Top 5 Challenges of Lab Management

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To avoid a defective product release, companies rely on testing teams who collaborate to deliver the most accurate, and timely, testing results. In competitive markets, time is a top resource, so teams continuously work to discover ways to improve the acc

This is the first post in a six-part series on lab management challenges. Check back for future posts that dive further into each of the following obstacles faced by test teams.

Product testing is critical to any pending product release or feature. If a flaw is overlooked during development, and the product is released to the public without correction, it can impact sales, and be detrimental to the company’s image and reputation in its market. A leading brand can be forever damaged by the release of a single dysfunctional product feature.

To avoid a defective product release, companies rely on testing teams who collaborate to deliver the most accurate, and timely, testing results. In competitive markets, time is a top resource, so teams continuously work to discover ways to improve the accuracy and efficiency of testing efforts.

Before a testing team rises to its full potential, it must first assess underlying problems. Below are five common challenges test teams may experience within the lab.

1. The Non-Collaborative Nature of Testbeds

The testbed is the underlying platform upon which testing takes place. When working in the lab, the testbed is in high demand among members of the test team. It is certainly not overlooked during the process. However, the monolithic nature of a testbed presents a looming obstacle for effective lab management. In its most basic form, testbeds are not shared among team members, which often means reduced or minimal transparency. 

Conflicts in the lab often arise because team members are unsure of when and who may be using the testbed. Limited visibility leads to limited communication, which ultimately results in a variety of issues, including project delays and time wasted because of unclear communications

2. Manual Lab Configuration

Manual testing has its perks. In the long run, however, manual testing is unproductive, and even harmful to achieving optimal efficiencies. When a new product feature developed, it’s time to test. This is when manual testing is at its best. But, as time goes on and new features are released, the weaknesses of manual testing are exposed: time and consistency.

Manual testing poses a major challenge due to evident time constraints. Testers struggle to automate manually configured tests by the time a new update is ready for review. To keep up with product releases, they defer to manual regression testing, and the established test is pushed aside. As a result, the number of backlogged tests increases, and concurrently, the need for more testers increases. This costly cycle continues to grow as new updates are released deliver new product features.

As the complexities of manual testing advance, the chance of error does too. Testers will be pressed for time, and the lab manager may also be forced to take on the financial weight of another team member. The power of repetition, granted only by automated testing, is invaluable in terms of consistency and time.

3. Testbed Configuration

Manual testbed configuration is a long, complex process. Each new test requires a unique configuration, and because of the complexity involved, manual configurations are prone to error. During configuration, testing experts must decipher which software and hardware products combine to create the precise testbed. An abundance of software products utilized within the lab poses the challenge of what seems like infinite combinations, a common lengthy and frustrating process.

4. Unclear Reporting Practices

Without a consistent, collaborative test reporting system, teams run into uninformed decision-making, conflict, and miscommunication. Manual reports may be shared with the wrong people, or may omit key details. This affects the testing process from start-to-finish.

Bad communication among a cohesive unit can disable any complicated project. Important messages may be lost from one level to the next, leading to duplicated efforts, or worse, misinformed decisions. The entire testing process is stunted if reports do not yield accurate results. In the end, if the testing results are miscommunicated or lost, the lab manager will likely be held responsible.

5. Manually Updated Inventory Lists

An outdated inventory list can also cause mistakes and confusion in the lab. These lists are pivotal to the future testing of any product or product feature. However, when done manually, they are often shifted to a low priority. The problem continues to grow as the list lags behind actual testing activities, leaving the potential for mistakes in product testing.




Ameya Barve
Ameya Barve

Product Marketing Manager

Ameya Barve is the Product Marketing Manager for Spirent Communications and is responsible for establishing and executing on Spirent’s global marketing strategy for its portfolio of automation products and solutions. He has over 15 years’ experience in software and technology industries, holding various titles in the fields of software engineering, product management and business development. He currently also serves as the Chairman of the Marketing Committee at [Network Test Automation Forum](http://www.ntaforum.org/) (NTAF). Ameya has an MBA from the University of Wollongong in Australia, a master's degree in computer information systems from Southern New Hampshire University and a bachelor's degree in management from the University of Bombay (now Mumbai). Connect with Ameya on [LinkedIn](www.linkedin.com/in/ameyabarve) or follow him on Twitter at [@AmeyaAtWork](https://twitter.com/ameyaatwork).