Itron Solves Software Quality Assurance Challenge with TestTrack
Itron is a leading manufacturer of high-end metering equipment for the utilities industry, and provides metering data and back office solutions for leveraging that data to better serve customers.
Metering for the electric, water, and gas industries is highly regulated by both local and federal mandates—environmental integrity and preservation is paramount—so it is vital for Itron's customers to know that their metering software has been through a watertight quality assurance process. Itron's strength is in helping their customers streamline operations and better manage their energy and water resources. However, almost ten years ago, Itron's own software quality assurance (SQA) process was in need of modernizing.
At the time, one of Itron's research and development divisions in Raleigh, North Carolina, relied on Excel spreadsheets to manage their SQA test cases. Each engineer was responsible for maintaining individual documents, and there were no common templates or a centralized method for tracking the status of assets in development. It was clear that, as the department grew, this method would quickly become inefficient and cumbersome.
"A manager would literally have to walk the room, stop at each cubicle, and ask how each team member was doing," said Ed Lavoie, R&D Manager. "While that was perfectly effective when there were only a few people in that quality assurance team, it certainly wasn't sustainable."
Itron's R&D leadership wisely decided it was time to prepare for the inevitable departmental growth before experiencing the growing pains that usually lead teams to go looking for a software solution
TestTrack: A Robust and Flexible Solution
When Itron's R&D leadership started looking for a better way to manage their SQA process, they quickly ran into a challenge. Although there were a number of enterprise-level test management software tools on the market, finding a flexible, inexpensive solution that could be implemented on a departmental level was proving difficult.
"We needed something that was flexible, low cost, and wouldn't require an entire IT department to install and maintain since it wasn't going to be a traditional corporate asset," said Lavoie.
"With Seapine's TestTrack we had the ability to control all the roles and workflow facets to a super fine degree."
—Ed Lavoie, R&D Manager, Itron
Certain they wouldn't be able to find a test management solution that met their requirements, Itron looked at freeware, shareware, and homegrown options, with similar lack of luck. Then they discovered Seapine Software.
"With Seapine's TestTrack we had the ability to control all the roles and workflow facets to a super fine degree," said Lavoie. "I could make it do what I wanted it to without going to Seapine for customization or having to rewire it in-house—there is a high level of intuitive flexibility built right into TestTrack."
After evaluating TestTrack, the decision to purchase it was an easy one. Lavoie took his time with implementation, getting the roles and workflow rules exactly right, working with Seapine to integrate TestTrack with other corporate software programs and getting the team up to speed with the new way of doing things.
It was well worth the effort; the growth Itron had anticipated came to pass. Initially, Itron had just 5-10 TestTrack users. Eventually, with the addition of a number of floating licenses, TestTrack was supporting more than 120 users per day—a situation their Excel-based SQA system would have been completely unable to handle.
Confident Compliance and Confident Customers
Test case execution is part of the daily grind in Itron's R&D department. They process hundreds of thousands of records for test execution using TestTrack. But that's only one piece of the test management triangle. They also use TestTrack for test case creation and for the management and traceability of requirements.
"I can't imagine functioning without it," said Lavoie. "The data handling, storage, and processing is phenomenally robust, and it has been incredibly reliable. We ran extensive internal evaluations a few years ago and TestTrack performed well above 99%."
While such internal-facing functionality has certainly surpassed expectations, the external-facing capabilities have made TestTrack even more valuable for Itron. Lavoie regularly meets with customers and navigates through their test cases right in the system—highlighting who performed which tests when, what specific attributes were tested, and the test results.
"That we can show traceability, audits, and test results for customers who ask for verification materials is incredibly valuable," said Lavoie. "We have a close relationship with many of our customers and they appreciate our willingness—and our ability—to really show them behind the SQA curtain with TestTrack."
Tested and Approved
Itron has been working toward a homogenized global process involving a minimal set of software tools across all business divisions. After months of reviews and extensive assessments, few software solutions remain on the acceptable list of approved systems—Seapine Software's TestTrack is one of them.
"I can't imagine functioning without it. The data handling, storage, and processing is phenomenally robust, and it has been incredibly reliable. We ran extensive internal evaluations a few years ago and TestTrack performed well above 99%."
—Ed Lavoie, R&D Manager, Itron
"The cost-to-value of TestTrack made it easy to justify with corporate management," said Lavoie. "With Seapine, we can also show how our processes have matured and very clearly demonstrate the quality we put into all our products. There is huge value in that."