Guide to Test Case Management in Agile (Best Practices + Tools) 

 Agile software testing requires appropriate, context-dependent tools and an overarching structure for controlling your QA process, planning testing, tracking results, and reporting on risks discovered during testing. This is when you have to concern yourself with agile test case management.

How to implement agile test management

Within agile development methodology, QA team members play a more strategic role. 

QA partners with Product and Development to influence user story development, plan ahead to ensure features can be tested smoothly and efficiently, and provide valuable, timely insights into risk. Agile test case management reflects this, with a consistent focus on prioritization, reusability, and coverage. 

1. Align on a single test management solution

Though agile development relies less on scripted manual test cases than waterfall development methodologies, you still need a way to plan testing, coordinate time, report on progress, and triage risk. That’s where a test management platform comes in. 

Look for a platform that: 

  • Allows you to track multiple types of testing (like exploratory and automated tests) with custom fields to track unique parameters to your team and application
  • Helps you align test cycles with key sprint deliverables or release milestones
  • Integrates with issue trackers, test automation, and continuous integration platforms so you can link tests to user stories and connect your QA processes with your overall DevOps pipeline
  • Displays test progress in real-time so everyone on your team has visibility into the status of testing
  • Comes with traceability and test coverage-reporting out of the box

2. Align roles, responsibilities, and timelines

Because the agile methodology takes a much more iterative, whole-team approach, traditional development roles must shift.

Development responsibilities•Write code based on product requirements or user stories developed by Product
•Write unit tests for code
•Deliver code as “complete” once it passes unit tests
•Participate in the development of requirements and user stories in a scrum team
•Participate in functional testing of new features
•Fix high-priority bugs in new features before releases
QA responsibilities•Script test cases for all user paths of a particular feature based on requirements
•Test all test cases before a release, regardless of priority or risk
•Pair with Product and Development to identify how the team will test user stories and feature requirements and call out potential risks while they are still in the backlog
•Coach developers on testing heuristics so they can test their own features earlier on and implement new features in more stable, less error-prone ways
•Review code in pull or merge requests to make new features are easily testable with test automation
Development lifecycle stage where QA starts being involved•After code has already been written and a testable version of the product has been delivered•Involved in every stage of development; test lifecycle becomes one and the same as the software development life cycle

3. Find the right balance between manual and automated testing

Finding the right balance between automated and manual testing is crucial for effective test case management. In doing so, teams can streamline processes, save time and resources, have better test coverage, optimize resources, and strike a balance between speed and quality.

While there isn’t a simple yes or no answer, there are some questions to evaluate which tests require automation and which are best suited for manual testing:  

  • Is the test going to be repeated?
  • Is it a high-priority feature?
  • Do you need to run the test with multiple datasets or paths? 
  • Is it a Regression or a Smoke Test?
  • Does this automation lie within the feasibility of your chosen test automation tool?
  • Is the area of your app that this is testing prone to change?
  • Is it a Random Negative Test?
  • Can these tests be executed in parallel or only in sequential order?

Still not sure what tests or test suites to automate? Use this free automation scoring model to help you prioritize what you should automate next and guide your test automation strategy.

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Image: In TestRail, you can check the results of your automated test runs and error messages for failed tests, generate reports that aggregate manual and automated testing information, get insights on test coverage, and track test automation progress.

4. Prioritize tests

Agile development teams often work on multiple features simultaneously, so figuring out which ones to test first is important. Test case prioritization is an essential aspect of software testing that helps ensure that your team executes the most critical test cases first, maximizing fault detection and risk coverage. 

Prioritizing tests in test case management involves determining the order in which tests should be executed based on their importance, risk, and value to the project. 

Factors that can influence the prioritization process include:

  • Potential risks and their level of impact
  • Customer requirements and preferences
  • Critical functionalities in your software 

For a full list of test case prioritization factors, techniques, best practices, and metrics, check out this useful post that details Test Case Prioritization Techniques and Metrics.

Test Case Prioritization Techniques and Metrics: Organize your TestRail test case repository based on priority.

Image: Organize your TestRail test case repository based on priority

How to implement test case management in DevOps environments 

Test case management in DevOps ecosystems has unique workflows, lifecycle loops, and collaborative requirements. 

Since automated testing is integral to DevOps, your test case management tool must integrate with automation tools while facilitating manual exploratory, smoke, or acceptance tests (since the end-users of software are usually human, it often helps to have a little human touch when testing features and functionality). 

Additionally, because DevOps workflows use the CI/CD approach to software development, your test management tool should also be able to integrate with CI/CD tools such as GitLab and Jenkins

Agile test case management best practices 

1. Organize test cases

Organize test cases into logical groups or test suites for easier navigation, and targeted testing efforts.

2. Pay attention to test case names

Test case names should be easy to understand, should indicate which project the test case is part of, and what it’s meant to do. Since you’ll be dealing with thousands of test cases, it’s important to come up with an easy-to-follow naming convention.

If the test case is connected to reusable objects, try to include that in the name as well. Details about preconditions, attachments, and test environment data go in the test case description.

3. Be an editor

Once test cases are created, examine them with a critical eye. Are the test steps clear and concise? Are expected test results clearly defined? Does it include details on the desired test environment? Does the test case match real-world user conditions? 

Are all test cases in a central repository dedicated to a single project? Can other approved users add comments, attachments, reports, and other feedback?

4. Use early, iterative testing

Agile test funnels need teams to initiate testing as early as possible. Include QA folks in brainstorming and requirements management so they can contribute meaningfully to test design. You should be testing features as soon as they hit the larger codebase. Use testing to introduce incremental improvements in the product.

By practicing shift-left testing, you catch defects earlier on in the development process and, ultimately, reduce the chances of critical problems surfacing during later stages or in production. This helps you avoid costly rework and delays, speeds up the development process and ensures smoother iterations, and allows you to quickly adjust your test cases to accommodate changes.

Shifting left and right in the continuous DevOps loop (graphic by Janet Gregory, inspired by Dan Ashby’s Continuous Testing loop)

Source: Shifting left and right in the continuous DevOps loop (graphic by Janet Gregory, inspired by Dan Ashby’s Continuous Testing loop)

5. Use automation wisely

Automation enables you to scale your testing efforts without a proportional increase in manual effort. Because automated tests can run on-demand and provide continuous testing coverage at all hours of the day, by automating repetitive and time-consuming test cases, you can allocate your time and resources to more complex and critical manual testing tasks such as exploratory testing, creative problem-solving, and more strategic aspects of testing.

6. Maintain traceability

Ensure each test case is linked to the corresponding requirement, user story, or feature. Traceability ensures that your testing efforts directly align with the project’s objectives and helps in tracking progress. By tracing test cases back to requirements, you can identify high-priority features and their associated tests, which in turn helps you manage risks by ensuring that crucial functionality is thoroughly tested.

Traceability also allows you to provide accurate status reports to stakeholders by demonstrating which requirements have been tested, the results of those tests, and the overall progress of your testing efforts. Moreover, for companies in highly regulated industries, traceability is required to maintain compliance standards and is essential for demonstrating the process your company follows to validate your product’s quality before releasing it to customers.

Here are some tips on how to ensure test case traceability:

  • Understand Requirements: Make sure you clearly understand project requirements, user stories, and acceptance criteria. This will help you accurately connect test cases.
  • Link Test Cases: Ensure that each test case you create is directly linked to the corresponding requirement or user story.
  • Use Test Management Tools: Utilize test management tools that offer traceability features. 

7. Use a test management tool

Utilize a dedicated test case management tool to organize, track, and manage your test cases, making it easier to maintain traceability and collaboration. If you’re looking for some beginner-friendly information on how to manage test cases from a single platform, take a look at this video on TestRail’s Test Cases

How do I choose the right test case management tool?

A test case management tool tracks, manages, and monitors all test cases required for a single software testing project so it’s important to choose your test case management tool carefully:

1. Look for a gentle learning curve

The right test case management tool should be easy enough to pick up and navigate rather quickly. An intuitive UI (user interface) is non-negotiable. It should be user-friendly for individuals at every stakeholder level so that non-technical folks can log in and find the test data they need. 

2. Get details on training and support

The vendor should also provide some level of onboarding or training and in-person demos. Don’t forget to get details on the tool’s customer support options. Nothing is more exhausting than having to troubleshoot a tool you paid for yourself.

3. Ensure your tool integrates with third-party tools 

Your test case management tool of choice should integrate with third-party tools for easier testing and project flow. For example, TestRail offers Jira integration so that testing teams can create and track tasks in a project. At the very least, the right test management tool should integrate with commonly used test platforms, languages, and frameworks. 

4. Look for robust reporting and analytics

Your test management software should have a dedicated reporting feature so you can get reports at various levels. Choose one that records test coverage and allows bug tracking along with pass/fail rates. Again, this is where the intuitive UI comes in.

TestRail tracks that data and lets you compare results across test runs, configurations and milestones. It also comes with completely customizable report templates. 

Image: TestRail tracks that data and lets you compare results across test runs, configurations, and milestones. It also comes with completely customizable report templates

Test case management for the modern agile software development process can be structured to bring simplicity to your project. Invest carefully in test planning, incorporate best practices and methodology, and leverage a test case management tool like TestRail to get your test cycles running to perfection. 

To learn more about how TestRail can help you streamline your Agile testing adoption, check our our free TestRail Academy course on Agile testing with TestRail.

Agile Test Case Management FAQs

What are common challenges in agile test management?

Challenge #1: Shifting requirements

In Agile workflows, it is common for requirements, scope, and even priorities to shift in the middle of a project. Generally, Agile teams are ready for this but if a major change occurs at the end of a sprint, it can be difficult for the team to adapt to these changes. 

Solution: Prioritize test cases

To prevent such scenarios, quality assurance teams should prioritize test cases based on the changing requirements. This means focusing on testing critical functionalities first, followed by less critical features.

Solution: Maintain open and transparent communication

Teams should also maintain open and transparent communication channels between testers, developers, and product owners. Ask stakeholders which requirements they believe are most likely to change, regularly discuss changes in requirements and their implications, let stakeholders know that your team may need extensions on deadlines if requirements change.

Solution: Maintain traceability

Maintain traceability between requirements, user stories, and test cases. Traceability helps identify coverage gaps, gives visibility throughout the development lifecycle, and accelerates development while saving resources.

In TestRail, you can receive traceability and coverage reports for requirements, tests, and defects by linking your test cases to external user stories, requirements, or use cases.

Image: In TestRail, you can receive traceability and coverage reports for requirements, tests, and defects by linking your test cases to external user stories, requirements, or use cases.

Challenge #2: Slow feedback

Sometimes, tests are slowed down because the team does not have access to the right test environment or test case management tool that works for them. If that happens, the feedback loop required by Continuous Testing is also slowed down. This decelerates the efficacy of the entire testing process and your time-to-market. 

Solution: Continuous improvement

Regularly review and optimize your testing processes to identify bottlenecks and areas for improvement. Use feedback from testing cycles to make adjustments.

Solution: Use effective tooling

Ensure that your testers have all the resources they need. If teams need Apple devices to run tests, they should be able to get them. If you have multiple teams working on a project, ensure that they are collaborating via a centralized test management tool that provides efficient test execution, reporting, and collaboration capabilities.

Challenge #3: Difficulties with large-scale collaboration

Yes, Agile emphasizes collaboration at all levels. But it’s easier said than done. In large organizations, collaborating teams can often include tens or hundreds of people. Without a streamlined mechanism in place, it becomes impossible to actually collaborate in these circumstances. How do you keep so many people on the same page about every single change?

Many test management tools aren’t designed to accommodate large teams or too many testing activities. This leads to testers not having the right tools to succeed or even having to purchase separate tools. The cost can become prohibitive, which may lead to improper, inadequate, or slapdash test case management. To sustainably scale testing, teams must find flexible solutions that allow engineers to commit their time and skills to work that supports more comprehensive testing strategies 

Solution: Choose the right test case management tool 

Choose the best test management tool that supports collaboration among cross-functional teams, enabling testers, developers, and other stakeholders to collaborate on test case design, execution, and reporting. 

An effective tool should also integrate with test automation frameworks and agile project management tools like Jira, act as a centralized repository for all test-related information, and ensure traceability.

Learn how Eventbrite scaled their QA operations and software testing with TestRail as they grew from a high-growth startup to a publicly traded company.

In TestRail you can trace, manage and update tests from a single dashboard—one the entire team can access.

Image: In TestRail, you can trace, manage, and update tests from a single dashboard—one the entire team can access.

What are the key benefits of efficient test case management?

Higher productivity and efficiency

In test management, It is not always desirable to automate everything. In some cases, it may even be more advantageous to rely on manual testing to ensure that every project component has been thoroughly reviewed, particularly if some areas have not been sufficiently covered. By implementing automation at optimal levels and balancing it with manual testing, effective test case management saves time, effort, and resources while facilitating faster time-to-market.

Increased Test Coverage

By organizing test cases according to their real-world impact and storing your testing data in a centralized place, testing teams can expand test coverage, which makes it easier to keep all team members on the same page, reduces defect leakages before a product is released to the public, and ultimately, minimizes risk. 

A centralized test management tool like TestRail can help you improve test coverage by helping you identify gaps in your QA process, streamline your team’s development process, and visualize your test coverage.

Better Traceability and Reporting

The right test management tool will give you the added advantages of traceability and robust reporting. Using a test management tool for traceability helps you manage the scope of your testing, track milestones, and adjust deadlines. 

A test management platform like TestRail can also help you track results in real time and generate test reports with an emphasis on problem areas. Such reporting and bug-tracking capabilities are responsible for improving and conveying the details of test success/progress to stakeholders

Cost Reduction

Efficient test case management optimizes the use of time, budgets, and human resources. By ensuring better quality, reducing test cycle time, speeding up time to market, providing real time updates, and accurate reports, test case management can help to simplify daily operations while also saving money. For many QA teams that are already stretched thin, a test management tool can help to maximize their time while also streamlining the process as a whole. 

See how TestRail helped this company cut costs by reducing test cycle time and getting more releases deployed into production in less time. 

Improved Collaboration

A good test management tool will build transparency and visibility into QA by tracking all your test activities and quality metrics in a centralized platform to improve team collaboration. Efficient test management should mean your tool allows you to share test case results (Regardless of whether they are manual or automated tests) and more so that teams can identify and address issues quickly while staying on the same page.

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