Jira for Test Management: Options, Challenges, and Solutions

Jira for Test Management: Options, Challenges, and Solutions

Integrating your testing and QA processes with Jira becomes essential if your team relies on Jira to manage software development. Typically, you have two primary options:

  1. Utilize Jira directly to monitor testing tasks (often as sub-tasks associated with development issues or via customized issue types)

Employ a Jira-based test management add-on (which can be either free or paid)

Using Jira for test management

Although Jira wasn’t initially intended for software testing and lacks built-in test management features, its adaptable nature and customizable fields have drawn users seeking to employ it for tasks like test case management.

However, utilizing Jira as a test management tool presents challenges that could potentially outweigh the benefits, particularly depending on your QA and development team size and structure.

A Jira board displays your team’s work as cards you can move between columns. Jira comes with many elaborate features like backlogs, roadmaps, and customizations that make it a popular tool for more complex software development tasks.

Image: A Jira board displays your team’s work as cards you can move between columns.

Advantages of using Jira for test management

For teams with less complex test requirements, Jira might suffice for monitoring testing activities for three main reasons:

  • Access: If your team already uses Jira for development tracking, additional licenses might not be necessary to track your testing in Jira as well.
  • Tool consolidation: By keeping all of your tracking in one tool, you will have fewer platforms to maintain and may be able to streamline visibility across your agile software development efforts.
  • Flexibility: With some work, Jira’s issue templates can be adapted to include various custom fields. This feature allows the creation of specific custom issue types such as ‘Exploratory Test’ or ‘Regression Test,’ distinct from Jira’s default issue types (like Epic, Story, Task, Sub-Task, Bug, etc.).

Challenges of using Jira for test management

Although Jira can be used for test management with enough time and effort, it also presents significant challenges:

  • Organizing test cases and test planning can be complex
  • There is no easy way to track test results over multiple test cycles
  • Jira comes with little to no support for test automation
  • There is no easy way to report on traceability or coverage

1. Complex to setup for test planning & organization

Using Jira to organize your test cases and using Jira issues to build out your test suites is a complicated process. There are two ways to approach Jira test management without additional plugins, add-ons, or tools. 

Work tests into your existing Jira workflow 

You can start tracking tests in your existing Jira workflow by utilizing issue description fields and subtasks to log all relevant test info. However, this approach isn’t scalable, makes it hard to manage test data and preconditions, and offers limited visibility into testing progress.

Create custom Jira issue types

You can also create custom Jira issue types that are better suited for logging and tracking tests. However, this can cause confusion and will clutter your Jira board or force you to maintain a separate Jira project just for testing. You can try grouping Jira issues into “test suites” using custom labels or fields, but there is no built-in way to organize your Jira issues hierarchically to see all your related tests at a glance. Your team can also use epics to create test suites, but finding reusable tests or tests needing maintenance becomes an intensive search.

Jira board view

Image: Using custom Jira issues will clutter your Jira board or force you to maintain a separate project just for testing.

2. Difficult to track test results over time

 To scale your testing program, you will need to be able to reuse test cases efficiently. However, Jira issues do not lend themselves well to that use case. While you can clone Jira issues from one release to another, it becomes time-consuming when dealing with an entire set of issues crucial for end-to-end regression testing. Moreover, cloned issues lack the capability to track a test’s success or failure rate across time.

Even with the Jira Query Language (“JQL”), pinpointing a specific Jira issue becomes challenging, particularly if it originated as a clone from a previous test or as a sub-task for another issue. Once Jira tasks are marked as ‘done,’ they are no longer visible. To find them, you must sift through historical issues using Jira’s search feature or export historical Jira issues to Excel and manually filter through them.

3. Little to no support for test automation

Jira software offers an extensive REST API but lacks built-in support for test automation tools. 

Whether you are doing BDD testing with a tool like Cucumber or running automated tests with a framework like JUnit or Selenium, there is no easy way to integrate your test automation with the rest of your manual testing tracked in Jira. This separation creates silos within the QA team, impacting real-time visibility into testing processes.

4. No way to report on test coverage or traceability

Effective traceability is helpful when your team wants to find documentation or test cases for a requirement quickly—and crucial for regulated industries or applications that must pass regulatory audits for compliance
While Jira simplifies linking between user stories, defects, and epics, it lacks built-in coverage or traceability reports. Searching for linked issues is time-consuming, and compliance adherence becomes challenging without any built-in workflows or reports to confirm link establishment.

Using Jira add-ons for test management

Another option is using an app or add-on available through the Atlassian Marketplace

There are two different types of test management apps in Jira:

  1. Apps that are built on top of and managed through Jira (like Xray)
  2. Apps that integrate Jira with dedicated test management platforms (like TestRail)
Jira test management add-ons•Improved test case organization and planning
•Enhanced visibility and reporting
•Better defect tracking and traceability
•Access for all team members to test cases, deliverables, and reports within Jira
•If the app you choose is paid (Jira Server, Jira Cloud, or Jira Data Center), they are billed as part of your existing Atlassian subscription
•Cost concerns: Some can be expensive (especially if you have to buy a license for every Jira user)
•Limited customization: Teams might need to conform to the tool’s design rather than the tool adapting to their needs.
•Complex onboarding: Adoption and effective use of add-ons can pose challenges for team members.
•Scaling impact: Scaling Jira may lead to performance issues affecting all users, not just those using the add-on
Jira apps that sync with a dedicated test management solution•Easily manage your QA workflows
•Seamlessly integrate with test automation and other DevOps processes
•Greater customizability
•Increased visibility between QA and Development
•Greater control of Your test management
•More scalable
•Separate licensing: Typically, you must purchase separate licensing for these types of platforms (even if their Jira app itself is free)

How to choose the right Jira test management solution

Selecting the ideal tool involves understanding your team’s specific needs and objectives. Define your goals—be it identifying coverage gaps, boosting QA productivity, or gaining insight into the testing process. 

In addition to your team’s unique testing goals, consider features, pricing, support, and user feedback or case studies to compare and choose the right tool.

To take your research a step further, here are seven things to look for when choosing the “right” test management tool if your agile team uses Jira:

1. Workflow customizations

An effective test management tool should offer robust features for organizing and planning testing efforts. It should facilitate creating, managing, and reusing test cases, tracking testing progress, and reporting. 
For example, in TestRail, you can manage, organize, and track all your test cases in one collaborative platform, generate comprehensive project reports across multiple test runs, configurations, and milestones, and receive traceability and coverage reports to track coverage for requirements, tests, and defects.

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Image: A good Jira test management tool will allow you to customize many behaviors and testing entities within the platform—from test case and results fields to test case templates and user roles.

2. A low learning curve

If the tool is too cumbersome or hard to learn, you’ll find the transition to using it is an uphill battle. Evaluate the user experience through a trial. Look for a tool with an intuitive interface, helpful documentation, and reviews from existing users.

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Image: (G2 review) TestRail’s usability and intuitive user interface allow for quick onboarding.

3. Integration with your tech stack

Integrating your test management platform with your tech stack not only enhances user experience but also streamlines information sharing across systems. 

With a standalone test management tool like TestRail, you can integrate with almost any test automation, CI/CD, or other DevOps tool. This means you can still use the tools that work best for your team while maintaining a single source of truth for the quality of your application.

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Image: Whether you are using popular automation tools like Selenium, unit testing frameworks like Junit, or continuous integration (CI) systems like Jenkins—TestRail can be integrated with almost any tool.

4. Scalability

As a company grows, you must ensure your test management tool can keep up with increasingly complex requirements, volume of test data, and number of users.

This is a particular challenge for many Jira-based add-ons because as your volume of testing grows, so does the number of Jira issues stored in the database for your Jira instance. Too many Jira issues can start to slow down your instance drastically, making it difficult for everyone in your team to work.

Oftentimes, a test management tool built outside of Jira can provide a more robust infrastructure for your testing data because it doesn’t rely on Jira’s data architecture to manage performance at scale. Look for tools that allow you to freeze and archive historical test data — giving you the ability to reference historical test runs and results without having to maintain active access to that data, affecting the application’s performance.  

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Image: TestRail allows you to access and review past test runs and results without needing continuous active access to that data. This capability ensures that referencing historical information doesn’t affect the performance of the application.

5. Increased test coverage

Test coverage is a key metric for QA teams to ensure that their testing program is covering all of their application’s features. A test management tool expedites requirement coverage visualization. For instance, with TestRail, you can receive coverage reports for requirements, tests, and defects with the click of a button. 

Test management tools like TestRail make it easy to monitor coverage throughout the lifecycle of your project, identify areas where you need to introduce more tests and take action to release high-quality products with greater confidence.

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Image: With TestRail’s Jira integration, you can link test cases to user stories, epics, or any other kind of Jira issue to clarify exactly which requirement is being tested.

6. Greater visibility into the testing lifecycle

Traceability improves the quality and reliability of your organization’s service or product by linking different artifacts like requirements/user stories/epics to their corresponding test cases, test runs, test execution results (including defect details, if any), and vice versa.

A test management tool should allow you to see and maintain the history of test cases and bugs so that you have a clear record of what has been tested and what needs to be tested in the future. A good test management tool will give your QA team improved insight into the logic behind each test and requirement pairing so that the development and engineering team can more easily identify issues discovered during testing.

7. Improved transparency

Many teams have multiple stakeholders that want to understand testing progress—not to mention your QA team should also want to track their own progress. Communicating QA metrics like test coverage, test completion status, or test reliability should be easy or even automatic through scheduled reporting

Whether integrated with Jira or synced to an external test management platform, an add-on should enhance transparency with stakeholders and the entire organization, ensuring seamless visibility.

Choosing the right tool for your team’s needs is essential—by investing some time in comparing your team’s needs with the tools available on the market, you’ll be on your way to managing your testing smoothly and efficiently in no time!

To learn more bout how to build an efficient testing process, track coverage, and build comprehensive traceability between development and QA using Jira and TestRail, check out this course on TestRail & Jira in TestRail Academy.

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