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Control Costs: Measure Test Environment Effort

How many people does it take to set up and tear down a test environment? If you ask this question and measure the effort required you might be surprised by the result. While organizations often focus on the hardware budget for test environments, the largest cost associated with test environment management is almost always the labor required to configure and reconfigure test environment systems. It often takes teams of two to three people a day to configure an environment that hasn’t been automated, and test environments can keep teams of valuable resources like DBAs busy performing repetitive tasks such as executing schema changes and loading test data.

If you are sharing test environments to save money, you should measure the effort required to set up and tear down environments between projects. The cost savings achieved by sharing environments is likely small when compared to the cost of labor required to reconfigure environments between projects. People are more expensive than virtual machines.

Manual Test Environment Effort is Time Wasted

The biggest cost associated with manual test environment management is the opportunity cost of having critical resources focused on manual set up and tear down activities. Measuring the effort required in test environment management is the first step to justifying initiatives to automate test environment set up and invest in cloud-based test environment infrastructure. Use Plutora to measure the effort required to maintain, set up, and tear down test environments, and identify opportunities for automation.

If you capture the true cost of manual test environment management activities, it will be easier to pitch to management about an automation initiative. Even if it requires a short-term increase in your TEM budget, the long-term benefits of automating test environments are overwhelming. Freeing up teams of test environment engineers and DBAs to focus on more important problems of higher value will yield immediate benefits, and with automated test environments, your team will breeze through QA instead of having to wait for manual environment work.

“How long does it take to get a test Environment?”

If you’ve ever had to tell a project manager or an engineering manager to wait a few weeks for a test environment, you’ll understand how difficult it can be to convey that message. In an era of instant automation and continuous deployment pipelines, your internal customers have a completely different set of expectations. “Why does it take so long to get a QA environment?” is one of the most common questions in IT.

And you are competing with public cloud providers. Developers are familiar with public cloud APIs, and many have had experience working in companies that were able to spin up and tear down environments in minutes. These developers might not fully appreciate the constraints present in a larger organization that hasn’t fully embraced public cloud infrastructure. When you talk of security constraints and capital expenditure requests for hardware, these internal customers are just wondering, “Why can’t I have my QA environment quickly?”

Stop Wondering, Start Measuring

All too often companies just ignore the work effort required to bring a test environment online. Unless your organization has completely embraced cloud-based infrastructure and infrastructure automation, it can take days or sometimes weeks to get everything aligned for a new QA environment. Development teams are often driving environment managers to create more and more environments to support parallel development, and it can be a constant challenge to communicate the amount of effort required.

Developers and development managers often discount the work of test environment management and wonder why it takes so long to stand up new test environment infrastructure. When this happens, it is because test environment managers have failed to capture the true costs associated with standing up a new environment. Plutora gives you the opportunity to start measuring the effort required, and it provides you with a tool that can make this cost visible not only to your internal customers but to management as well.

To fix the perception issue created by a slow-moving TEM effort and to encourage a more rational approach to staffing test environment management, it is the responsibility of test environment managers to use tools that allow them to capture the effort required to maintain and set up test environments. Plutora is just such a tool, and we have built features into Plutora that allow test environment managers to track the effort required and run reports that can inform planning around the staff and capacity allocation.

Just measuring your costs can go a long way towards controlling them, and Plutora can help you do just that.

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