Great software products are a result of strong development skills- while this statement is largely true, our view is that it is a rigorous engineering process which can make or break a potentially great product. Most organizations recognize the critical role of testing in the software engineering lifecycle and are adopting a strategic approach that ensures the proper utilization of their testing resources. This allows them to accelerate the testing process and deliver high-quality products to the market faster. In the digital age, organizations are already under tremendous pressure to deliver new and competitive products and services to the market ahead of their competitors. While new development methodologies have helped, in order to achieve competitive advantage and stay ahead of the curve, organizations have to not only accelerate their development process but at the same time accelerate the testing process to run alongside development and deployment and accelerate the time to market. This is only achievable by adopting automation testing.
The advantages of test automation
Given its rising importance, testing is increasingly becoming more comprehensive and hence more resource intensive. Traditional QA cycles that used to take anywhere between three to six weeks now have to be condensed to a few days. Applications too are becoming more complex and given that the users are now more digitally adept than even a decade ago, the chance of survival of slow or buggy applications is zero. New agile development methodologies such as BDD and TDD are placing testing at the heart of development and demand that testing, too, progresses at the speed of development. Also since the time to market must be shorter, the application in development must be tested quickly and should have comprehensive test coverage. With testing automation, organizations can reduce manual effort, improve product quality and navigate the challenges of exclusive manual testing with ease and improve time to market in the following ways:
Faster Bug/Issue identifications
One of the foremost aims of automation is to increase test coverage for bugs or issue identification. With automation testing, it becomes easy to find bugs or latent issues or defects that lie hidden and are difficult to identify manually. Automation testing also ensures that if a bug or a defect appears tests can be written to even stop the bug in its tracks. This reduces the chances of the defect appearing again undetected. Automated tests are capable of providing faster and visible feedback on any crashes, hangs or other exceptions in a consistent manner, which helps in making the development process faster.
Faster Test results
Getting the test results from an automated test suite is much faster and can be generated almost 24×7, than the manual equivalent. For productivity improvement in testing, it is important to identify the actions the automated tests are expected to perform. Repetitive tests that run for multiple builds such as regression tests and intensive tests such as load testing, unit testing, functional testing that are time and resource intensive lend themselves well to automation. The testing team gets the test results in a much shorter span of time as the heavy lifting is done by the automation testing tools.
Faster regression tests
It is of critical importance to ensure that all the parts of the product in development function in a cohesive manner. A change in code in one piece of the software should not affect the overall functionality of the software in any adverse manner, or break code that was fixed in a previous release. Thus, taking the inventory of the workflow of the application, maintaining version control and test scripts, and ensuring that the new functions of the software or any changes to the application source code do not ripple outwards and break functionalities. Automating regression tests delivers great ROI for testing as with each source code modification, the regression test suite just needs to be re-run. This helps in reducing the load on the testing and programming teams as it validates iterations faster against the identified baselines and checks the application thoroughly for potential errors.
Faster assessment of software quality
With integration into your DevOps pipeline, test automation helps teams assess the stability and the quality of the software much sooner than manual testing. Automation testing provides detailed test data with coverage information, failure, and success data. This data that provides end to end traceability of all test assets helps test managers assess if a product is ready for the market or if it needs more testing and QA. Since automation testing speeds up the testing process, it eliminates the battle between quality versus time to market. Greater test coverage using test automation also reduces the cost of failure as errors are uncovered faster and before they can cause any real damage during production.
Test automation clearly has its advantages and development methodologies such as agile simply cannot be executed without automation. At the same time, since automation testing can be more effort-intensive, to get the ROI for testing it is essential to assess which tests to automate and which should remain manual. It is not practical to aim for 100% automation. This being the case a choice has to be made by carefully weighing factors like the complexity of automating the cases, the frequency of execution of the test suites, and the effort involved, and contrasting that against time and effort involved in running the manual tests. It is also essential to assess the maintainability of the test automation suite so that it can be reused and can scale as per demand. Finally, it is imperative to test the test automation code itself for stability and dependability. Since most automation tools demand programming abilities, leveraging scriptless test automation helps in reducing automation time and resource utilization and improves maintainability which also translates to faster time to market. Clearly, automation testing is no longer an option anymore…not if you want to get your product to market faster anyway!