Hey there, delivery teams! We know you're always looking to improve your processes and speed up releases to get your products to market faster. And when it comes to ensuring quality, you've likely invested in better Test Management in recent years.
But here's the thing: for your testing teams (or QA/testers embedded in Agile/Scrum teams) to do their job effectively, they need access to stable Test Environments. And that's often the responsibility of separate teams, like infrastructure or operations.
What is Test Environment Management?
You know how important it is to streamline your software delivery process, right? Well, Test Environment Management (TEM) is a key practice that can help you do just that. By making sure that everyone on the team can access the Test Environments they need, when they need them, you'll be able to execute test scenarios and reproduce bugs more efficiently.
When it comes to TEM, there are three main components you need to keep in mind:
- A Test Environment Inventory that's accessible to all relevant stakeholders
- A transparent Test Environment Schedule with a clear booking process
- An Environment Self-service that gives non-technical team members more autonomy
Sure, TEM might be the responsibility of a specific team on paper, but the key to success is improved communication between teams. And that's something that everyone on the team can contribute to.
Why is TEM so important?
Some of you may be rocking top-notch tools for deploying test and production environments, but others may be struggling with decentralized spreadsheets and emails. And as you can imagine, that can make version control a total nightmare – leading to configuration gaps and delays in software delivery, not to mention a longer time to market.
In today's fast-paced, agile world, managing your environment landscape the right way is becoming more and more critical. Without a central source of truth, it can be time-consuming and costly (millions every year).
But with effective Test Environment Management (TEM), you'll be able to answer questions like:
- How can we avoid conflicts between Developers, QA/Testers, and Release Managers when using a shared environment?
- What's the best way to coordinate release tasks across teams and environments?
- Is the information about our shared environment availability accurate?
- Can we re-use the same test environment or do we need to build a new one?
- How can we effectively track the release deployment across all environments?
With TEM, you'll be able to stay on top of your environment landscape and make sure everything runs smoothly.
Main benefits of Test Environment Management
TEM is a critical aspect of software development that helps ensure the quality and reliability of your products. Here are a few key benefits of Test Environment Management:
Improved collaboration and communication
Chats, e-mails, spreadsheets, and shared calendars are replaced by a fit-for-purpose tool. It reduces confusion and improves collaboration.
By automating the provisioning and management of test environments, you can reduce manual errors and save time.
Better test coverage
Test Environment Management allows teams to create and manage multiple test environments, which helps to increase test coverage and improve the quality of your products.
Better resource usage tracking helps teams to share environments, prevent the creation of extra test environments, and to release unused (or underutilized) resources. Eventually, it reduces your AWS / Azure / GCP bills.
TEM allows teams to create and manage test environments on-demand, which provides greater flexibility and scalability.
What are the key TEM components?
As explained above, we like to define 3 TEM components:
Test Environment Inventory
Also known as a Test Environment Registry, your Test Environment Inventory is your one-stop-shop for all things related to your test environments. It's crucial that this inventory is stored in a single tool to avoid duplication and is accessible to all relevant stakeholders in real-time.
Each Environment should have:
- The history of all software versions deployed on the Environment
- Deployment details with information like build number, release notes, etc.
- Current status (up, down, slow...) and history, ideally per component
For smaller teams, a shared spreadsheet may be sufficient for keeping track of this information. However, for larger teams dealing with numerous test environments, a proper Test Environment Management (TEM) tool is essential. With the right TEM tool, you'll be able to keep your test environments organized and easily accessible to your entire team.
Test Environment Schedule
We know that sharing Test Environments among multiple teams, projects, or individuals can be a complex task. That's why we recommend implementing a scheduling process to help keep things organized. A good scheduling process should include:
- An Environment Booking System, which allows users to request a Test Environment with a specific configuration and for a specific period. This should include an approval workflow and conflict detection to ensure that all requests are handled efficiently.
- A real-time updated Environment Schedule that is accessible to everyone. This will help to ensure that all teams are aware of the availability of test environments and can plan accordingly.
- Granular reporting for tracking usage and optimizing costs. This will allow you to identify which test environments are being used most frequently and make adjustments as needed to optimize costs.
As the number of people involved in managing test environments increases, it's important to have a common tool for allocation.
A shared calendar can be a good option for small teams, but it quickly becomes unusable as the number of people involved increases. By implementing a scheduling process, you'll be able to keep your test environments organized and ensure that they are being used effectively.
Test Environment Self-Service
At Apwide, we believe in empowering teams to automate repetitive and manual tasks through DevOps practices. While deployments may be fully automated, it often requires technical expertise to trigger the deployment of a version. But what if non-technical team members could trigger deployments without having to access a deployment tool?
That's where Environment Self-Service comes in - it gives superpowers to non-technical team members. With a centralized tool, they can trigger the deployment of a specific application version on a specific Test Environment, and even provision new Test Environments with just a click.
Of course, depending on the complexity of the application and its integrations, this level of automation may not always be worth the investment. It's essential to conduct an ROI analysis before implementing any changes.
How to implement TEM in your company?
Test Environment Management can be organized in a variety of ways, but many companies begin by using shared spreadsheets, shared calendars, and manually created dashboards that they update regularly. These solutions may seem simple and straightforward at first, but they can be time-consuming and may lead to inaccuracies as time goes on.
If your team already uses Atlassian Jira, there's no need to purchase and integrate an additional platform. You can activate the Golive Jira App in just a few clicks and start populating your Environment Inventory and enabling your Booking System to rely on Jira's powerful capabilities.
Give it a try with a free 30-day trial, and if you decide to continue, the app will be added to your Atlassian bill - with a simple purchasing process and no new vendor registration required.
6 Best Practices
Check these 6 Test Environment Best Practices to make your TEM process more efficient and deliver better software faster.