Why companies switch from Excel to aqua test management

Excel used to be the tool for test management. The sheer number of ways for cross-referencing values as well as macros helped formalize the QA workload. Testing with Excel, however, has a lot of drawbacks that modern test management solutions solve. Let’s compare Excel to one such tool — aqua.

aqua vs Excel

Deployment models

aqua is a separate test management solution available on web. You can store an aqua server on Cloud or go the extra safety mile and host aqua On-Premise instead. The latter is often the only option that companies in heavily regulated industries (e.g. banking, insurance, medical) have. A nice compromise between safety and convenience would be storing aqua on your own Cloud server insulated from us.

Excel supports the same deployment models as part of the Office 365 package.

aqua deployment models

aqua deployment models

Deployment model

Excel

aqua

Vendor Cloud

+

+

Private Cloud

+

+

On-Premise

+

+

User Management

aqua comes with several default roles that can be assigned to most users, e.g. Tester or Developer. You can also create a new role and pick from over 100 permissions that suit it. These permissions can also be granted or revoked on a per user basis, which helps working with freelancers and crowd testers among other things.

Excel itself does not have much functionality that can limit interaction with the data, yet alone do that granularly. You can block access to a spreadsheet or grant read-only rights with an offline password, but this is very weak protection that can’t be retroactively amended if the passwords leak. Test management with Excel is very prone to rogue employee leaks. Regular users can’t export everything from a server of a test management solution, but spreadsheets are often a different story.

Adding password to Excel spreadsheet

Adding password to Excel spreadsheet

aqua's permission editor

aqua’s permission editor

Criteria

Excel

aqua

Default user roles

-

+

Custom roles

-

+

Permissions for roles

-

100+

Individual permissions

-

+

SSO

+*

+

Access restriction

Offline password

Real-time authentication

*OneDrive functionality

Test Management

Excel is not a test management solution. It can act be shoehorned into a tool to write down the execution of manual tests. You may even generate test reports with it. Some creative minds even come up with ways to chain spreadsheets into “testing projects”.

The problem is, you will never know or see the up-to-date picture. Reviewing state of testing for the upcoming release becomes a major undertaking when you need to collect Excel spreadsheets from all QA specialists. You also can’t realistically assess their workload if you can’t see the status at a glance.

On the other hand, aqua is designed for maximum transparency with both regulatory requirements and efficient work in mind. All tickets can be broken down into folders, highlighted or hidden with filters, and visualised on a Kanban board or the regular ticket overview. There is also quite a range of collaborative functionality, such as dedicated comment sections under each ticket and email nudging.

Most importantly, aqua provides a much higher degree of reusability than test management with Excel does. You can easily group test cases into scenarios, bulk edit as many test cases as you need, and update an individual test step across all nested test cases that have it.

Even basic test management gets quite cumbersome with Excel

Test management with aqua

Feature

Excel

aqua

Test cases

+

+

Test scenarios

Manual grouping

+

Test reports

+

+

Execution history

-

+

Nested test cases

-

+

Bulk edits

+

+

Scripts

+

+

Release planning

-

Versions, Agile

Labelling

+

+

Custom fields

+

+

Parametrisation

+

+

Filters

+

+

Folders

-

+

Views

+

+

Shared views

-

+

Workflows

-

+

Logging

-

+

Item change history

+

+

Change reversal

-

+

Comments

+

+

Attachments

-

+

Mentions

-

+

Email nudging

-

+

Integrations & Automated Testing

Most test management solutions offer either a first-party automation environment or out-of-the-box integrations with third-party automation tools. Excel is not a test management solution, so it only makes sense that it offers nothing in this department. You will have to use third-party tools and come up with ways to fit their output into your spreadsheet-powered test cases.

aqua goes the integrations route, supporting about a dozen of the most popular test automation solutions and frameworks. You can also use REST API to exchange data between aqua and any other tool, automation or otherwise.

aqua also brings a unique integration among test management solutions — a Chrome extension to run tests and immediately document them. aqua Test Recorder enables you to record interactions, edit captured data, leave comments, annotate screenshots, and then send everything to your company’s aqua server. This approach saves time on all the tab switching, and immediate documentation ensures the QA specialists share everything they observed.

For context, virtually all aqua competitors lack a first-party Chrome extension. They have to rely on third-party solutions that often cost extra money and lack native integrations with test management solutions.

Feature

Excel

aqua

Chrome extension

-

+

Management Integrations

-*

+ (Jira link, Jira sync)

Automation integrations

-

+ (10 tools)

First-party automation

-

-

REST API

-

+

Auto-translation in workspace

-

+

*Third-party issue trackers may support Excel import/export

Full list of aqua integrations

Full list of aqua integrations

Dashboards

One thing that Microsoft’s software excels at is data visualisation. You can make really insightful charts that cover any data and group them into dashboards. The problem, of course, is that you will likely struggle to extract any reasonable insights that you can visualise in the first place.

As far as test management solutions go, aqua has pretty good dashboards. You can choose between several graph types (and we keep expanding the list). They can represent any data you want while some competitors limit you to widgets with pre-selected fields. Data from custom fields can be visualised as well. The icing on the cake is the KPI Alert functionality that helps your brain quickly register if something is off about the testing process.

While hardly relevant for QA, Excel has incredible dashboard functionality

aqua dashboard with KPI Alert at work

aqua dashboard with KPI Alert at work

Feature

Excel

aqua

Dashboards

+

+

Data

Any data

Any data

Custom fields data

N/A

+

Graph types

Pie chart, bar chart, line graph

Pie, bar, stacked bar chart; table chart

KPI Alerts

+

+

Reporting

In a similar fashion, Excel is a good tool for generating reports — it’s just that organising the testing data for it is a huge time sink even if you get the right data. You will have to come up with a way to incorporate data from automated tests. You will need to set up a flow for storing and accessing test execution results.

What makes aqua’s reporting stand out is the flexibility. You can make fully custom reports and add external text/imagery, something that few test automation tools offer. The template library is perfectly fine for a lot of use cases, but you can cover all the niche cases with custom reports as well. The report wizard comes with a lot of nice-to-haves, making it a fun tool to work with.

aqua report example

aqua report example

Feature

Excel

aqua

QA Template library

-

+ (7 sample reports)

Custom reports

+

+

Pulling any data

+

+

External text & imagery

+

+

Drag-and-drop

+

+

Custom bands

-

+

Text formatting

+

+

Image formatting

+

+

Diagrams

+

+

Pivot tables

+

+

Scripts

+

+

Parametrisation

+

+

ALM

aqua is an Application Lifecycle Management solution. It does more than just beat Excel at test management: aqua can also handle requirements management, defect management, and project management. While test management with Excel makes your head dizzy from tracking all the spreadsheets, an ALM like aqua can be the single hub for all your product’s needs.

Feature

Excel

aqua

Native ALM

-

+

Test case management

+

+

Requirements management

-

+

Defect management

-

+

Software dev. methodology

-

Agile, Waterfall, Extreme Programming

Workflows

-

+

Project management

-

+

aqua project plan

aqua project plan

aqua workflow

aqua workflow

Conclusion

Excel was never the holy grail of quality assurance, and it ages like milk rather than wine in that sense. A mature test management solution like aqua easily outshines Excel as a highly reusable, frustration-free, and transparent tool for QA. Using a dedicated solution can also eliminate glaring security holes that come with sharing spreadsheets between employees.

The biggest argument against Excel is efficiency. The time that your team have to sink into making Excel a test management solution it never meant to be is truly astonishing. These are dozens of manhours on top of wasting extra manhours when they change a test step in every single spreadsheet manually. Is that really worth not splashing out a few thousand on a dedicated test management solution?

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