Test environment management: save time, effort, money with TEM tools

In today’s application-driven world every company is a software company, whether it knows it yet or not. This means that companies are increasingly rolling out more application releases than ever before and software delivery lifecycles are becoming more complex.

Consequently, large enterprises need hundreds and sometimes thousands of test environments to cope with the number of applications they are supporting; the process of managing them all is becoming more challenging by the day.

A recent survey conducted by Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), titled the EMA 2018 Test Environment Management Survey, found that despite the overarching benefits that test environment management (TEM) tools can bring to businesses across a range of industries, only 4% of large enterprises have fully integrated TEM processes in the DNA of their application development.

Given the speed and efficiency improvements that TEM tools provide, why aren’t more businesses integrating them effectively or even at all?

Defining a TEM tool and its objectives

The research found that, of the teams surveyed, some are working with over 600 environments, while 21% of respondents didn’t know or were unsure as to how many environments they have. From a management standpoint, arguably worse than having too many to manage is not knowing how many there are to begin with.

As a single resource to plan, schedule, and maintain test environments, a TEM tool is designed with these challenges in mind. It makes the entire testing process smoother, enabling businesses to provision test environments faster and improve the quality of the applications being developed.

TEM tools remove much of the lengthy scheduling and monitoring processes that otherwise have to be conducted manually. This management also assists companies in reusing and recycling test environments more efficiently, reducing the need for excess environments to be created.

The EMA survey revealed that organisations are finding themselves with more test environments than they have had before, because they are developing, modernising and updating more applications than ever before; however, the use of TEM tools is a little behind the pace, with 23% of respondents admitting that they don’t use any commercial tools at all.

This means that nearly a quarter of those surveyed are managing complex testing schedules without any operational oversight – while this may be sufficient when coordinating a small number of test environments, this will likely become too challenging as these increase over time.

Adopting TEM-specific tools to manage TEM processes was ranked as the number one objective by 18% of respondents, showing that there is still a need for basic adoption by almost a fifth of those surveyed.

However, the feedback on other objectives suggests that even those with TEM tools in place are not fully confident in using them. Those that have implemented tools showed a lack of maturity of experience with them, as the top three objectives overall were: developing a more automated and scalable approach to test environment management; integrating TEM processes with other tools for Dev/test/deploy; and implementing a way to more effectively manage TEM activities.

These are all possible with commercial TEM tools, which based on responses are not being realised by most organisations.

What IT decision-makers need to realise is that the lack of overall visibility, management difficulty and inefficiency can all be remedied by implementing a TEM tool. However, up until now there has been a focus on automating the development cycle without necessarily considering how to best identify where the waste is and where the defects originate, and therefore TEM has been low on the priority list.

The use of testing environments is only going to keep increasing – that is for certain – so businesses need to make sure that they are putting in place the optimum solutions now to help them cope with the challenges this will bring in the future.

Fast, simple, effective: the immediate payback of TEM tools

The benefits of using TEM tools can hugely minimise the challenges that organisations are currently facing, and fulfil the objectives that development teams are looking to gain.

For those already using a TEM tool, the survey found that faster provisioning was the most common benefit (89%), which in turn led to a corresponding reduction in the number of test environments that were needed and an improvement in the quality of applications being developed.

There are also financial benefits for businesses as well; regardless of the stage of maturity of the TEM tool in use, they begin paying for themselves straightaway. For the average enterprise in the survey, with around 76 production releases per year, the predicted TEM cost savings are about $1.4 million, primarily across the following TEM categories:

  • Enabling faster provisioning of test environments
  • Reducing the number of test environments needed
  • Reducing development and test time for each release
  • Reducing Test Environment Management costs
  • Improving application quality.

No matter the volume of overall production releases, the payback on TEM investment will occur almost immediately, and if these savings are viewed as cost avoidance, ROI will be realised in just one or two months.

Though the exact numbers in savings and ROI will vary from business to business, it is clear that by implementing these tools sooner rather than later, businesses will start to see the positive financial effects almost instantly, alongside the improvements they make to the testing process itself.

With the number of test environments increasing, businesses need to invest in the best management tools to make release deliveries faster and of higher quality, as customers’ expectations are also rising.

The EMA survey found that the respondents’ top DevOps priority for 2019 is faster software delivery, and while TEM tools will not drive this solely on their own, they can certainly make a world of difference to not just this, but testing as a whole.

Bob Davis, CMO, Plutora

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