Micro Focus ALM Octane Review

Gives us all the tools for Agile testing and test management, and predictive analysis could be a game-changer

What is our primary use case?

It's an Agile tool for our project-based test management. 

How has it helped my organization?

One of the things we're working towards is DevOps. With an Octane project, we have our automation, our requirements, our tests, our pipeline into build-and-deploy, and the ability to identify problem areas. It makes things quicker because it's more along the lines of an automated process. I would estimate it saves us 20 percent in terms of effort and time. We haven't gotten to Nirvana yet, which would be full automation, but we're trying to achieve that.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable features include the predictive analytics, being able to trace everything, and having all the tools for testing and test management in an Agile environment.

What needs improvement?

The problem with Octane is that if I'm in ALM and I need to go into this Agile process, and I have been using Micro Focus ALM, when I go to Micro Focus Octane, all the things that are in ALM are not all working in Octane. For example, the template feature: When I manage projects that are being created in ALM, I have a standard template, but I don't have a template for them in Octane. I literally have to create the project from the ground up every time, which for an administrator, is a nightmare solution. It could take you upwards of two to three days to set up a project, and then you have to try and make sure it has all the same stuff as the previous projects. You literally have to have this massive checklist to make sure you create all the same fields, you put all the links, you put all the dropdowns to make sure all this stuff works for the projects.

If I'm jumping from ALM to Agile, I'll go into Octane and create a new project template form, but I have to actually document creating that because I have to create every individual piece of that project - all the pages, all the fields, all the drop downs. I have to duplicate all the work, each time I have to add a new project in Octane.

It's very complicated. When I set up new projects, it takes multiple days, and then it's fraught with mistakes, because it's a manual process for setting these things up. I have multiple people trying to do it and I'm going to have all kinds of errors Typically, for ALM, it takes any one of us minutes to create a new project. I can create a new project in about 15 minutes, at the most. And I can guarantee you the project that's created is identical to all the other projects that I have created, because it's a template. In Octane, I literally have to create every field value, every field, every form, every workflow, manually, each time, which always ends up with a problem.

I've talked to them about it. They say it's on a list to be looked at. I would think that would need to be at the top of the list.

Another issue is that one of the things I do is link all these things together. Octane has a Synchronizer tool. The only problem was, it didn't work with all the fields. They just upgraded it to work with multi-select fields. I haven't had a chance to test it yet.

I worked with their engineers on this. I don't know how they could have not done this. There are not that many different field types that you would create. A text string or a single dropdown or a multi dropdown, or a numeric field. They had everything but the multi-select field. All the rest of them worked but multi-select didn't. In my projects, about one-third of my fields are multi-selects. When I tried to get the systems to work using Octane, I couldn't get them to work. I had to use another tool for the projects that needed multi-select. I put those projects in JIRA because JIRA worked.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

You've got it up and working. It's stable. Other than the problems that I talked about, it works. I haven't run into any other major issues.

I did have one project switch out of Octane, back into JIRA, because of the way that it displays status. If you are in the Octane test area, and you have defects and test results and user stories, and you want to see a user story, if you have different workflows for defects and for test, what you see on your task board is all three tool items on one page. Say you had a work in progress with a vertical line of task records. You would see a work in progress for user stories, a work in progress for test, and, a work in progress for defects. So from the board, you see three work-in-progress verticals, and you say, "Oh, that's a problem. Which one is it? It doesn't say." The only way to get rid of those is to hide them. They're still there, but you have to hide them.

I struggled with trying to get it fixed for the users. They kept making changes to workflows and every time they'd make a change, I'd have to go in there and try to figure out how to hide it. I think the design of those boards could be better.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I'm in SaaS. If it slows down, I just call them. They increase something, whether its memory, CPU, or disk space. Scalability is pretty much a non-issue.

How are customer service and technical support?

The support is good. They have worked very well with us, in getting things addressed. I work pretty heavily with the development staff and they are quite open and easy to work with. They do try to get the solutions addressed as quickly as possible.

We do have some big issues that we are struggling with, the template feature and the multi-select and the synchronizing. We were moving in a positive way to move people from the old tool to Octane until we ran into those issues. Now we're actually going backward. They got the multi-select fixed, but, unfortunately, I've got to erase some bad taste in peoples' mouths to get them to come back.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

The way we brought it in is that we have a Flex agreement with Micro Focus for a large list of products. Because we had ALM, Octane was included. If I have 200 licenses of ALM, I have the equal amount of Octane. If use one, I get the other.

How was the initial setup?

We have the SaaS. The system was all set up and working through the Micro Focus SaaS team. For me, it was just a matter of getting access to it. They said, "Here, put in your user ID and password," and that's how long it took.

What was our ROI?

The biggest ROI, compared to any other tool out there, looks like it will be the predictive analytics. I don't have it fully implemented, but from the demos I've seen, it is pretty amazing. Getting that fully set up and implemented is, in my opinion, a game-changer. It could make the tool top of the market. 

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It's pretty pricey, one of the most expensive ones on the market.

The value depends on if you use all the features that it has. It comes with a lot of features. The difference between the license structure of ALM and Octane versus JIRA, is that you get everything with ALM and Octane. All the plug-ins that come with them pretty much come with the product. You may have some one-offs that you have to buy outside the product but it pretty much all comes with the product.

For JIRA, you buy the pieces one piece at a time. If you only use three of the pieces, you only have to pay for three of the pieces.

If I used all the features of the tool then the price of the tool would probably be fair. I've been doing this for 45 years and I don't think there's a tool on the market that anybody uses fully.

The good thing with ALM and Octane is you get all the features and you don't have to add anything else. If you want to see what the others are, you have them to use.

With JIRA, you need those three things and you buy those three things and, most of the time you don't go looking to see if you can use something else. Maybe two of those things could help you immensely with something else, but typically you don't go looking for them because they may cost more money and you may not have it.

Everything in the tool is good, but then it's expensive. The mindset, now, is go Agile. And go Agile means go cheap, at least in the executives' minds. But, in reality it's not.

You're fighting the "JIRA monster" because all the new developers in schools today use JIRA. When they come out on the marketplace they know JIRA and they like to use it. They don't know Octane because it's a new tool and it's still in its beginning, growing pains. You really have to have a perfect scenario that convinces them to leave what they know to go to what they don't know. I fought tooth and nail to get people to start using Octane here because we had a license, meaning it didn't cost anything more than we were already paying. I couldn't get anybody to come see it. I couldn't get anybody to use it. What I started doing was selling it to new people, people who hadn't been involved with JIRA before. They took it and they like it, except for the one team that left because they didn't like it.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

When you compare ALM Octane vs JIRA, it's different than JIRA where you have the core product and then you have to buy all of the add-ons to do what you need to do. Octane tends to have everything you need.

What other advice do I have?

Octane is really good about synchronizing data. Synchronizer is a really good tool to get people who are into any other tool using it quickly. Regardless of where you're coming from, you use Synchronizer to synchronize the data, as opposed to trying start new or migrate. This is a quick way of getting data over and being able to manipulate it so that it's usable in the new tool. If you're going to ALM to Octane, as long as you can get all the fields to come over, it's quick. I took two projects and it worked within hours of getting it set up. When I ran into the problem of multi-select fields, that was pretty much a roadblock; but a simple project to a simple project, it worked fine.

In terms of our tools and processes evolving to adapt to the change from traditional Waterfall development, it requires a retraining. When you're going from ALM to Octane, in an Agile process, everything is completely different. You have to train all the users on how to be Agile, you have to train all the developers on how to develop in Agile. You have to realign your whole organization by resource and resource assignments.

Then, you have to develop your change control, your change management process, because that all changes. Also, your configuration management teams all have to change. It's a complete upheaval of literally the whole organization, to go from Waterfall to Agile. And, for tooling, everything you do, everything you knew before, has to change. Your tools, your process, your planning, your resource allocation, everything has to change. It's a very big process and it will take a long time, and we haven't achieved it yet.

The biggest lessons we've learned, so far, during this transition is that it's bigger than we thought it was. However, I'm still the owner of the tool and, for me, a tool is a tool. You have a screwdriver, and maybe you come up with a nicer screwdriver, but it's still a screwdriver. You still have to screw a nut into an object. The same thing with the testing tools. I still have requirements, I still have tests, I still have test runs, I still have defects. It's just how you process those things within the overall organization, how you address your processes. From a Waterfall process to an Agile process, everything is smaller. As opposed to a six-month delivery and test, where you're addressing thousands of defects, and thousands of test cases, in an Agile process, you're dealing with tens of them instead.  It's much smaller everything because you're working in two-week sprints as opposed to six-month or 18- month cycles or releases. 

In terms of the tools that you use, it's how they fit, how they get you to meet the objective quicker, and how much training has to happen. Some tools require more training than others because they're not logically thought-out processes for creating records. Octane's usability is more logical and step-processed, where you start with one record and it drops down to the whole thing as it explodes out into all of the different areas. Comparing it to JIRA where, if you don't know how to use JIRA, it's not very logical and you have to hunt and find things. In Octane, it gives you the big menu ribbon that has everything from left to right. So, you see how the process flows.

Regarding ALM tools in general, they're struggling with it and it could be because they themselves are on the same road that everybody else is on. But, they're a little bit behind. Agile has been around for a while. JIRA is the ALM of tools: ALM was the tool for test management for Waterfall, where JIRA is the tool for the Agile process. 

Octane is trying to play catch-up. The design of the tool is a little different. JIRA gives it to you in pieces, so you get the core product and you have to add on things to make it actually work, where Octane gives you everything.

We're in the process of going to this process. Right now, the larger side is JIRA. We have four projects using Octane. We can only hope it can replace JIRA.

We currently have fewer than 50 users in Octane. Their roles include BAs, testers, developers, and administrators. We don't require any staff for maintenance because it's all SaaS. The only resource utilization for us is setting up user access to Octane. Ninety percent of that is either the SaaS organization or the users themselves. Because we go through a portal, they have to set themselves up as a user on the portal, and then our support staff just grants them access to Octane and sets them up with a role. I'm the owner of the tool set and the support and maintenance.

Overall, I rate Octane a strong eight out of ten. The tool works and it works well if you're only on the Octane side. It does what it needs to do. It doesn't claim to be the easiest configuration tool, but utilization of the tool and its support for what your project needs seem to work quite well. All the things that they're giving you are everything you would need in projects. It's when you get into the integration piece, when you get into the more complex pieces... that's why I give it only an eight.

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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