When Is the Right Time to Invest in Test Automation?

May 5, 2020 | Test Automation Insights

invest in test automation

Test automation has become a vital part of the software testing process. Teams in both small and large enterprises are implementing some form of automation to catch defects early and get faster feedback on their application. They can choose from several frameworks and tools available to quickly build a stable automated test suite they can then run periodically.

Arguably the hardest part of the test automation effort is the planning phase, where organizations need to decide whether it is the right time to invest in automation. Here are some things to consider to help make that decision.

Four signs it’s time to dive into automation

There are some signs that indicate it’s a good time for you to proceed with a test automation initiative.

1. You’re finding defects late in the development process

There is a significant cost associated with finding defects late in the development process. By the time a defect is found in later stages, a bulk of the feature is already developed, and a considerable amount of rework may be needed to fix issues.

This is a typical, less than the ideal flow of a development cycle: A bug is introduced in the requirements, design, or development process. A part of the feature is developed and then pushed to QA for testing. A tester finds the bug and logs a defect for it. A developer picks up the defect ticket, fixes the bug and pushes it back to QA. Finally, the tester retests to ensure the bug is fixed and also does some exploratory testing to make sure the fix did not break adjacent modules. This is a vicious cycle that costs a considerable amount of time, effort and loss in productivity in teams.

To break the cycle, defects have to be caught earlier in the development process using test automation. Before and after the new development changes are pushed to QA, automated unit and integration tests should be triggered respectively to ensure the new features did not break existing functionalities. This takes a proactive approach to find defects.

2. There are areas that need considerable manual testing effort

The amount of testing effort needed increases exponentially with the complexity of the application. We have applications interacting with several components such as APIs, databases and hardware devices, and in the world of the IoT (internet of things), data is flowing through several connected devices in real-time.

Given this context, there are some areas of the application that consume a lot of time to test manually. For example, if you are using a fitness tracker, one test scenario could be to ensure the same data shows up on the mobile and desktop website, mobile native application and the hardware device. Testers could manually conduct this verification, but it would be time-consuming to do on a regular basis.

If there is an automated way to do the data consistency verification instead, it could save a considerable amount of manual testing time.

3. You need to test across multiple browsers, configurations and devices

Gone are the days when companies were required to support only certain configurations. With the plethora of devices, operating systems and browsers available to users today, it becomes crucial for testers to test these combinations. To do so manually is difficult and time-consuming, and it affects release cycles.

Instead, automation tools can be used to run the same set of tests on multiple combinations of browsers, devices and configurations, giving quick feedback on the application. The ROI for using tools for this effort is high compared to performing them manually.

4. You want to implement a seamless CI/CD pipeline

A byproduct of following agile methodologies is the need to have automation seamlessly integrate with the existing CI/CD pipeline. Tests need to run during every code check-in to ensure the new features did not break existing ones. Regression tests also need to be triggered periodically to verify that different end-to-end flows of the application are still working as expected.

Other factors to consider about automation

Even if you have several compelling reasons to begin a test automation program, there are several questions to consider before starting automation efforts:

  • What problems could automation solve that cannot be otherwise solved via manual testing?
  • How testable is your application?
  • Are there enough skilled resources to do automation?
  • Is there sufficient time to start an automation effort and sustain it?
  • What frameworks and tools could fit your project needs?
  • Do you go open source and invest the saved cost in building a framework, or do you spend the money to buy a tool and use it to start automation without having considerable groundwork?
  • Do you have the support of necessary stakeholders to start such an effort?

Test automation is a useful supplement to manual testing, and in order to keep pace with today’s productivity demands, it’s becoming essential. But a test automation effort is not something to rush into; a lot of time should be spent deciding when and where to fit automation into your already existing development and testing process. A diligent effort has to be dedicated to figuring out the right time to invest in automation.

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