With software requirements changing at lightning speed in an agile environment, more and more organizations look to inculcate more atomic development cycles for accelerating their Time To Market (TTM). A 2021 study by digital.ai has discovered that 86% of software development teams have adopted agile, up from 37%, a year ago. This shift to more agile software development methods has led to a simultaneous demand for more efficient means of software testing during the software is developed. Companies run the risk of suboptimal software delivery due to costly manual test case maintenance cycles as well as the lack of visibility these legacy processes bring to the table.
A Statista study highlights that 32% of all Software projects fail due to the simple lack of time to test the product thoroughly.
Testing timelines are cut shorter, for quicker software delivery. It is mostly because the consumers have different options to explore, as a result of which, the user expectations have increased. Hence, it is important to deliver a high-quality software release with new features every few weeks for customer engagement and retention.
The heavy workload upon software testers working against the clock to perform high volumes of repetitive manual tests is a major concern. Additionally, customer dissatisfaction arising from uncaught defects during production and costly downtime resulting from sub optimally tested features are driving factors too. These reasons have cumulatively led to the increasing adoption of automation testing in the industry.
In such conditions, traditional manual testing is often seen as being unnecessarily time-consuming and prone to human errors. Thereby, it is essential to transform from manual to automation test practices for keeping up with global trends and business demands.
Before discussing the details of transitioning from manual to automation testing, let’s have a brief overview of both these methods along with some scenarios where they are optimal.
What Is Manual Testing
Traditional manual testing requires testers to manually investigate defects in software by adhering to a predefined test plan comprising a number of test cases. The testers take it upon themselves to analyze the behavior of the app and check if the functionality is synchronous with the expected behavior.
Testers identify bugs and report them to developers who fix them after replicating the errant behavior. This can become challenging for a test lead/manager especially when the timelines are shorter.
When To Use Manual Testing
Manual testing is useful when the QA process requires cognitive and behavioral abilities beyond that of software. It is recommended to use Manual testing in situations like:
Also, for scenarios where:
- The testers need a quick turnaround on a particular scenario with a clear intent. Since automation tests take time to set up, it might be faster to test one-off scenarios manually. However, scenarios that require a repetition with different inputs would be better off being tested through automation testing.
- The projects are short-term with a small number of feature tests. Since automation is time-consuming to set up, small projects can be tested manually.
- End-user usability is of importance, as no machine is accurate enough to decide the satisfactoriness of a user journey without an actual user testing it.
All of these test scenarios can now be expanded into a set of positive and negative test cases.
What Is Automation Testing
Automation testing primarily uses frameworks to execute test cases. Each framework is unique to an extent and is powered by scripts adhering to the rules of the framework in question. These frameworks have components like:
- Function libraries
- Test Data Sources
- Object Details
- Other reusable modules
These frameworks can be classified as
When To Use Automation Testing
Automation tests work best when we need to run a large volume of repetitive tests with differing inputs. For example, Data-Driven testing of a large number of regression tests. As in this case, the functionality has essentially remained the same, it will not require much manual oversight.
Also, when human resources are better utilized in other tasks which require greater cognitive effort, it is better to run automated tests. Parallel testing offers a great avenue to run a large volume of tests without compromising test accuracy.
Thus, to recap, we have identified a couple of important caveats before focusing on the transition from manual to automation testing:
- Not everything can be automated.
- Manual testing cannot be done away with completely (at least in some areas).
How to Switch From Manual to Automation Testing
As a quality assurance leader, once you have identified the need to automate a portion of your existing test portfolio, it is important to consider the steps required to achieve your goal. Here are a few simple guidelines to help make that decision:
Understand the ROI From Automation and Get Buy-in From the Stakeholders
Change is inevitable, however, necessary. But for change to be accepted, the stakeholders need to be convinced of the ROI arising from that change. The Return on Investment from automation can be best described in terms of:
Increased Speed of Test Coverage
Automated tests can work wonders for repetitive test cases and help minimize the cognitive load for data-driven regression testing allowing your team to work in a more agile way across sprints.
Though some may claim that the initial cost of setting up an automated test framework is higher than standard manual testing, one will only reap increasing dividends by setting up the infrastructure. Studies have shown that the costs of test automation reaches a positive balance after the third test cycle, and this can be speeded up even further in an agile scenario.
Providing a Baseline for Continuous Integration and DevOps
An automation test suite is a foundation for transitioning into a scalable CI/CD and DevOps model. Continuous Testing is the execution of automated tests at regular intervals made to correspond to code changes. These tests are conducted as part of the software delivery pipeline and provide faster feedback on changes to the repository.
Increased Accuracy and Productivity
Test automation provides faster test coverage with data-driven accuracy and frees up resources to divert their attention to more critical tasks thereby increasing overall productivity as well.
Decide What To Automate
The key decision in any test-automation strategy is to select which test suites to automate. Some of the tests which are most suitable for automation are as follows:
Regression Test Suites
These are usually voluminous, require the same set of variables to be used as input and are usually run several times during the development
Data-driven Test Suites
Even a lot of functional tests are data-driven and need to be tested with numerous divergent data sets to test a variety of positive and negative scenarios.
Performance Testing Suites
Tests to monitor system performance under different circumstances can be automated to reduce test times.
Select the Right Framework(s) For the Project
Selecting the right framework is essential for streamlined testing. Test frameworks are often licensed and need time to set up. Moreover, it is important that the team is well-versed with the tool for delivering accurate results. Selecting the right framework depends upon:
The Nature of the Software
Understand the primary audience and thus the main runtime system for your software. If it is desktop-based, a tool like Selenium is preferable. If it is mobile-first then Appium can be considered, and so on.
Cost automation is sometimes expensive. Depending on your need you may choose a licensed framework like QTP or an open-source framework like Selenium Webdriver.
Set Bite-sized Targets and a Rapid Learning Curve
Test automation is often touted as a silver bullet in the world of QA. However, the journey from a manual to an automated test suite might not be smooth. It’s best to start with small goals. Automate the test suite that is most used in regression testing. Isolate any common errors, and iteratively expand the scope and complexity of the automation to increase test coverage.
Aim for Thorough Visibility and Continuous Testing
Continuous Integration (CI), Continuous Deployment (CD), and Continuous Testing (CT) are all key components in Agile. While CI enables developers to merge code changes to the repository on a daily basis, CT is required to ensure that those changes work as expected.
Have a Well-defined Lifecycle for Your Automation Test Suite
Once the automation suite has been set up (sometimes at the cost of considerable time, effort and finances) it is vital to ensure there is a clear roadmap to implement and maintain the same. Some common pitfalls of test automation include:
- Lack of specific goals,
- Inadequately testable applications,
- Low visibility of the automation ROI across the organization.
It is important to make automation a core part of the STLC (Software Testing Lifecycle) to ensure its success. Also, following automation best practices ensures that the transition is seamless and the rewards are commensurate to the efforts.
Test automation has become indispensable for organizations seeking to make the most out of Agile Software Development practices and incorporate CI/CD and DevOps into their development plans. Though manual testing still retains a niche, a transition to automation can result in speedier test coverage with enhanced accuracy. Performing tests on Real Devices will help generate more accurate results.