What Is It?
Software testing is part of our everyday life, whether we realize it or not. If you’re driving your car to work, making a wire transfer, or ordering your groceries online, you can be certain that there were teams who made sure these processes are convenient, safe, and error-free. With technology progress over the past years, the way that testing is carried out has drastically changed. The software development culture of shorter life cycles dictated by the need for quicker time to market has accelerated the use of automated software testing (automated testing). Automated testing involves the use of automation testing tools and scripts within a framework to objectively verify that the software is free from bugs and is functioning according to requirements.
Software development (we use the term “software” to include application development) typically follows a software testing life cycle that, when implemented correctly, will deliver a product that is stable, reliable, and ultimately meets the goals of the organization. The beginning phases of a development project include discovery and requirements gathering which provide the development team with goals, strategy, a degree of user experience to possibly include the creation of user personas, scenarios, and claims analyses, and, as a deliverable, the technical requirements document. At some point in the development process, depending on if your team takes an agile or waterfall approach, software testing will commence. There are two types of software testing—automated testing and manual testing where test automation engineers access the application and manually test, more or less, components, integrations, and usability as a whole.
Why Do It?
The benefits of automated software testing are numerous and provide advantages for both the organization itself and its clients. At a high level, automated testing enables the development team to quickly and accurately determine if the software functions properly. Automated testing facilitates higher test coverage because your team can write unit, integrated, and end-to-end tests and tests that are more in-depth, which means complex, higher-quality builds are possible within tighter timeframes. With proper methodical test automation, many tests within a test suite can be reused on other projects, which improves efficiency and decreases cost. Organizations included in a Tricentis survey claim that testing is critical to DevOps transformation success. The number of respondents who answered that testing was not at all critical dropped by 78% between 2019 and 2020. The survey also showed that in organizations with more advanced DevOps maturity levels, the testing is given higher value.1
Free from time zones and the physical limitations of manual testing, thousands of generated test cases can be executed from anywhere at any time which means your team can focus less on cumbersome and repetitive tasks and more on ad hoc testing and user experience (UX) concerns. For many test automation engineers, testing automation creates the opportunity to build new tools to further optimize the current testing suite or extend it with new features.2 Teams that are moving toward DevOps with Continuous Delivery and Continuous Integration (CI/CD) practices will find that automated testing is most certainly a critical component to quick delivery cycles and stable releases. As conventional wisdom shows, both CI and DevOps depend on the philosophy of “fail fast, fail early.”3
Adapting to automated testing does not mean that manual testing needs to be left behind—quite the contrary. Where automated software testing has high test coverage and speed on its side, manual testing is valuable for subjectively assessing the user experience as a whole. Interviewing users and capturing the nuances of human-centered interaction is a part of software development that benefits greatly from manual testing. Test automation engineers can determine how well the software functions while gathering feedback about interface design, navigation, accessibility, and more. Test automation best practices call not for an automated versus manual testing debate, but a discussion of how they will be used together.
A good question to ask of your organization is, “What is the cost of not doing automated software testing?” Delivering an application that is unstable and has bugs comes with a very high cost; one that can run deep for an organization. Correcting potentially foreseeable errors means pulling team members off current projects—possibly risking unmet deadlines—to work on a project that should have been delivered and invoiced. In general, for every bug that is found in the early stages, teams will save $200.4 This means your organization is spending more money and putting at risk its reputation for delivering a stable application.
What Is Involved?
The “what” and “why” of automated software testing give prospective users an idea of how it can be beneficial as part of their existing software development and test automation engineers and/or how it can help launch a move toward DevOps. It’s important now to understand what is involved in building your automated testing program and how to do it correctly.
There are two sides to automated testing, test automation best practices—which includes strategy, governance, and maintenance—and the suite of tools and tests you’ll use. Regarding the former, keep in mind that automated testing must be carefully implemented, managed, and maintained so that it will serve the purposes for which you intend. A program that is haphazardly or minimally managed will increase your team’s workload and will not deliver optimal results. Taking time to carefully craft automated testing best practices is work that is best done up front and will provide increased value as your program grows.
Next, the tools and tests that your team will use are equally as important as the best practices you construct. If your team doesn’t have experience with automated testing, then understanding the components available to you is necessary for moving forward with your program. Experienced testers know that well-written, considered test scripts, tools that are project-appropriate, and a highly usable framework under which standardization lies, are central to success. Automated software testing doesn’t discriminate and all the information about tests and tools you need for developing a robust program are available regardless of the size of your company.
Having the right governance model, tools, and knowledgeable staff is undoubtedly a great starting point for successful test automation. However, it’s worth looking at the bigger picture and also considering less tangible assets like company culture and employee attitudes. A Tricentis survey shows that, surprisingly, a common testing challenge in an organization is its mindset. This needs to be reflected when building the governance strategy so that the perception of testing efforts is not blocking its successful implementation.5
Automated software testing brings with it advantages for the development team, the organization, and its clients. The emerging paradigm of shorter development life cycles has accelerated the adoption rate of automated testing tools and scripts that work cohesively within a well-managed framework. Couple this with a strong team and testing best practices and you will have built a solid foundation upon which to develop quality software in tighter timeframes for less money.
Interested in learning more about automated software testing? Contact Automators: https://www.automators.com/contact
2. KKL Research, Industry Research, 2021, p. 7
3. Ibid., 5
4. Ibid., 4