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Friday, June 6, 2008

Key Strategies for Migrating to Test Automation

Use of test automation tools especially for Graphic User Interface testing is increasingly becoming a trend. This increasing demand of such tools which are generally called Record and Playback tools is due to emergence of new technologies & increased productivity of the development tools and of the programming languages. It may be a Herculean task to convince the client with an argument that four weeks would be needed to manually test a new web application designed & updated within a span of two weeks by the developers.

Gradually large numbers of test teams are turning towards test automation tools. Although testing teams have great expectations from automation tools like miracles during shortage of testing time, scarcity of available resources and complete automation; such expectations rarely get fulfilled. Thus purchasing expensive test automation tool may not be enough & it is likely to become just a showpiece, unless a scientific methodology is adopted for timely implementation of the tool.

Have Realistic Expectations from Automation:
While moving to test automation it is important that the entire team must develop realistic expectations from automation efforts right from their beginning.

Expectation – 1: You should have enough patience & belief that initial tests might be slower while automation test design features are getting designed. Such automation test design features shall be able to save the overall automation time later.

Initially manual testing is bound to be less time consuming as compared to the time taken for developing effective automation scripts. Selection & procurement of the appropriate automation tools itself is a challenging task, because your automation tool shall have significant effects on the overall productivity of your automation effort.

Remember that even the best of the best automation tool can fail to be productive unless a set of effective tool scripts are planned, designed, coded, tested and maintained. Tool scripts in themselves have their own software development life cycle.

Expectation – 2: Don’t expect to be able to automate all the tests. Remember that through a sufficiently good automation testing effort, you will be able to automate only 40 - 80 percent of your total testing, while for the balance you may find manual testing to be more suitable.

An intelligent tester should understand that on many a times it will be quicker to run the test manually rather than automating. In cases of once-only tests it is not economically viable & wise to think of automating the test.

Expectation – 3: Don’t believe that just by having automated testing using a complex & the best tool, you can give a back seat to the effective testing methodologies already in practice. Remember that in the absence of sound testing methodologies and proper planning, implementation of the automated testing tool is bound to fail.

You may be able to run your tests faster, and may be able to execute more tests, but you might not be able to find many bugs.

Expectation – 4: Don’t expect to have miraculously large number of software bugs by automated testing right from the beginning. It might happen that you might find much lesser number of bugs compared to manual testing.

This is a sheer myth that automated tests find more number of bugs compared to manual tests. In fact, many bugs are found while doing manual testing or while doing manual sequencing operation for a Record and Playback tool. In case such a bug is fixed there & then, the automated tool might not even detect this bug even during its first automated run.

That is why automated testing justifies its worth during 2nd, 3rd or subsequent releases of the application under test. Record and Playback tools prove excellently beneficial for regression testing and are extremely useful in detecting unexpected bugs arising out of changes made to the code under test.

Expectation – 5: Don’t expect to have quick return on your investments made in the automation tool.

It has been seen that creation of good test scripts take around 3 – 5 times more time compared to the manual creation of similar tests. However such increased timing may be able to be recovered during subsequent re-runs of the tests. But the more time spent during the initial phases is bound to have effect on the overall project schedule. Thus ROI may be as high as few years for a fully implemented automated testing system.

Expectation – 6: Don’t expect amazingly fast change management through Automated testing.

Remember that whenever changes take place in the basic code of the application due to any reason, the entire test scripts would require similar changes. Here had it been a case of manual testing the software tester would have easily managed changes, but the same might not be true for automated testing. Hence one-to-one changes vis-a-vis code to automated testing scripts is mandatory.

Remember that in case of automated testing the test script shall execute every time in the same way as it has been designed.

Expectation – 7: Don’t expect all testers to program well and all programmers to test well. Record and Playback tools are comparatively easy to handle simple automated tests involving data capture etc. However, they need skilled programming efforts for robust & reliable tests especially where we need to handle features like comparisons, error handling and repetitions etc. etc.

Best underlying Testing Strategies:

a) Test automation tools should be used to give testers more time to design new and more effective tests and to run manual tests.

b) Let the automation tool be used for regression testing to check the performance & the basic functionality of the application

c) Permit more & more time for the testers to create more & more effective test scripts for automation and to concentrate on the areas best suited to manual testing.

d) Since automation generally simulates the manual interactions with the system, manually execute & refine most of the test paths, before selecting them as a prospective candidate for automation. Such manual interactions in the beginning shall act as an effective guide for the automation efforts.

e) Concentrate on small number of properly selected test cases rather than hundreds of randomly or poorly chosen test cases for an effective testing effort.

Keyword: Automation, Automated testing, Testing Work, Tips, Manual Testing

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