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Plutora Blog - Test Environment Management

Test Environment Management

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Test Environment Management can mean many things to different people who are involved in either software delivery or IT Operations. In this post I wanted to touch on what it means in the context of “planning releases”. It’s probably good for me to point out as well that if you’re a small internet company or a software provider you wouldn’t agree with many of these points purely because your environment is agile and you live in a world where you don’t have access control processes and segregation of duties governance measures to comply with. Most larger organisations tend to have some form of test environment management strategy and planning is a key element.

In one sentence test environment management (TEM) is the process of ensuring test environments are proactively managed to ensure they are available as per time scheduling requirements to deliver releases or BAU changes.

That’s great, but what does that mean? Let me break it down. To start you need to understand what test environments you have available to you and what mechanisms you have to spin up new environments if required. This may sound simple but trust me in large organisations with many teams doing various bits of work in the TEM space this is a time-consuming activity to undertake.

Firstly you need a real-time understanding of your Test Environment assets. It’s amazing how many organizations I have worked in where managers don’t actually have a real-time view of all the test environments currently available to them.  You often hear that stakeholders in larger companies complain they don’t have enough environments or on the other extreme we have seen 7 test environments for a single system and “it’s a waste of money”. Understanding your pre-production test environment landscape is crucial in countering the negative business sentiment. To do this you need to map out all your available environments, which will give everyone a single source of truth. This process of identifying your assets requires a proper tool or software component. Using spreadsheets or Sharepoint is a recipe for disaster because not only do people hate receiving and reviewing documents in those formats, XLS and SharePoint are often neglected after a few weeks of inception leading to out-dated and unreliable information sources. Tools like Plutora provide dedicated functionality to address many of the process gaps which other non-standard software packages do.

Ok, so now that you have all your environments identified you need to do the most important aspect and PLAN. To plan you need information, which is reliable, centralised, and current. Planning involves a deep understanding of what the different IT development teams, both in the Project space and BAU space are working on.

You will also need a view of the release schedule so that you can map out which environments and environment requirements are needed to deliver the various work scope items. In my experience, this has been a huge challenge as Release Schedules are often neglected and unreliable due to out-dated information. Communication between Test Environment Managers and Test or Project Managers occurs too late when contention becomes a real problem that in terms most likely will turn into delivery delays.

Plutora has an Environment Manager feature, which can easily allow Test Environment Managers to map out test environments and manage the allocation of those environments to various releases in one platform. This really is simple stuff but we view it as innovative because no toolset has offered this functionality as effectively as Plutora.

The beautiful thing about Plutora’s Environment Manager functionality is that it makes planning the allocation and use of your test environments very simple. Understanding when releases or BAU activities are scheduled is an important role for managing Test Environments. By effectively managing the allocation of test environments you can address the issues of test environment bookings, contention and parallel use of test environments by more than one system delivery team. Plutora Environment Allocation Scheduler view helps establish open collaborative discussion by visually showing where the environments are used across various phases in releases.