In the era of DevOps and continuous testing, automated testing is at the forefront of everything we do as part of our development process. It starts right from the requirements phase and continues until the application deployment and production monitoring phase. Automated testing helps find defects early and get them fixed as quickly as possible. It also supports the release of features at a rapid pace to meet growing customer demands.
But there’s one problem organizations face: understanding when and how to run these automated tests during the development process.
Here are three ways to make your automated tests more strategically effective.
1. Have a clear distinction between automated tests
Not all automated tests have to run every time. For example, if a bug is fixed, it is not necessary to run the entire regression suite to ensure that the bug does not exist anymore. Instead, run the test that directly tests the feature associated with it, as well as the adjacent modules with some kind of dependency on this feature.
This is where we need to have clear distinctions within our automated tests. There are typically three types of automated tests to run, especially in a CI/CD pipeline:
High-level smoke tests
These high-level automated tests run on every code check-in to ensure the system’s critical functionality is still working as expected. This could be a mixture of UI, API and unit tests. These tests’ objective is to get quick feedback about the system, and they usually should finish running within five to 10 minutes.
Daily regression tests
Daily regression tests ensure the new functionalities added to the system did not break existing functionality. They are more detailed than smoke tests in terms of covering end-to-end flows of the system. They are usually run at least once a day and probably multiple times before a release.
These automated tests are newly written as part of the sprint. When a new test is completed during the sprint, it gets added to the daily regression tests. These are merged into the regression test suite, usually at the regression testing phase.
2. Select tools that fit your team
There are many tools and frameworks available to run automated tests during the different phases of the development process. This is especially true if the tests are triggered as part of a CI/CD pipeline; popular CI/CD tools include Travis CI, Jenkins and CircleCI.
But it’s important to ensure that the tool you select fits your team’s skillset. A tool that is too difficult to master may end up on the shelf. Teams should collaboratively decide which tools will be used to execute their automated tests.
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- Defining your goals
- Ensuring that your team is ready to adopt an automation tool
- Allocating the necessary resources
- Analyzing test automation solutions
- Identifying potential vendors
- Conducting a proof of concept
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3. Be realistic about test coverage
Automated tests are good to catch various types of defects periodically, but they cannot cover all possible scenarios. There will always be some tests that have to be complemented with manual testing approaches such as exploratory testing, risk-based testing and usability testing.
For example, using automation for catching rendering issues in the application, such as look and feel, is not ideal. There are a few tools that do visual validation, but it is challenging to replace humans in this aspect. We have to be realistic about when and why we are running our automated tests and the kind of coverage we are getting.
Some teams may be bigger than others, some applications could be more complex, and organizations can range in size from huge companies to startups. But no matter what, the process remains the same: Teams need to collaborate and figure out a set cadence to organize and run automated tests as part of their CI/CD pipeline.
Knowing when and how to run these automated tests will set up any team for success.
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