Selecting a Test Tool (3)

Continuing from our earlier posts that looked at the common reasons behind the question of whether to build or buy tools … lets now look at -

Reason 3 to build a tool in-house - Building a tool in-house saves a lot of money when compared to purchasing the tool externally. Since we are using our available resources, things would work out much cheaper than buying a tool

How easy is it to estimate costs accurately for a development project ? Try estimating the costs for your planned tool development project. Include the cost of resources involved in developing (gather requirements, analyze, design, implement, localize if needed, migrate data) the tool, documenting, testing (unit, functional, performance, etc), training users and performing on-going maintenance and enhancements of the tool. A common perception when developing in-house tools is that users of the tool will be more forgiving and adjusting of the tool's failings. Also, users might have reduced expectations from the tool. The fact is – users not only demand similar standards as external tools, they generally have more (rather than less) expectations from the in-house developed tool. After all, the developers are in-house and accessible. It is not hard to reach them and we can get them to add in a feature or customize something as we want it. Developer not willing to do it ? Lets go through the right channels / hierarchy and request for changes.

Cost calculations must also consider the opportunity cost involved with having both Developers & Management / Business staff working on the tool development project vs working on other revenue opportunities. We must not under-estimate the cost of tool maintenance. In many cases, on-going maintenance costs (defect tracking, regular updates / patch releases, support) can turn out to be a significant recurring investment similar to the licensing costs involved when buying a tool.

Basing tool decision purely on cost is not really a feasible option. What may seem to be a less expensive choice could turn out to be a less than feasible alternative. Focus on what provides maximum benefits and meets most requirements. 

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