When done properly, using test automation can be a highly effective tool that leads to a boost in productivity, and a quality enhancer for your application that ultimately improves user experience and customer happiness. For teams that are just getting started with test automation, applying best practices right from the beginning can help make for a smooth transition for the entire team.
Below are some of the most common challenges - and how to overcome them - that teams face as they pursue test automation efforts.
Challenge #1 — Effective Team Collaboration When Using Test Automation
Collaboration is a challenge for any product development group—developers, test automation engineers, and conventional testers alike. The problem is more acute with test automation because it requires considerably more planning, foresight, communication, and collaboration, as it fully depends on historical testing data, tester experience, and at least one proof-of-concept. Testers need to work well across the entire development team to ensure all these pieces come together.
Overcoming SILOED TESTING TEAMS:
Since testers are central in communicating the value of test automation , each automation tester should be in close contact with manual testers, business stakeholders, developers, and system architects. To be successful, it’s vital that most of the team commits to active and continuous involvement because of all the moving pieces coming in from the different aspects of the development process.
It’s also valuable to have management buy-in prior to automating your tests. This can help foster a more collaborative development environment, with accountability to improve application quality by increasing efficiency and effectiveness with the help of test automation. Documenting as you go as well as nailing down key metrics will also help enable you to have more productive conversations when management calls for it.
Challenge #2 — Deciding on the Best Testing Approach
When possible, it’s always best to prioritize establishing what success looks like for you and your team before buying new test automation tools (which we discuss in the next section). Acquiring a tool is the easy part—but establishing which tests should you automate first, which ones you should leave as manual tests, and how you will go about doing it all. The tools will not give you insight into what your team should automate, it’s simply the means to executing those tests.
It usually helps to ask yourself, “what problem am I trying to solve?” Capturing the user journeys that are most important to your application, along with what useful tests look like for those journeys will help you to start to create your test automation vision and plan for success. While it may seem time consuming up front, in the long run it will pay off not only in the selection of the right solution to solve the problem, but also in the rollout and adoption of that solution.
Create Your Vision for Test Automation Before You Choose a Solution:
Which test cases are important to you? Before you begin to think about test automation, it’s important to define a set of criteria that your test cases would satisfy to make those tests a candidate for automatization. It’s also helpful to remember to pay attention to areas that contain unknowns that can mean higher risk to product success. Another area to give extra attention to is user journeys that are simple to users but have complex functional areas that can be particularly challenging to test if you’re not using a solution that helps you easily capture those scenarios and scale them adequately.
Another consideration is risk-focused test automation approach which ascribes a higher priority to testing the elements that are most likely to fail—and hold the potential for the most serious negative consequences in the event of a failure in production. As you assess the level of risk, it’s critical to keep the following in mind:
- Financial impact of a potential failure.
- Probability of failure for each vulnerability (get developer input on these).
- Service-level agreements with clients and customers.
- Compliance or security issues.
Agile development methodologies have become pervasive throughout the industry, and this means that many software applications contain significant changes with each new product iteration—which translates directly into expanded need for regression testing. This is a challenge in and of itself: how do you design and implement test automation that will readily and correctly identify these app changes; and quickly update the tests with minimal levels of maintenance effort? Ideally, a test automation solution should be able to handle this for you.
Challenge #3 — Evaluating Test Automation Tools
There is a wide variety of test automation tools, and the list is growing. All of them seem to be trying to alleviate the same problem of automating manual tests, but many have proven to have a negative impact on team productivity levels. It can be difficult to sift through all the information and separate the wheat from the chaff to figure out the solution that will actually improve software testing and meet your team’s needs. Steering clear of hype, doing your due diligence with sufficient research, and carefully evaluating fact-based proposals from reputable sources will give you the confidence you need to make the right choice.
Tool evaluation can sometimes feel daunting, especially if it’s new to you. Some of the reasons that happens are:
- Lack of expertise needed to make the most of the capabilities of a specific tool.
- Incomplete knowledge on whether a tool exists to meet specific needs.
- Misconceptions lead to desire for a tool that isn’t available.
- A favorite tool doesn’t seem to provide full test coverage.
- Tool costs exceed the team budget.
The good news is that you’re not alone if you’re feeling overwhelmed. The challenge of choosing automation tools has been recognized by industry analysts, specifically according to the 2018 Gemini World Quality Report, over 50% of IT leaders report that their organizations lack suitable automation tools for their testing teams.
Tips for Choosing the Right Test Automation Solution:
Though it requires effort from across the team, a good assessment begins with clearly outlining the requirements that will make your team successful. These will likely closely correspond with user acceptance criteria for each of your products.Input from professionals who have considerable experience in using the test automation can oftentimes be invaluable resources for helping establish your list of requirements. If they're not on your team, you may be able to find these experts at conferences or smaller-scale networking events, making it worth investing in sending your teams to them. Free webinars are often hosted by product vendors to demo their offerings and share best practices which can be helpful in your selection process. Attending these webinars live is a great way to take advantage of getting your questions answered by participating in the live Q&A portion of the event.
If the tool that your team wants is beyond the reach of your budget, it may be worth the effort to prepare a cost-benefit analysis and build a business case that you can share with management. Demonstrate how implementing this tool will minimize risk, lower costs, improve efficiency and release quality. One way to demonstrate that is by taking advantage of a free trial of the solution to execute a proof of concept that will help you learn what impact the solution will have.
Challenge #4 — Shortage of Skilled Test Automation Engineers
It is a misconception that test automation can be easily done by any tester. Likewise, many falsely believe that any developer can automate tests. Focusing, designing, configuring, and implementing test automation requires specific skills and time to build experience. Skilled engineers will have advanced knowledge of both testing best practices as well as software development. Test automation solutions will have differing reliance on these skills. In other words, some tools will require a lot of skilled expertise, while others will enable a wider demographic of team members to benefit from test automation.
Overcoming Demand for Skilled Testers:
When filling this role, you need to look for a specific skill set beyond technical chops. The ideal place for testers to sit is at the intersection between developers, managers, and customers. Having the ability to articulate ideas from one group to another is a must. Being in the tech field, successful testers are usually willing to stay up to date with the latest technologies and development methodologies to understand what the development team may be doing or moving towards. At the same time, they also understand what the software is intended to achieve for users - much like a product owner would. This helps inform decisions on which test cases are relevant.
Automation engineers are admittedly one of the toughest tech roles to hire for, but the effort to find the right hire will be rewarded with a test automation pipeline that, in the long run, saves you time and money. Additionally, choosing a strong test automation solution that allows your team to scale beyond the reliance on your test automation engineers will have an even bigger business impact.
Challenge #5 — Significant Capital Investment
In nearly all cases, the initial phase of test automation comes with some costs, since it requires analysis, design, and planning for the implementation. You’ll need to account for all licensing and operating costs—including hardware and software. Even if the choice is made to go with free or low-cost open-source automation tools, there are usually hidden costs in hardware especially when scaling tests, and the time spent on training and maintenance can add significant cost.
Test Automation is the Cost of Doing Business:
No matter which way you look at it, testing your application is business critical. In the early days you may be able to get away with minimal testing, or relying on manual testers. However, as adoption of your application grows and your development cycles speed up, test automation is something that will be a force multiplier for your organization, and is simply the cost of doing business. Planning ahead and starting small with a crawl, walk, run approach will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Test automation can deliver significant gains in quality, accuracy, and productivity resulting in happier employees and happier customers.
Be informed, not afraid
While these are unlikely to be the only challenges you'll face when tackling automated tests, they are fairly common and rank pretty high in significance. Teams that embark on the test automation journey by planning ahead, are more likely to avoid major missteps that end up resulting in tools that to be ripped out and replaced.
Still, test automation is necessary to keep up with the modern development pipelines that are releasing updates on an active and regular basis - faster than ever before. The software world is now customer-driven, and the end-user experience directly affects revenue, growth, and internal company dynamics, including talent acquisition and employee satisfaction. Adequate testing - supported and scaled with automation - plays a substantial role in protecting those core business objectives, and will help you maintain the competitive advantage to drive growth.
Plan ahead for the challenges, and keep an eye on the silver lining on the horizon, knowing that even though it will take some time and effort to implement test automation, it will all be worth it in the end.
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