Selecting a testing tool (5)

Here's the fifth part in this series of posts examining the buy vs build choice in test tool selection. Let us look at -

Reason 5 to build a tool in-house – Tools we build can be fully customized when compared to commercial software testing tools.

This is one argument that's hard to beat. It is true that tools you build will be more customizable than anything you can get externally.

However, that is just one part of the equation. We need to look at the emphasis on customization. Beyond a reasonable degree, the need for customization may be viewed as a factor emerging from an organization's fluid and yet-to-be-clearly-defined set of methods and processes that makes defining a set of requirements for a tool, hard. The preference in such as situation is to go with a tool that can theoretically be customized infinitely.

While the ability to customize is very good and useful, it must be viewed in the light of costs involved and time to deploy the tool. Here's a very simplistic example – let us assume that your software testing group wants a GUI automation tool. One possibility is to buy a commercial test tool such as SilkTest or WinRunner. The other option is to build a testing tool that is similar to these testing tools but can be customized to any degree you would like.

The points to consider would be - 1) the costs involved – you might end up spending huge sums of money (many times more than it would cost to buy licenses) to build such a test tool and much more to maintain it for as long as your organization needs to use it 2) The time to deploy – assuming (for some weird reason) your organization is willing to invest the money, the other important factor to consider would be the time to deploy the tool. Building a tool from scratch takes time, lots of it in fact. Factor this in while making your choice.

I must repeat that I am not taking sides here, nor am I suggesting you choose to either build or buy tools. The attempt here is to present various perspectives that can help you make an informed choice. There are situations where it makes better sense to build your own software testing tools, as there are situations where it makes sense to go out and buy a tool and if need be customize to your needs. In certain cases, it can be hard to find tools that meet your specific requirements. Also, with any commercial tool, you will have to adapt to the tool and the way it works. With a tool that you build, you can integrate it with your current way of working.

We continue our exploration of the build vs buy choice in upcoming posts. Stay tuned.

Image courtesy: Suat Eman /