At mabl, we’re focused on solving an essential challenge: enabling software teams to innovate quickly while meeting high customer expectations for quality. In other words - to build useful things faster with fewer mistakes. This tension has been growing for years, but 2020 added the challenges of remote work and accelerated digital transformation to the continued disruption brought about by cloud, SaaS, and DevOps. Heading into 2021, we set out a roadmap for taking intelligent test automation to the next level with quality engineering: a discipline that incorporates best practices and data-driven testing into the end-to-end customer experience and drives organizational growth.
Rethinking the quality process for the DevOps era
Quality engineering has traditionally lacked the tools needed to keep pace with digital transformation. Many QE teams struggle with complex, brittle automation frameworks and slow manual testing which create serious bottlenecks to DevOps adoption. While development accelerates, QE is left with outdated workflows and toolsets.
Rising to the challenges and opportunities presented by DevOps and digital transformation will require innovation in the approach to quality. More than ever, we need to shift our focus away from quality assurance as a task that you perform late in the SDLC process in favor of quality engineering practices throughout the entire lifecycle. It starts with broad, effective test coverage - beginning when a developer is working on a local branch and continuing until a high quality customer experience is confirmed in production. It also goes deep; we evaluate all aspects of quality, ensuring that we satisfy requirements related to functional correctness, accessibility, performance, user experience, and more.
Low-code test automation unlocks a culture of quality
With low-code, genuinely effective testing is at the fingertips of every role, from product owners to developers, manual testers, and even customer support. Requiring all of these roles to develop specialized programming skills is impractical, so low-code tools serve to democratize quality engineering by enabling everyone to participate in authoring tests, updating tests, and gaining insight from test results.
Low-code testing brings several advantages to quality engineering, particularly in the transition from manual testing to automated testing. While traditionally this process would create major disruptions, low-code platforms are smoothing the way. In their IT Automation predictions for 2021, Gartner expects that by 2024, improvements in automation capabilities will refocus 30% of IT operations efforts from support to continuous engineering. For manual testing teams, that shift would likely trigger talent changes and a long process of pilot projects, retraining, and gradual rollouts. Low-code is key to managing this shift, upskilling workers, and ensuring quality throughout.
Modern automation solutions embrace rapid change
A key challenge with traditional test automation tools was that they were designed for applications that didn’t change frequently and were intended only to validate code. They relied on static selectors to identify page elements. If the selector (say an ID) changed or objects (the XPath) moved on a webpage, then tests failed. As more enterprises accelerated development via DevOps, Agile, and CI/CD, the burden of test maintenance resulted in the same bottlenecks as manual testing.
2020 was a breakout year for low-code test automation. Solutions such as mabl surpassed the capabilities of legacy frameworks that have dominated the sector. As a leader in the intelligent testing era, mabl uses machine learning to greatly reduce the burden of test maintenance and overcome test rigidity challenges without the complexity associated with traditional testing tools. When a tester navigates their product, mabl automatically builds an understanding of each element and its context so that if an element is moved the element or a properties changes, mabl can rely on a set of sophisticated heuristics to locate that element. This drastically reduces the amount of maintenance required to ensure your tests are current. When tests do need to be updated, mabl’s low-code model makes it easy for anyone to jump in and make the updates. Looking ahead, autohealing and low-code editing are crucial to supporting quality engineering in high-velocity teams.
One Friend of mabl, Sensormatic, adopted mabl to improve testing for a quickly changing product suite. While shifting from manual to automated testing, their team tested an open-source tool that utilized script-based testing. But the amount of maintenance required by the open-source tool meant that the Sensormatic QA team was only able to achieve 50 percent to 60 percent test coverage. The QA team was also forced to redesign their tests every time an element changed position, a significant burden considering that their team constantly released new features and frequently updated their UI. After a proof-of-concept with mabl, they realized that low-code allowed them to reduce test creation from a week-long process to just one day per deployment cycle. Due to mabl’s autohealing features, Sensormatic also has significantly reduced the amount of maintenance required, expanded test coverage to 96 percent, reduced production bugs by 50 percent, and kept pace with their quickly evolving product.
Testing the entire customer experience
Traditional pass/fail validation stops short of offering real insight into the user journey, a critical step in creating an impactful testing strategy. The next generation of test automation platforms shifts the focus away from validating code to validating the entire customer experience. This starts with broadening testing to cover non-functional requirements, such as application performance, accessibility, and user experience. With mabl, for example, you can identify trends in load time for key pages and be notified if the page changes visually. From there, you can prioritize quality efforts toward the components of your application that are most used or highest risk.For example, mabl integrates with Segment to identify what pages or features are most critical to your UX. This enables you to make data-driven decisions about test coverage - focusing your testing efforts on high-priority pages like the checkout page for an e-commerce site, or high-risk pages such as those with multiple interactive elements that are linked from other pages, such as signup forms.
But even a fully data-driven testing strategy that only focuses on the app or website UI is unlikely to cover the full end-to-end user journey, resulting in test coverage gaps and potential pain points for customers. For example, a common user journey may start with opening an email and clicking on a link, checking a web site, and downloading a PDF. Whereas the limitations of legacy tools relegates testing to the web portion of that journey, mabl allows you to validate the entire user experience: receiving and opening an email, clicking on the link, logging into the web site, downloading the PDF and verifying its content. Mabl even confirms values in the backend via API - all without writing a line of code. Developing the tools to seamlessly monitor, repair, and manage the expanded CX is central to our innovation and to our customers’ success.
Quality engineering as user-centric as you
Test automation is critical for high-velocity teams racing to innovate faster, shift to DevOps, and build new products while working remotely. Thankfully, a new generation of intelligent test automation solutions are enabling teams to rise to the challenge by embracing low-code and machine learning to maintain quality while keeping pace with development. To build a culture of quality engineering in this environment, your team needs test automation solutions that are as user-centric as you are: solutions that provide coverage across the entire user journey. Solutions that not only verify functional correctness, but provide rich insight into all aspects of quality and enable continuous improvement. Perhaps most importantly, you need solutions that enable everyone on the team to participate in quality. And we’re excited to help usher in that new era here at mabl.
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