A weak or non-existent test automation strategy can lead to several easily-avoidable pitfalls in your testing. Thankfully, it’s a simple matter to avoid them if you know how to strategize your automation effectively. A good strategy saves time and money, improves product value, and maintains or even boosts quality. All it takes is a little forethought, planning, and trial and error to devise a strategy that can see you through countless testing cycles.
We’ll show you a rough guide on how to develop this strategy and talk about how these things help you mitigate risk in the development process as a whole. First, here’s how a robust software test automation strategy might help you.
The Role and Benefits of a Software Automation Test Strategy
Test automation generally refers to running repetitive tests with minimal manual intervention. Automated tests can be written and executed using automation tools designed to replicate real-life human interactions with the software to ensure the software behaves as you want it to.
There are three major areas in which a good test automation strategy can benefit software development. These are cost, quality, and time to market. Automation has been used in one form or another to achieve these benefits for decades, and it’s only getting better. Let’s isolate these three major perks and explain how they’re affected by automated testing:
Cost – The high rate of testing available when using automation means it’s possible to run numerous tests in quick succession, sometimes even in parallel, dramatically reducing testing time without compromising on quality. This leads to much lower human resource costs for the entire testing process.
Quality – A good test automation strategy focuses on the testing that lends itself to automation, again, without reducing quality. In fact, automated testing can improve software quality by being rapidly repeatable without the potential for human error and allows for more testing to occur in the same amount of time.
Time to market – As we mentioned, effective automated testing speeds up the process as a whole, reducing release times without having to cut corners on either the quality or volume of testing.
In order to benefit from all of these advantages, automated testing needs to be implemented in the right way and at the right time. This is where a test automation strategy comes into play. A strategy gives your teams an idea of where to begin, how to implement an agile (or otherwise appropriate) process to your testing, and which metrics you’ll need to identify whether it’s been successful and what your ROI for the testing was.
How to Develop a Test Automation Strategy for your Product
There are quite a few things to consider when planning for automated testing and designing your strategy. The process should follow at least these nine basic steps:
1. Where to start – By using the testing pyramid, you’ll be able to identify where you want to start testing. You should consider your main motivations for automated testing, and of the three benefits we listed in the previous section, pick the order of importance to you. From here, you’ll choose the automation relevant to these needs.
2. Apply your familiar development principles – This means designing regression testing where you would normally include it, incorporating your whole team, and investing in training opportunities for those needing them by factoring in some hands-on experience and collaboration between testers and developers. Part of this process should focus on ensuring app stability before automation.
3. Identify what should be automated and select your tools – Pick out the types of tests you want to automate. These should include repetitive tests and tests that run against different data sets and many units, components, and GUI-level tests. It’s not worth automating one-time tests, and exploratory tests will not be suitable for automation. From here, you’ll be able to identify the tools you’re going to use for the testing.
4. Modeling and coverage – You need to know what you’re covering, but you also want to know how much you will cover and with which tests. Once you’ve identified and executed your tests, you’ll need to evaluate your results, so when designing your strategy, you need to have the relevant metrics in mind too. Don’t forget to look out for over-testing!
5. Write the tests – Here, you’ll need to identify each test’s start and end conditions and record the requirements scenario into an independent automated solution with assertions.
6. Run the tests – This is the execution phase, in which each test is run multiple times.
7. Evaluate – At this stage, the evaluation is as simple as ensuring each automated test behaves as expected.
8. Publish – Share the results of the automated testing process with the team and encourage discussion and evaluation of the successes and failures (if any).
9. Adjust and repeat – Taking a trial and error approach, make the necessary adjustments and repeat the things that have worked in your test automation strategy so far.
That’s more or less all there is to designing and implementing a test automation strategy, but there are some common roadblocks you might want to know about.
Software Test Automation Strategy Challenges, Risks, and How to Avoid Them
The typical challenges that automated testing faces are usually budget or training-related and can be useful to know about in advance to try to mitigate them. Without a proper test strategy, you may fall foul of any of the following challenges:
The initial investment can cause problems for teams on a tight budget. Implementing a new automation test strategy does take time and resources away from the day-to-day. Still, it’s best to consider it a significant investment in time savings down the line. Make sure to budget both time and money to design a robust testing strategy.
Poor testing can lead to product and project risks. Many automated testing approaches lack clearly-defined goals, which can lead to aimless testing, over-testing, or simply not testing in the right way to make the best of the strengths of automation. It’s important in the modeling and coverage considerations of stage 4 to reduce these cases where possible.
It’s also common to have incomplete or improper testing tools to achieve the desired results, which emphasizes the importance of identifying your tools early on, usually as soon as you’ve identified what you want to test.
One of the strongest benefits of the speed of automated testing is the ability to reuse code. Try to avoid spending all this time on writing tests that will be discarded as soon as you’re done and lots in a pile, never to be used again. Instead, make tests that are easy to recycle, and you’ll likely find that you can make use of them countless times.
Automating your software testing immediately mitigates the risk of falling behind when it comes to the development of new technologies. Still, other roadblocks will present themselves when it comes to test automation.
Thankfully, with a bit of careful strategizing, you should be able to mitigate these risks easily and reap the rewards of a robust automated testing strategy, bringing you savings in time, money, and human resources as well as boosts to the quality and responsiveness of your software. A good software test automation strategy should be something you carry with you throughout numerous development projects.