June 20, 2012

3 Easy Improvements for Your TestTrack Workflow Events

Helix ALM
If you're not familiar with TestTrack's workflow engine, it consists of 3 components: states, events, and transition rules. A quick description I always use is that "states are the stops on the road, events direct a work item to the next stop, and transition rules define which stops are connected by a road." Configuring the workflow can get complicated if you're not careful, and there's a ton of power in there that can help or hinder the success of your product development process. If you want help with workflow, contact Seapine Services for some expertise in configuring TestTrack workflow. If you want 3 quick tweaks you can make to improve usability of your workflow events, then keep reading. [caption id="attachment_11646" align="aligncenter" width="537" caption="Create a new workflow event"][/caption]

Save Your Clicks

Events move a work item from one state to the next, and often request additional information from the user as part of that transition. You can capture this information with custom fields, which can be set up on the Custom tab. Examples including asking a developer how many hours were spent fixing an issue, or prompting a reviewer about why they're sending a requirement back for further changes. In practice this means that the user clicks a button to apply an event, is prompted for more information, then clicks OK to apply the event and move the work item along in the flow. A common setup we see, especially with folks that have been using TestTrack for a while, is that every event prompts the user to click OK before it's applied. If you don't need any information from the user applying the event, consider letting them skip the prompt and just apply the event immediately. You can do this during event setup by selecting the "Do not show the dialog bog when entering this event" check box. Creating a  "grab" event is a great example of letting users self-assign with 1 click, rather than the typical 4 clicks it takes with the default workflow setup.

Make it Visual

When creating new events, or tweaking the meaning of existing events, consider helping users out by configuring an icon for the event. They say a picture is worth a thousand words—a workflow icon can save users from browsing through a handful of  possible events when they're ready to move a work item to the next state. On the Custom tab, click Choose Icon... and browse to the workflowicons directory in your TestTrack installation path to find an icon to use.

Mind the Assignments

An important concept in the power of TestTrack's workflow engine is user assignment at each stop in the flow, or who "owns" the work item in its current state. With that knowledge, you can notify them via email that they have work pending, break down the overall project schedule by team member, and ultimately hold people accountable for delivering work. The first step in enabling all of this power is defining how item assignment changes on state transition. Does the same person still "own" the work item at the next stop, should the person applying the event re-assign it at the next stop, or should that process be automated?
  • New Assignment - The person applying the event will be prompted to set item assignment for the next state.
  • No Affect - We want the same person to still own the work item at the next stop, so don't change anything.
  • Clear Assignment - Either the item is being closed out entirely at the end of the lifecycle, or you're going to use automation rules to control who takes ownership at the next stop.