The Essential Components of a Successful Test Automation Strategy
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“Strategy without process is little more than a wish list” – Robert Filek
Testing has become a great enabler in this age with business environments becoming increasingly competitive. Neglecting testing due to time or resource constraints results in poor quality products, client dissatisfaction and increased development costs. A very high-quality bar is now key, to stay ahead of the competition.
The rise of agile development methodologies has also driven testing automation to become an inseparable part of the development process. In agile product development, development and testing need to co-exist harmoniously as the aim here is to develop the product, adopt frequent changes and at the same time prevent bugs leaking into production. However, for test automation to be successful and deliver results, having a water-tight testing strategy is essential. In this blog, we take a look at the components of a great test automation strategy
1. Build automation into the development plan
For test automation to be successful, it has to be a part of the development project and not an afterthought. Thus it becomes essential to align the test automation strategy with the business objectives and secure the buy-in of all invested parties. Considering the short release windows in agile projects, the test automation strategy has to ensure that it aligns with the product and business strategy from the inception in order to be successful.
2. Expectation mapping
It is imperative to set the right expectations to be successful in test automation efforts. Considering 100% automation is not a viable option both in the terms of efforts and costs, it becomes an important part of the strategy to define what needs to be automated and what can be tested manually. For example, the efforts required for automation in GUI testing are considerably higher as compared to manual testing. The objective of automation is not to replace manual testers but to facilitate product development by automating the tests that need to be done repeatedly and frequently to deliver optimal results.
3. Define objectives and outcomes
To write quality code, you need to review that code frequently. To do this having strong and defined objectives, similar to those that we have during software development, should be implemented. Instead of listing out vague outcomes, quantify the outcomes with specific goals you would like to achieve with automation for better results. Replacing objectives like, ‘test fast’ or ‘achieve greater coverage’ with something more quantified such as ‘achieve 30% greater test coverage’ or ‘reduce time to market by 20%’ will deliver greater results.
4. Have a dedicated team
Test Automation should have a dedicated set of resources. In a blog we wrote previously, we discussed how designing a test automation suite may require resources who are conversant with the elements of coding and programming making it more of a developmental activity. However, it’s the test automation engineers who know which workflows and scenarios need to be automated and which can be tested manually and know the paths in which bugs tend to hide. A dedicated team will have a mix of these capabilities. Having a dedicated team also makes the decision-making process simpler and ensures that the responsible people remain answerable towards the outcomes.
5. Select the right tool
Selecting the right tool assumes a very important role in the test automation strategy. With a multitude of tools out there, which one fits the requirements of your project? Testing teams thus need to assess the business need and evaluate the objectives of automation in order to make the right selection. The test automation tool will aid the test-suite creation process by making it simpler. However, for the test automation initiative to be a success, a great automation tool has to be complemented with skilled resources. Thus it makes sense to invest in a test automation tool that uses a language that is familiar to the resources, enables the cost advantage, provides feature based decisions and has solid infrastructure support.
6. Plan for product evolution
A test automation strategy also has to account for product evolution and ensure that it remains relevant in the light of frequent product upgrades and releases. Thus testers need to assess which tests they can reuse, test plans that will remain relevant and which need to be discarded, build smaller and independent test cases instead of one big monolithic architecture, and create space to analyze test data etc. to build a solid test automation strategy.
When developing a test automation strategy, it helps to bear in mind that the real value of test automation efforts comes from the results that the tests produce and not from the volume of tests that are automated. Thus testers need to choose wisely and decide what to automate, when to automate and how to automate. Only when the test strategy is well thought out and defined will organizations get the desired results from their test automation initiatives.