficiency, reduces errors, and frees up valuable time.

In essence, test environment management is the backbone that keeps your testing efforts efficient, organized, and adaptable. By effectively managing these functions, you ensure your testing environment is conducive to successful software development and delivery.

Test Environment Management and Test Automation

Test automation involves using specialized software tools and frameworks to automate the execution of test cases. It helps in automatically executing tests, maintaining test data, and using outcomes to increase the quality of software. Although it is essentially a quality control measure, the complete software development team is required to participate in its activities. 

How can Testsigma Help?

Testsigma is a test automation platform that can greatly assist in test environment management. With Testsigma, users have the ability to add and configure test environments according to their specific requirements. Once test environments are added to Testsigma, users can easily associate their tests with the desired environments, ensuring that tests are executed in the appropriate environments. By configuring tests to be run on specific test environments, users can ensure that the software is thoroughly tested in various scenarios and conditions.

In addition to test environment management, Testsigma offers a wide range of features to enhance test automation. Users can create and design automated tests using a codeless, easy to use interface, reducing the need for extensive programming knowledge. The platform supports a variety of testing types, allowing users to cover different aspects of their software’s quality.

Testsigma also provides collaborative features, allowing teams to work together on test creation, execution, and analysis. Testsigma comes with all the necessary resources, such as real browsers and devices, for accurate testing. 

Additionally, our expert support is always ready to assist you whenever you need it. 

Benefits of Test Environment Management

Let’s see why environment management is necessary. Here are some benefits of TEM

  • Reproducibility and scalability

Ensures consistency and reproducibility, allowing organizations to scale their testing efforts efficiently. This means that test cases can be executed repeatedly in the same environment, producing consistent results. 

By maintaining the integrity of the test environment, TEM enables testers to identify and reproduce defects accurately.

As the scope and complexity of testing increase, organizations may need to expand their testing infrastructure to handle larger workloads and test scenarios. With TEM, it becomes easier to provision additional resources, such as hardware and software, to support the growing testing requirements.

  • Risk Mitigation 

It helps reduce risks associated with software development and testing.

  • Enhanced Collaboration

Improves communication, reduces conflicts, and enhances productivity

  • Efficient Resource Utilization 

Reduces costs by providing resources on demand.

  • Faster Time-to-Market 

Organizations can speed up software delivery by streamlining the provisioning and configuration of test environments.

  • Improved Quality 

Improves software quality by providing reliable and consistent environments and helps to identify issues early in the development lifecycle, leading to better-quality software.

Overview of the Poorly Run Test Environment Management Process

 The Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) methodology defines the necessary stages in software development. The testing phase is important as it assesses the software’s readiness for real-world deployment. Therefore, discussing the challenges of a poorly managed test environment process is important because it can significantly impact the effectiveness of testing and, consequently, the software’s quality. Inadequate test environment management can lead to various issues and challenges that undermine the testing phase. These include,

  • Inadequate Resource Allocation

The necessary resources, such as hardware, software, and human resources, are not allocated appropriately or in sufficient quantities to support the test environment process.

  • Manual Configuration and Setup

Manual configuration is prone to human error, time-consuming, resource-intensive, and lacks standardization and documentation, making it difficult to replicate environments and troubleshoot issues.

  • Inconsistent Data Management 

It can lead to various challenges and problems, such as inaccurate or incomplete data, difficulty reproducing test scenarios, and impede collaboration and communication among team members.

Overall, a poorly run test environment management process can result in 

  • Delays

Poor test environment management can lead to delays in software development projects due to insufficient or inadequate test environments, conflicting resource allocation, and inconsistent configurations. Poor coordination and communication within the test environment management team can further exacerbate delays.

  • Inconsistencies

A well-organized test environment management process is essential to ensure consistent and reliable testing outcomes, as it prevents unexpected variables, inadequate version control and configuration management practices, and insufficient monitoring and tracking.

  • Inefficient testing practices

Test environment management is essential for efficient testing, but when it is poorly executed, it can lead to conflicts, inconsistencies, and instability, hindering the identification of defects and the delivery of high-quality software.

  • Hampers productivity

It is essential for maintaining productivity in software development and testing, as it ensures smooth and efficient workflows, minimizes inconsistencies, and enables timely identification and resolution of issues, leading to higher-quality software releases.

  • Increases project risks

Inadequate configuration and version control can introduce errors or compatibility issues, leading to setbacks and rework.

  • Affects the overall quality of the software being developed

This leads to unreliable test results and delays in testing activities, compromising the software’s quality and increasing the risk of delivering a flawed product. It is essential for ensuring thorough and reliable testing, contributing to the overall quality of the software being developed. 

Due to the above reasons, we can see why environment management is necessary as it plays an important role in the SDLC process.

How to Implement TEM in Your Organizations?

Implementing effective Test Environment Management is important for organizations to ensure reliable and efficient software testing processes. This process involves several steps to ensure the efficient and effective management of testing environments.

  1.  Define the requirements for the test environment

Determine the exact requirements for your test environments, including the required hardware, software, network configurations, and data.

  1. Establish Environment Governance

Create a governance structure for the test environments to control and monitor them. Develop communication routes, specify roles and responsibilities, and impose accountability.

  1. Create an environment setup and maintenance strategy

Create an environment setup and maintenance plan for the test environments which includes setting up networks, managing data, and provisioning hardware and software.

  1. Automate Environment Provisioning

To make the provisioning and configuration of the test environments more efficient, the use of automation tools and scripts promotes consistency and minimizes manual work.

  1. Implement Change Control

Create a change control procedure to monitor and control alterations made to test environments. This aids in preserving the environment’s stability and integrity.

  1. Monitor and Troubleshoot

Track the performance and health of the test environments by implementing monitoring techniques to prevent testing activities from being disrupted, and constantly detect and fix problems.

  1. Establish Data Management Practices

Create data management rules and processes that guarantee the accessibility, security, and integrity of test data. Deploy data backup, restore, and masking procedures as necessary.

  1. Continuous Improvement

Examine your Test Environment Management procedures on a regular basis for efficacy and look for possibilities to boost effectiveness, dependability, and affordability

Test Environment Mis-management

Test environment mismanagement is the improper handling or inadequate management of testing environments in software development or software testing processes. Here are some examples and impacts of test environment mismanagement.

Examples of Test Environment Mismanagement

  • Neglecting test environment maintenance.
  • Test data mismanagement such as maintaining outdated test data.
  • Test environment not getting updated with new product releases.
  • Inconsistent configurations in the testing environment when compared with other environments such as production, Dev, and stage.

Challenges in Test Environment Management

Software testing environment management is essential for ensuring the quality and effectiveness of the testing process, but it also presents various challenges.

  • Resource Allocation

It can be difficult to allocate and manage resources like hardware, software licenses, and testing tools, especially when several projects or teams need to use them.

  • Environment Replication

Due to variations in infrastructure, configurations, and data, it can be challenging to ensure that test environments precisely replicate the production environment since this can produce inconsistent testing results.

  • Configuration Management

It can be difficult and time-consuming to manage the configurations of different test environment components, which frequently leads to configuration drift and compatibility problems.

  • Environment Dependencies

Coordinating and managing the relationships between the additional components like external systems, APIs, or third-party services can take time, which could hinder test execution.

  • Data Management

It can be difficult to manage test data effectively, including maintaining data privacy, assuring data integrity, and producing realistic test datasets, particularly if dealing with sensitive or huge amounts of data.

The Key Test Environment Management Activities You Should Consider

To excel in Test Environment Management (TEM), consider implementing these activities:

  1. Knowledge Management / Modelling: Start by modeling your Production and Testing Environments. This involves mapping key elements like environment groups, systems, components, and relationships. Visualization enhances decision-making and troubleshooting.
  2. Demand Management: Efficiently allocate testing environments by capturing demand. Use a test environment booking system to record teams’ usage requests and schedule resources effectively.
  3. Streamlined Automation: Optimize preparation with automation. Orchestrate tasks like Deployment Provisioning, Rollback, and Health Checks. If the environment setup takes too long, consider revising your approach.
  4. Planning & Coordination: Organize and schedule test environment activities through effective planning. Utilize calendars and implementation plans to coordinate operations across different test environment tiers.
  5. Standardized Operations: Maintain consistency by using test environment runsheets and implementation plans. Apply this approach across all tiers and lifecycle stages to ensure timely and organized environment preparation.
  6. Insightful Optimization: Drive improvement through insights. Use real-time data feeds and dashboards to track environment behavior, usage, availability, and service capability.

Incorporating these key activities into your Test Environment Management strategy enhance your testing efficiency, ensure resource availability, and streamline your software development lifecycle.

Embracing Test Environment With Good Practices

We can solve the issues mentioned above by adopting best practices.

  •  Package and Publish Environments, Not Just Your Code

Test teams need to have the testing infrastructure/environments and other testing components pre-configured well in advance of the code release to ensure that the product is tested efficiently.

  • Track and Schedule Environment Usage

This leads to improved productivity, ability to automate the process of test data refresh, limit test run downtimes, enhanced test coverage, and better traceability within the testing process.

  • Establishing a dedicated TEM team

It will make it the single point of contact and accountable for test environment management, eliminating problems associated with shared ownership.

  • Automation

Automation strategies can be used to improve test environment efficiency by automating activities such as data management, deployments, and provisioning.

  • Regular evaluation of the test environment

This makes it easier to maintain a test environment that is accurate and realistic. It make the necessary adjustments to replicate end-user situations, and allocate resources appropriately.

Conclusion

 Software testing environment management requires a well-configured setup. It involves best practices, tools, and defined objectives. Automation, standardized settings, security measures, maintenance checks, and a change management strategy are essential. Having a dedicated test environment management team enhances benefits, including faster test execution for multiple releases and seamless management.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is TEM and TDM?

TEM, or Test Environment Management, refers to managing the test environments used for software testing, including setup, maintenance, and control. TDM, or Test Data Management, involves creating and managing test data for effective software testing, ensuring data privacy and integrity. Both TEM and TDM are important for successful testing processes as they provide stable environments and reliable test data. 

Why do we need Test Environment?

A test environment is essential for conducting thorough and reliable software testing. It provides a controlled and isolated space that closely resembles the production environment where the software will ultimately be deployed. By having a dedicated test environment, organizations can accurately simulate real-world scenarios, evaluate system performance, identify bugs and issues, validate functionality, and ensure the software meets the desired quality standards. 


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