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How to avoid test environment booking conflicts and implement the best practices of shared resource usage

Whether you’re an SMB or an enterprise company in IT, banking or telecommunication industries with dozens to hundreds of test environments in multicloud infrastructure, the complexity of an R&D process planning is obvious. The significant difficulties of managing software test environments arise when an R&D department has a great number of applications and technology versions under the scope.

On the one hand, there could be several engineering teams with a pool of projects underway, but on the other hand, the number of testing environments is limited because the process of its building and configuration is rather hard and costly. And the main questions are  “who needs what?” and “when”?

A lack of a planning system leads to conflicts of test environment utilization and downtimes in the development process.

Сentralized Test Environment Management (TEM) in place helps companies overcome the challenges with resource sharing, avoid booking conflicts and eliminate any collisions. 

Avoid environment booking conflicts

A solid management system helps engineering teams: 

  • Reduce operational overhead by optimal test environment utilization
  • Enhance an R&D process by avoiding any downtime in the production stage
  • Optimize a cost of delivery
  • Improve a software delivery lifecycle 

What is a test environment conflict?

A test environment conflict and issues of scheduling shared environment assets became the key challenges of Test Environment Management for today. 

The test environment conflict happens in cases when infrastructure and assets are shared across several R&D teams and they need to use the same test environment resources simultaneously. 

Since test and development teams aren’t provided with a proper routing and booking mechanism, the delivery lifecycle is affected by downtimes and the resources are often left under- or over-utilized.

How to avoid test environment booking conflicts in order to streamline an R&D process, cut the costs and the time of delivery

The engineering team of our company has 10+ years of R&D expertise with hundreds of projects and dozens of developers. Based on our own experience and the experience of other companies we created a list of the most common tools that assist IT leaders in adopting good practices of shared resource usage and implement the instruments to overcome booking conflicts.

1. Group chats in Slack, Microsoft Teams or messengers

It is a common case when small R&D teams use group chats in Slack, Microsoft Teams or any messengers and services for booking test environments. 

“Hi, guys! Is cluster available now?” – the typical message from this kind of chat.  

But the main issues are “Where is a guarantee that all members of the chat read the message and are informed about unavailability of some test environments?” and “How long do you need to wait for a response from your colleagues?” The situation becomes more complicated when the company has team members located around the world in different time zones.

2. Shared Google spreadsheets, MS Excel docs

A well-designed spreadsheet, which serves for booking and scheduling purposes, often contains a great number of rows and columns with dozens of details about QA team members, projects, tested features, test environment characteristics, etc.  

The complexity of such tables increases the likelihood of a human error and a lack of automation leads to booking collisions. 

Shared Google spreadsheets, MS Excel docs usually successfully cope with planning issues for teams including not more then 5-10 engineers.

3. Test Environment Management services

Test Environment Management tools deliver a set of features to streamline the software testing process, which is considered to be rather complex and time consuming. In order to cut infrastructure costs and increase team productivity TEM services provide QA teams with an opportunity to avoid utilization conflicts, to keep the deployment history and implement solid planning mechanisms of test environment shared usage. 

TEM tools enable QA teams across the globe to automate test environment booking processes with dozens or hundreds of projects and to help to be sure that testing resources are not over or underutilized to execute a particular project phase with required test environment characteristics.  

TEM services often provide an integration with Jira, Jenkins or Slack that makes the booking process easier and helps QA engineers be informed by alerts and notifications about the statuses of test environments.

Test environment booking forms helps avoid conflicts and eliminate downtime

A well-considered test environment booking form is a crucial element of the software testing process. It is a document that QA engineers are recommended to use for requesting a proper test environment with a set of necessary specific characteristics.

Needless to say that first of all test environment booking forms serve to schedule a date and a period of time, when a QA engineer uses the environment. 

The template of a test environment booking form usually includes the following fields:

  • Project or product name
  • Contact information (ex. name, title and email) of who is requesting the environment
  • The exact date or even time you will need the environment be ready to use
  • Hardware prerequisites (e.g., RAM, CPU, etc.)
  • OS and database versions
  • System under test version to be installed
  • Connectivity with other systems
  • Access configurations (e.g., intranet, internet, DMZ)
  • Mobile devices
  • Browsers
  • Tools (e.g., an API testing tool)

The use of a booking form provides QA teams with a straightforward way to check the availability of resources, submit the request and finally avoid any conflicts and eliminate downtime.

Final thoughts

As the practice shows, the choice of test environment planning instruments depends on the number of engineers in your R&D department and the number of projects under the scope.  

Effective utilization of test environments could be provided only by a solid system of planning and scheduling of shared resource usage, which is aimed to avoid booking conflicts and any downtimes in an R&D process.

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