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How to Test Better and Faster with Microsoft Test Manager

You’ve decided to take your testing methods to the next level and set up a collaborative testing environment where the team can work and communicate together. You’ve decided on Microsoft Test Manager (MTM) and have consensus that this tool will help your team achieve a better work product more efficiently. You have several options and considerations.

Does your company already have software licenses?
If you have in-house developers you may already have licenses for this software. Companies that have C# or .NET development, already have licenses of Visual Studio. Microsoft Test Manager is part of Visual Studio and is the tester’s UI to Team Foundation Server (TFS).

Which version of Visual Studio should you buy?
Different versions of Visual Studio have different testing capabilities. Do you envision using Visual Studio for manual testing only? Then VS Test Professional is sufficient for your needs. Or would you like the option of developing automated test scripts? VS Premium provides CodedUI for test automation. If you foresee needing performance or load testing on your apps, then VS Ultimate is needed.

Where will the data be stored?
The tool allows the team to store and access requirements, user stories, code, test cases, defects, tasks and more, all in one location – Team Foundation Server (TFS). You have options regarding where your data will be stored. Will TFS be on your servers or will TFS be in the cloud?

How will the team handle traceability?
As a best practice, test cases are linked to the Requirements or User Stories. Defects are linked to the specific test cases where they were found. Automated test scripts are linked to their equivalent manual test case. Using these connections between items in TFS, the need for a separate and redundant traceability matrix is eliminated.

How will the team lead manage test case execution?
Once the test cases are input into the tool, the test lead can track the number of test cases prepared. She can see whether the test cases are in the Design state, approve them and set them to the Ready state after review. She can assign groups of test cases to testers and set the platform/browser configurations. For historical purposes, the team lead can also see who tested what in the last iteration, and which configurations were used.

What states will you need?
This is a workflow consideration. Each work item type (user stories, tasks, test cases, etc.) comes with a default workflow in TFS. Tasks and defects start as “New” when they are input, and move between various states to their completion. If you want to add custom states, or change the steps between the defaults, this should be determined up-front. The on-premises version of Visual Studio allows the ability to add, edit and delete states; Visual Studio Online does not.

What will be your approach to training?
MTM is a flexible tool and can support different projects types. Will the Waterfall or Agile project template be used? Which MTM work flows will be used? What standards will be used for naming test cases and defects? What’s the best test suite structure? The team needs to be trained and not just how to use the tool. Team members should also be trained in best practices and standards. Training can be focused to get the team ramped up fast. After training, there needs to be governance to ensure compliance with the standards.

How will you use the tool to make workflows easier?
Communications is key to getting things done faster. MTM assists in this with automatic notifications. You can set up the tool to notify the appropriate team members when tasks, test cases or defects are assigned to them.

How will you use the tool’s reporting capabilities?
The test lead can use the built-in real-time reporting tools. The Test Case Chart displays how many test cases are in the tool and ready to be run. The lead can use the Test Result Chart to track the state of test case execution. The lead can also set up queries at the beginning of the project and share them with the team. Interested parties can quickly access queries for test cases, defects and more.

Once implemented, MTM supports the various team member roles in the major software development methodologies. Development and test leads can see test cases and defects as soon as they are entered. Waterfall project managers can see traceability from Requirements through testing. Agile managers can see how the user stories fare. Scrum masters can set up a virtual board in the tool so everyone can see who is responsible for what tasks, what is outstanding and what is in the backlog. The team members are accessing the same information and acting in unison.

Having trained testers on using MTM, I’ve seen the tool increase velocity in testing apps and reporting defects, especially in iterative development environments. Important information can be communicated quickly which means work can be done faster. Once the team is trained and uses MTM, your team could go from a disparate group of individuals using various processes to a cohesive, lean, laser-focused testing machine that ultimately produces better software.