Many organizations have already implemented test automation. Other organizations are planning to start doing it soon. However, even with many benefits, it is not enough to simply automate your tests. You must have a strategy for how you will apply this type of testing specifically to your project. In this article, we will understand what a test automation strategy is, why you can incur huge losses without it, and how to develop and implement a competent strategy for automation.
What is a test automation strategy?
The test automation strategy includes a general approach to testing and reporting. It defines what you automate for, how you do it, and what goals you want to achieve according to the expectations of the test cycle.
The strategy for automated testing itself reaches several goals. Firstly, it informs about the risks and opportunities of development and testing. Secondly, the strategy allows you to visualize your goals and plans for product development and testing. Thirdly, the strategy is an audit tool that allows you to look at what you planned to do and compare it with what was actually done.
Why is it a bad idea to automate testing without a strategy?
With the transition to agile software development methodologies and accelerated delivery, companies have no choice but to implement continuous automated testing. It allows you to understand whether the software meets the requirements, ensures high test coverage, and also helps to speed up the release as much as possible. But why does test automation need to have a strategy? We explain:
The strategy lets you focus on users’ requirements and goals. These are the basis for planning all stages of testing. Automation ensures the functionality of the software, its reliability, security, and performance. The work of the team is aimed at ensuring that the product meets the needs of the user as much as possible.
You can easily create balanced test automation. If your test automation does not allow any changes, then each new update or component renders it useless and the test data invalid. Tests that are not adapted to changes in an agile environment produce 60-80% false positives or false negatives results. Based on the strategy, you build balanced test automation. This helps to avoid writing many additional tests and thus saves the budget.
The lack of a strategy leads to increased expenses, which could be much more efficiently spent on more valuable work for the project. In addition, if automation is implemented without a strategy, the company may lose confidence in test automation in general together with the chance to release software and its updates quickly.
8 steps to create a strategy for automated testing
The main thing that a test automation strategy should achieve is focusing on goals. The overall goal of an automation strategy is to ensure that the work plan is such that all risks are found, all key functionality is thoroughly tested, all defects are eliminated, and the final product fully complies with the requirements and needs of the user. Let’s see how to create your own test automation strategy.
Step 0. Determine your aims
It goes without saying, but we will remind you, just in case. A strategy for automated testing should have the desired end aim as a result. So the first step is to set achievable aims.
Step 1. Define your risks
The test automation strategy determines what to test first and last. Use a risk-based approach to prioritize automated tests.
The priority of each feature, each piece of code that you want to test, can be figured out through the impact of the success or failure of each such thing on the entire project. The things with the highest business impact and the chance of failure should be the highest on the priority list. Accordingly, everything else that has a negligible impact on the business and has a low probability of failure receives a low priority.
Step 2. Identify tests that provide high business value
The tests that provide high business value are tests that, if they fail, can lead to the collapse of the entire project. There are examples where companies have lost hundreds of millions of dollars only because they did not identify high-value tests for themselves in time and did not launch them.
One illustrative case is the story that happened in 2012 with an American global financial services firm Knight Capital Group. The company was engaged in market making, electronic execution, and institutional sales and trading. By that time Knight Capital Group was the largest trader in U.S. equities with a market share of around 17% on the New York Stock Exchange as well as on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
Due to a glitch in the new software, Knight Capital Group bought up about $7 billion worth of shares in 1 hour. All transactions were unintentional and did not even have a source of funds behind them. However, most of them failed to cancel. The company tried to sell these shares, but the losses could not be covered and the company went negative by $440 million.
Step 3. Understand your capabilities: technologies, tools, resources
This is where you need to understand how your test automation solution will affect your overall environment. Do you have the right accounts for this? Are there the right libraries, APIs, or whatever else you might need to make your automation solution fit your application?
The choice of tools for test automation begins with determining the most suitable framework for you. This can be done based on the type of applications you want to test. Selenium is the most popular web application framework while Appium is the most popular mobile application framework. However, there are many similar tools on the market. It’s best to choose one that supports testing on most platforms and in most environments.
Analyze future tools in terms of how convenient they will be for the people who will directly work with them. Here the experience of the team members and the number of participants in it plays a role.
Take budget into account as well: with the variety of free and paid tools available you can definitely find ones that suit you. If you plan everything well, then the average cost of test automation will not exceed or even be less than your usual costs for manual testing.
Step 4. Make sure your data is correct
Often, test automation projects are unsuccessful due to data failures. Try to make sure the data is correct right from the start by running preliminary scripts to validate or load the data. This will save hours later on running repeated tests. For each release and major iteration of the framework, you must learn in-depth how you process your data, how you store it, and where it comes from.
Step 5: Define DevSecOps for the project
Many work directly with Jenkins servers or other build and deployment tools. This needs to be defined in the test automation strategy.
You need to mark out:
- Where is the code stored?
- How do you deploy it?
- In what environments do you run it and are they safe?
- Are the libraries and open source code you use safe?
Step 6. Develop an execution plan
Unlike the blueprint developed in the early stages of a test strategy, an execution plan is a detailed list of daily tasks. It usually consists of:
- Description of daily tasks;
- Using pipeline orchestrators (TFS, Bamboo, Jenkins, TeamCity, etc.) for test executions;
- Method set definitions to make tests robust to change.
Step 7. Write scripts
This is one of the most important steps in an automated testing strategy. To make sure that your automated tests are effective and evaluate the functionality of the application as best as possible, pay attention to the following guidelines:
Prioritize scripts. List the most critical user flows and focus on making sure they are error-free.
Break scripts into atomic threads. Instead of scripting a complex sequence of events, break them down into a set of simple tests.
Create single-purpose tests. Depending on the element and action you’re testing, the most common testing goals include validation (checking the element’s visibility and appearance), setup, and actions (testing the user flow).
Make sure the initial state of the test is consistent. Since automated tests consist of a fixed number of steps, they must run in the same order, especially if these tests depend on the previous ones. Otherwise, the test will fail.
Make a complex test as a whole from simple ones. This way, testers will be able to save time and human resources, since there is no need to write a new workflow from scratch.
Write isolated scripts. Running autonomous threads improves the quality of parallel testing. Unlike connected sets, if an independent test is delayed, the entire session will not be affected.
One more tip: find out the goals of the tests and distribute them into groups. This will make testing visual and you can immediately see where you have the most problems.
Step 8. Collect reports
After a series of tests has been completed, the QA engineer must collect the information and present it to management in a concise way. This is where specialized tools that generate reports automatically come to the rescue.
Best way to implement a test automation strategy
The right tool can help you easily implement a strategy for automated testing. Let’s take Zebrunner, for example. It’s a toolkit that covers a wide range of project needs and allows you to set up effective automation processes, as well as optimize testing costs. With Zebrunner, you get the following possibilities:
- Instant test execution due to parallel threads and instant feedback.
- Analysis of tests and identification of reasons for failures. The ability to easily and quickly fix the detected bugs.
- Dashboards and widgets customized to your needs make reporting understandable even for people without a technical background.
- Scaling the testing process: if necessary, you can run more than a thousand threads at the same time.
- Flexibility to any changes in the development process. Numerous integrations with all the tools that QA teams, as well as managers, are used to working with.
- Running tests on emulators, simulators, and real devices.
The author Dennis P. Reed possesses a vast experience in the IT industry, especially in the domains of website and mobile app development and digital marketing. He writes on topics encompassing the above mentioned domains and is considered a maven in his chosen field – Information Technology.