The decision has been made: QE is getting a new (or first) test automation solution. Perhaps their existing framework, such as Protractor, is being sunsetted. Or maybe the quality team realized that manual testing alone is no longer a sufficient testing strategy as software development cycles become shorter and applications more complex. Either way, it’s time to turn that effort into action and start integrating the new testing solution into everyday work.
The Three Pillars of a Successful Test Automation Strategy
Like any other work technology, adopting test automation means accepting some short-term pains. Regardless of how easy to use the testing tool is, there will always be a learning curve and some resistance to change. But accepting that pain - and planning for it - will minimize the friction and help set the entire development organization up for long-term success. Good planning also helps ensure that the QE team maximizes the value of their new test automation solution.
Though every organization is different, the pillars of a successful test automation strategy are largely the same: people and processes. Let’s explore the building blocks for each pillar so that every team member has access to the support, knowledge, and guidance they need to understand their new role in quality engineering.
The Human Element of Test Automation
Whether a team is transitioning from a legacy test automation framework like Selenium or using a test automation framework for the first time, there’s bound to be a learning curve. The most effective testing strategies are user-centered, making it essential for the expertise of the software testing team to drive quality even as test automation plays a larger role. To support the testing team (which should include developers, product managers, and even customer success), quality managers should make sure that everyone has access to the necessary support and learning resources
Ideally, the test automation solution provides unlimited access to customer support. If that’s the case, then the QE team needs to make sure that everyone who will be engaged in automated testing has time with the vendor support team. If support hours are limited, then the quality team needs a plan to allocate hours as fairly as possible, as well as time dedicated to developing internal support resources for test automation.
Encouraging full test automation adoption also requires internal time and resources dedicated to helping non-QE team members understand the new test automation framework. This can take the form of specific hours set aside for new test automation solution users to work through questions with the QE team as well as FAQs and other testing documentation to share internally.
The “How” of Test Automation
Process is simply how work gets done. Good processes facilitate the best ways to use tools like a test automation solution, and help people maximize their time and expertise at work. Regardless of if a team is transitioning between test automation frameworks or using automated testing for the first time, well-documented processes are instrumental in encouraging implementation.
Ideally, process development is led by those who’ll have to follow it most often. In the case of test automation, this is most likely the QA specialist, QA engineer, and/or SDET. Rather than having the entire team jump into the new automated testing solution and begin experimenting, many organizations find success in having a core group of quality professionals understand the most effective uses of the new solution, document their recommended process, and then onboard the rest of the team in stages so that everyone works with the same processes.
As the entire team becomes comfortable with the test automation framework, leadership can encourage participation with metrics that incentivize a culture of quality. With shared metrics across all contributors to testing - engineers, QA teams, product managers, etc. - everyone understands their role in testing and is better prepared to integrate testing into their regular workflow. Creating goals around the number of tests run, test coverage, and discovering bugs earlier in the DevOps pipeline helps the entire team participate in automated testing.
Using Test Automation to Unlock Human Potential
The best test automation solutions are designed to complement and amplify the skills and expertise of its users. Quality engineering teams are facing new challenges as software organizations adopt DevOps, accelerate development cycles, and manage rising user expectations for the digital experience, and many are turning to automation to remove the burden of routine testing so that QE professionals can focus on developing new testing plans, expanding test coverage, and integrating quality throughout the DevOps pipeline. When test automation implementation plans are focused on helping people do their best work, QE leaders set their teams up for success.
Meghan Elledge, Director of Engineering at Friend of mabl DataRobot said it best:
“It’s about making use of what automation does best and what people do best. Giving people back their time and their productivity [with automation] gives them the freedom to actually think about other higher value things.”
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