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What is Test Maturity Model (TMM) in Software Testing?

May 7, 2024Harish Rajora
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Experienced testers can easily chalk down the stages we need to follow for a successful test execution. However, these analyses are largely based on the type of project and its requirements. This means the process we follow changes rapidly with those variables. With such an ad-hoc method, the organization can never analyze its performance or improve in the testing domain. Such processes need a comparison between the last iterations with the current one but only when both of them follow some basic standard procedures. This problem is solved by picking up a maturity model that overlooks these weaknesses and provides a huge scope for improvement that didn’t exist before.

What do we mean by maturity models?

Maturity models have existed for quite some time in every domain including software engineering and software development. While there existed tools to measure performance, designing, etc. a tool was required to make sure the organization was also improving in quality. This is what the maturity model does.

Maturity Models

A maturity model is an analysis of “how” a process is doing over the years and defining the maturity level of it at the current stage. Organizations also make use of this model to project their future and explore the scope of improvement in ongoing projects. It is an essential tool today for businesses to measure their health and take preventive measures at the right time.

What is the Test Maturity Model?

The test maturity model is a maturity model focused solely on the test processes conducted by the organization. It aims to create a level-based approach that gradually refines the test process while creating a standard for evaluation over a certain period of time.

The test maturity model takes the majority of its inspiration from the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) which has been in implementation since 1986. While CMM was introduced as a standard process to formalize the processes of government-contracted software development products, it soon picked up in other domains that did not relate to software at all. For instance, business strategies, business growth, etc.

The idea behind improving along with the test maturity model is to analyze the level that the organization is currently in and the steps it needs to take to move to the next level. This level-based approach is essential to keep things in order and standardize certain rules across all types of businesses and software. 

Why do we need TMM?

Keeping the advantages of the test maturity model aside (which we will discuss later), is the existence of this model really necessary in current times?

Software testing has become a strictly streamlined process today. Every type of software has its own set of protocols to follow. For instance, when it comes to automated web application testing, testers usually start by planning, designing, and selecting the right tool, the right framework, the right language, and so on. When it comes to native mobile apps, we throw in hundreds of physical devices for cross-browser testing. While doing all this, we certainly focus on the quality of the application, but we do not have any measure for the quality of testing and the issue is if the testing quality is not appropriate, it will impact the application quality in many ways. A lot of organizations, therefore, can find themselves suffering from the same obstacles, and the only way we see through is by attaching a model of maturity to it.

TMM is extremely important to overlook not only the testing process but also whether we are really testing as we should or not. If not, what do we lack? What can we improve and how to initiate that improvement are a few of the many questions answered by the test maturity model. In addition, while we can use other maturity models as well, we might not be able to reap so much from it as from TMM because it is focused just on testing. It has the essence of a generic maturity model while being uniquely distinguishable from them by keeping testing in the center.

TMM does prove the point of its existence especially when the testers can adopt it at any point in the testing phase. TMM doesn’t interrupt the testing practices and certainly not with the planning and designing that are already established.

Levels of Test Maturity Model

Levels serve as the core of the test maturity model describing a certain maturity level to the organization based on their current testing methodologies. As the testing methodologies keep improving, the organization keeps moving up the level which is the end goal of adopting TMM. The maturity model is divided into five models:

Levels of Test Maturity Model

Source

Level 1: Initial

The first level of TMM is the initial level. All organizations start at this level no matter how they work and what type of process they follow. For simplicity, we consider that since the organization has not adopted any type of maturity level yet, it works in an ad-hoc style where structural discipline is missing.

Level 2: Managed

An organization is on TMM maturity level 2 when it has established basic test management specifications to conduct test cases. This includes planning test cases, exercising monitoring activities on tests, designing tests before scripting, and constructing a standard environment that can be used by each team member. 

Level 3: Defined

Level 3 makes the testing process more standardized by applying all of Level 2 to all the projects and all the teams across the organization. The focus starts on enhancing the quality of testing. This is achieved by training the required members for identical experience and integrating the testing phase into development. This is done similarly to the in-sprint testing style where the testing starts as soon as the development starts.

Level 3 also shifts the focus from functional to non-functional testing as it is equally important. Once the testing design, planning, scripting, etc. is completed, the work is reviewed by peers or managers for better quality. This helps members to rectify their mistakes before starting tests and eventually helps testers grow professionally as well.

Level 4: Measured

The TMM Level 4 talks about measuring the outcomes generated from the test runs. These outcomes help in defect exploration and closing loopholes as early as possible from the system. Maturity level 4 also introduces advanced reviews where senior experienced members carefully review every work under the microscope. This is much more strict than the peer reviews mentioned in the previous level.

Level 5: Optimization

The last level of TMM focuses just on the optimization activities implemented on all the processes mentioned in the previous levels. At this level, we observe, optimize, learn, and repeat the cycle all over again.

The inclusions in these levels illustrate how we can improve the testing processes without ever impacting the actual execution or the methodologies adopted long back. This makes TMM a friendly and effective maturity model which is always recommended by experts for an efficient testing phase.

Advantages of the Test Maturity Model

The adoption of the Test Maturity Model provides us with strong foundational advantages that every organization prefers:

Helps analyze the current situation

The usage of TMM provides a refined view of the current testing process the organization has been following. Without TMM, each organization can identify issues that exist only in the application and are discoverable by executing the test cases. Without a guiding standard procedure, a lot of the bugs also seep inside the production and end up on the user’s screen. TMM may not provide the reason for each of your anomalies but instills a tested process that will eventually eliminate them if the organization keeps moving up the maturity level.

Explore areas of improvement

A major advantage of TMM apart from eliminating bugs is exploring areas of improvement. This is hard to do if we just follow the test execution and never look upon the testing process as a high-level complete entity. Sometimes the team may find two different issues in two different runs and think that they are improving as the same bug did not appear twice. However, models like TMM help us understand that the actual root cause lies in the way we execute the process not how we execute the tests.

Exploring the areas of improvement helps close down bugs that have not even appeared in any runs yet. We get to know what weaknesses we hold and how to close them forever.

Complete focus on testing

While guiding principles and methods to establish certain protocols have long been advised in each domain, they are more or less generalized to be adopted by any domain following a particular process. Maturity models were developed in response to software development but they too managed to be generalized and adopted by businesses. Generalization of any process loses the refinement properties as it has to cater to the needs of each kind. This is a good place to start but eventually, the effect may not be too deep which can change the complete geography of testing.

Illinois Institute of Technology could understand this factor and therefore adopted a generalized model that resembled the closest to the software industry and converted it to a testing model. It keeps testing at the center and the processes involved in it to understand the paths everyone should take for a successful cycle. This certainly restricts TMM to be applied only to the testing phases, but in the same situation, it is one of the best testing models an organization could adopt.

Saves organization costs

Up until this point, we can conclude a couple of things – TMM helps explore areas of improvement and minimize defects from their root cause. If TMM is not in place, the bugs will appear much later in the STLC and will require immediate attention and correction from the tester. This will take the tester’s time that could have been invested in doing other test-related activities. Since testers are on billable hours, project costs will increase, and we may also witness delays in project delivery.

Deal with lower risks

Adopting the test maturity model will itself mean closing down the gaps that would be exposed much later when it’s too late. This directly means when we include TMM, we lower the risks involved in software release and create a safe environment for the smooth working of software.

Software is synchronized with the requirements

Starting from Level 3 of TMM, reviews are involved in the work we do before it impacts the software. This review is done by peers or senior members of the team who understand the project in a much clearer form. Hence, when they review, they can point out areas that we missed, misunderstood, or ignored from the work we did including test cases. When the review is completed, the end product matches with the requirements which eventually helps in testing the software from all angles.

While these are a few most significant benefits, I am sure you will explore many more when you adopt TMM in the software testing cycle. When you do, we would love to hear them in the comment section below.

Disadvantages of the Test Maturity Model

While we always support and recommend the usage of the test maturity model, there are a few disadvantages that the testers should be aware of beforehand.

Time consumption

As important as TMM may prove for our project, it still exists as a completely separate entity from those that actually help in test execution, like a test framework. If we look at it like that, we may feel like the time being invested into TMM and rectifying the process, could have been invested in actual testing. Moreover, TMM introduces processes that will consume time constantly as long as we are testing. This may feel objectionable to a few organizations.

Hard to maintain

As we can climb from one model to another by continuously improving, we can also degrade the process in a similar way! If an organization is at a maturity level X, it needs to constantly improve and keep investing its precious resources to do so. It turns out to be fruitful though. However, when we reach the final maturity level, we still need to invest and dedicate all the resources even more to maintain that level. This is not affordable to all organizations, especially those that do not work on a large global level and have limited resources. 

No scope for customization

TMM comes as a fixed model. It defines and dictates the steps required to reach a certain level and move beyond that. By its definition and working, it does not provide any special sections where the model customizes itself according to the user’s needs. If it could, each organization could get specific steps according to their project and requirements. For now, TMM may prove to be highly effective but we don’t know whether it is the most effective or not as a fixed guide.

These few disadvantages are not very strainful and will play a minimal factor in influencing your decisions in testing. Since TMM brings a lot for organizations especially those that work without any structure, these disadvantages are taken note of but the model is adopted and implemented as a standard. 

While putting a testing maturity model in place encompasses all testing processes. We would also like to tell you about a tool Testsigma. This is a test automation platform that lets you create tests in simple English, and lets you automate your tests for web, mobile, and desktop applications from the safe place.  Having a tool like Testsigma as part of your test automation processes, at the right time, is sure to count as a mature decision.



Conclusion

For a long time now, software testing has been under a constant improvement cycle helping testers not only test more efficiently but also more easily and comfortably. With all this advancement in technology, framework, and design paradigms, we still somehow manage to let lose a couple of bugs to the end-user. A lot of the time, the bugs are different, but their root cause remains the same. Could this hint at the flaws of the process we are following instead of the tools and frameworks we are using?

The test maturity model is a maturity-based model but only for software testing fields. It provides defined steps and processes that an organization needs to follow to improve not only the actual testing part but also how it is conducted. A higher maturity level means a more organized structure that follows a different set of processes. For instance, if the organization is on maturity level 4, it follows strict reviews from peers and seniors. The benefits of using this model are immense and this is what serves as the core of this post. With TMM, we can enhance our capabilities by upgrading the processes for an efficient tomorrow. With this, we hope this post helps you in the test-related activities of future projects.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is test maturity model integration?

Test maturity model integration is a five-layered model structure that defines five maturity levels to understand the maturity of the testing processes conducted in the organization. Earlier, this model was termed a test maturity model (TMM) only.

What is meant by test maturity?

The term “maturity” corresponds to how mature the process is that we are referring to. This process need not be related to software development. However, when we take software testing as the sole center of maturity discussion, it falls under test maturity. In simple words, it means how mature our test processes are and whether we have any scope for improvement or not.

What is the difference between CMMI and TMMI?

In 1986, the US Department of Defense wanted a yardstick through which they could measure the maturity of the government contractor’s software processes. With this, they could determine how effective the software is and how efficient the contractor is. This model was called the capability maturity model (determining the maturity of capability). It was largely focused on software development-related activities.

 Illinois Institute of Technology later wanted a similar model for assessing the testing processes. For this, they chose CMMI as the base model and incorporated its working and designs. This was called the test maturity model (TMM) as it focused only on software testing-related activities.

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