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  • Writer's pictureCraig Risi

The Pros and Cons of Different Testing Tools - ALM/QC



In my look at different testing tools I still intend on unpacking some JIRA plug-ins further. However, before doing that, I thought I would tackle a few more big test management tools because there are many big players in the market and it’s important that we look at them. And I will start off with OpenText’s ALM/QC, formerly Micro Focus ALM, and before that, HP Quality Centre.


While the company has recently rebranded as OpenText with a broader integrated toolset catering to more diverse development methods and a bigger focus on AI – many organizations around the world are still running its different versions of testing suites around, due to how popular the tool and its different guises has been for the industry, its ALM/QC suite remains popular despite its age. So much so, that the company purposely called it ALM/QC to try and not remove the significance of either of its names when it comes to brand recognition.


Whereas I sometimes unpack the history of a tool in my blogs, I’ve decided not to do so here because there has been a lot of change over the years as the product has grown and been acquired and rebranded a few times. Despite all this history though the core of the system remains the same.




This is a critical tool to analyze as it was arguably the first big test management tool that did an effective job of bringing the entire software delivery process together with a view of shaping test and quality improvement. It was also one of the first tools that many seasoned engineers like myself gained experience on as it was quite pervasive when it first came out.


ALM differs from JIRA and many other testing tools in that it is all-encompassing in its approach to software delivery management.  Whereas JIRA is quite customizable and can cater to just tracking workflow and be expanded if you want with additional plug-ins, ALM provides a comprehensive set of tools that allows teams to fully capture their testing requirements, testing delivery, automation, and performance scripting and defect tracking with comprehensive traceability and powerful reporting all built in. To put it honestly, it is arguably one of if not the best in the business when it comes to managing testing efforts – especially at an enterprise capability where it can allow for reach across multiple teams and projects and gains useful insights into the effectiveness of the testing efforts and identifying broader quality and delivery issues.




Below is a list of the different features that the tool offers:


Requirements Management:

  • Teams start by defining and managing project requirements within ALM. This includes capturing functional and non-functional requirements, specifying features, and outlining project goals.

  • Changes to requirements are tracked, and dependencies are managed to ensure that the development process aligns with the project's goals.


Test Management:

  • Test planning involves creating test cases based on the defined requirements. These can include manual test cases as well as automated test scripts.

  • Test execution involves running test cases and recording the results. ALM provides a centralized repository for storing and managing test scripts, test data, and test results.

  • Test coverage is tracked to ensure that all aspects of the application are adequately tested.

Defect Tracking:

  • During testing, if defects or issues are identified, they are logged in ALM. Defects typically include information such as the steps to reproduce, severity, and status.

  • Defects can be assigned to specific team members for resolution, and their status is tracked until they are fixed and verified.

Release and Cycle Management:

  • ALM allows teams to plan and manage releases and development cycles. This includes assigning requirements and test cases to specific releases or cycles.

  • Progress is tracked, and teams can assess whether they are on schedule, identify bottlenecks, and make informed decisions about the release timeline.

Integration with Development Tools:

  • ALM integrates with various development and testing tools to provide a seamless workflow. This can include integration with version control systems, continuous integration tools, and automation frameworks.

  • Integration ensures that information flows smoothly between different stages of the development lifecycle.

Reporting and Analytics:

  • ALM provides reporting capabilities to generate various reports and dashboards. Teams can assess project health, identify trends, and make data-driven decisions.

  • Metrics such as test coverage, defect density, and progress against milestones can be monitored to ensure project success.

Collaboration:

  • ALM supports collaboration among team members by providing a centralized platform for communication, document sharing, and information exchange.

As you can see, ALM/QC offers a wide range of features that can effectively work across the entire delivery management cycle and really provide a lot of information to application development teams.  


This is a tool that used to be widely used throughout the industry but has gradually been losing its grip on the market over the years. For a tool so comprehensive and powerful – why is that the case?


Well, the honest truth is simply that it has become too expensive, especially for emerging markets. It offers incredible capabilities, but its cost is too substantial for many companies to get into and work with. Especially when you want to integrate it into other OpenText tools like UFT or LoadRunner, which are similarly powerful, but also incredibly expensive.




Beyond the cost though, the tool was also slow to adopt certain agile and DevOps methodologies which meant many companies moving in that direction rolled off of it, and even though there have since been a lot of changes to adopt many agile methodologies and processes, the core technology the tool was built round was old and so from a performance perspective it was slower than many of its competitors and became clunky top operate. In fact, some of its desktop runner features were built with IE in mind and when Microsoft announced they would stop supporting that version, those features were removed with no replacement offered.


Despite some of its legacy architecture OpenText continues to support and build on the tools and their features are quite heavily integrated into many companies who find it an indispensable part of their lifecycle management. However, on the flip side, I’ve also found many companies don’t actually use many of its features correctly and waste it as just a tool to track testing and defects.  


So, even though the tool has been the gold standard in testing management for a long time, its cost and slow ability to evolve along with the industry meant it is no longer as popular as it used to be and largely what the company pivoted so widely into its rebranding and is focusing on many other different offerings more purposely.


Still, for companies that could afford to use it and build their systems around it, it is extremely powerful, and that is why they continue to use it widely to this day.




Below is a list of pros and cons of the tool:


Pros:

  • Comprehensive Lifecycle Management: ALM offers a comprehensive set of features that tracks application delivery all the way from requirements to testing to release. This comprehensive approach helps ensure that all aspects of the development process are coordinated and aligned.

  • Traceability: ALM offers robust traceability features, allowing teams to trace requirements to test cases and defects. This helps in understanding the impact of changes and ensures that all requirements are adequately tested.

  • Collaboration: The tool facilitates collaboration among different team members, including developers, testers, and project managers. Centralized communication, document sharing, and workflow management contribute to improved teamwork.

  • Test Management: ALM's test management capabilities, including test planning, execution, and reporting, are significant advantages. It supports both manual and automated testing, providing flexibility to accommodate different testing approaches.

  • Defect Tracking: The defect tracking system in ALM allows teams to log, track, and manage issues efficiently and a wide range of information that makes it useful for future maintenance and resolution. It provides a structured way to report, prioritize, and resolve defects.

  • Integration Capabilities: ALM integrates with various development and testing tools, enabling a seamless workflow. Integration with version control systems, continuous integration tools, and automation frameworks enhances efficiency.

  • Reporting and Analytics: The tool offers robust reporting and analytics features, allowing teams to generate customized reports and dashboards. This helps in monitoring project progress, identifying trends, and making informed decisions. Its reporting tools are powerful and produce useful information. On the flip side, it requires licensing for the dashboards to be viewed, meaning that many teams don’t make full use of this to cut costs.

  • CI/CD Observability through ALM Octane: Although most of the CI/CD functionality has aged, it provides incredible reporting when using its ALM Octane add-on (at an additional cost). Not as easy to use as other CI/CD pipeline tools, but still incredibly effective.

Cons:

  • Complexity: ALM can be perceived as complex, especially for smaller teams or projects with simpler needs. The extensive feature set might be overwhelming for users who do not require the full breadth of ALM's capabilities and as a result, many of the reasons to justify its massive expense, go under-utilized.

  • Cost: ALM/QC is substantially more expensive them many similar tools and so costs are a prohibitive factor in using the tool. Only large organizations would normally be able to justify its expense and many companies have pivoted to cheaper solutions as a result.

  • Vendor Lock: The ALM/QC suite of tools works best when used in a certain way. As a result, many companies build their processes to leverage the tool, but then have to do a lot of additional work in changing the way they might work creating migration challenges that can turn people off migrating away from the platform.

  • Customization Challenges: While ALM provides a range of customization options, making extensive customizations can be challenging for users without a deep understanding of the tool. Customization might require expertise or support from administrators.

  • Learning Curve: Due to its comprehensive nature, there can be a learning curve associated with using ALM. Training and onboarding might be necessary for new users to become proficient with the tool.

  • Resource Intensive: Running ALM, especially in larger enterprise environments, may require considerable hardware resources. This can contribute to increased infrastructure costs.

  • Dependency on Vendor Support: As with any commercial tool, users are dependent on the vendor (OpenText) for support, updates, and bug fixes. This dependency can be a concern if the vendor faces challenges or if support is not readily available.

  • Newer platforms out there: While OpenText continues to support and build features into ALM/QC, its main focus is on its newer tools so there is a chance the core application will be supported or phased out in the future.

When to consider choosing ALM/QC:

  • You are a large company with a big budget to spend on testing tools.

  • You are looking for one tool that looks at your entire Application Lifecycle Management

  • You operate in a very process-driven way that requires very specific requirements (Aviation industry, military, or medical software).

It’s perhaps a testimony to its success that dos many companies continue to use ALM/HP despite its age. What it offers, it does very well and offers a full end-to-end view of application delivery which be incredibly insightful, especially at an enterprise level, It’s perhaps a little outdated and far too expensive though for most companies to consider in their software delivery toolset.  

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