8 Reasons Why Excel or Google Sheets Should Not Be Used as a Test Case Management System

by | Jan 8, 2024 | English, Software Testing

If we were to talk about the most popular Test Case Management Systems, Excel and Google Sheets might come second and third. Ironically, the first place is held by ‘not having any testing at all,’ which means no need for test management. This isn’t a joke. We surveyed around seventy companies across various sectors like finance, gaming, software development, department stores, and retail. We found that over 70% of these companies don’t have dedicated testing personnel. Testing is either done by the developers themselves or not at all, leaving it to the end-users for acceptance. Even when testing is conducted, it’s often unmanaged.

The issue of ‘not having any testing at all’ is a topic for another day. Today, we’re focusing on why we shouldn’t continue using Excel and Google Sheets for test management.

Have you noticed that the top three methods we’re discussing are not recommended(No testing, Excel, Google Sheet), yet they’re the most commonly practiced? Unfortunately, the main reason for this is cost. Office software, be it Microsoft or Google’s offerings, including free alternatives like OpenOffice and LibreOffice, are standard in most companies. Maximizing utility for the cost is a corporate pursuit. The higher the usage value per cost, the better.

On the flip side, when test engineers need tools for test management but the company doesn’t allocate extra budget, they have to make do with what’s available, often resorting to Excel or Word (yes, some companies use Word for test management).

Let’s dive into why Excel or Google Sheets shouldn’t be used as Test Case Management Systems. Ironically, we’re discussing why not to use these tools, yet they are the most common methods for test management. We can design various templates for management, and each company’s template can be different. This situation stems from a lack of awareness.

Excel and Google Sheets are essentially databases.

The first reason we highlight is that, in today’s tech world, databases are central to applications. Databases store and analyze data to provide meaningful information. Using spreadsheets for test management is like directly managing tests through a database, without an efficient application in between. This is why Excel and Google Sheets can be used for test management but are not ideal, leading to the second point:

These tools are designed for financial, statistical, and scientific purposes.

Using a product designed for specific domains for something else, while not wrong, feels awkward. For example, various types of scissors exist for specific purposes. Using the wrong type of scissors for a task can be troublesome. Similarly, Excel was created for numeric computations, and most of its functions are redundant for test management, as we primarily use it for its tabular format.

The ease of modifying data in tables seems advantageous but can be a significant drawback. Accidental key presses can overwrite data, sometimes irrecoverably. This leads to data loss and additional time spent in rectification.

Incorrect version control is another issue. Although Excel and Google Sheets now have version history, their approach isn’t suited for test management. Imagine a software engineer using Word for coding because of its version history – it’s just as inappropriate for test case management. And even if cell-level version history exists, it’s not the same as managing test case versions.

These tools also hinder team collaboration. Despite the collaborative features of Google Sheets, simultaneous editing and the lack of proper version control can lead to data loss and confusion. A competent test management system records all changes, even simultaneous ones, for traceability and restoration.

File-level management is not suitable for complex projects. Managing thousands of test cases in a spreadsheet is a logistical nightmare, especially when the person responsible leaves or changes. Consistent restructuring of test cases due to varying management styles is a waste of time and resources.

Lack of audit mechanisms and activity logs is another drawback. While these tools can track view and edit histories, they lack the granularity needed for practical use. Tracking individual member contributions and test progress is challenging, especially in remote work environments.

Finally, integration with automated testing is difficult. Imagine trying to backfill automated test results into a spreadsheet – the complexity indicates a problem. This is why most automated tests maintain separate reporting systems, adding another layer of maintenance.

Don’t let tools limit your methods. Focusing solely on Excel and Google Sheets means missing out on more efficient systems. In conclusion, while Excel and Google Sheets are powerful spreadsheet tools, they are not suitable for test case management. Using the wrong tool can hinder staff capabilities and efficiency.

If you’re using Excel and are satisfied with the efficiency, you might be in a stagnant state, unable to see the current problems. This complacency can prevent exploring more efficient alternatives.

Switching to a system designed specifically for testers can ensure an optimized process, saving time for more tests and yielding more product-related data.

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