The Value Of Automated Testing And How to Get Started

Levels of Automated Testing You Should Expect from Your Custom Software Developer

Like most businesses, it is likely your operations depend heavily on the software you use, from your CRM software to your accounting software and more. Unfortunately, no software program is perfect. It's why software programs regularly require updates and patches. It's also why you should make sure that your software provider performs regular testing in order to identify various bugs and vulnerabilities. If there are any problems with the software you're using, it could drastically affect your company's operations. So regular testing should be done to ensure the software and your processes are functioning properly. You could do this testing yourself manually, but the most efficient way for a software developer to test their programs is through automated testing. The following is a breakdown of automated testing, it's business value, and how it should be done.

What is Automated Testing?

The traditional form of testing software is manual testing. This requires you to test the functionality of your software manually step by step. As you can imagine, this can be very time-consuming. Beyond the manual testing itself, you'll also have to record the results manually. A testing automation tool will go through each step automatically -- and because it's not being tested by a person, will do so at a faster rate.

Understanding the Value of Automated Testing

It's important to understand that automated testing isn't always the way to go. It does allow for human observation, which is more useful if you're trying to determine how user-friendly your software is or if you're trying to improve the customer experience. However, in most cases, you'll find that automated testing is much more effective and efficient. For example, the following are just a few of the benefits of implementing automated testing:

Reduce Company Overhead

First of all, automated testing can be more effective at finding issues in software than manual testing since an individual might miss potential issues while performing the tests. Discovering and remedying issues in your software can help prevent costly mistakes from occurring within your processes.

Secondly, because manual testing is so time-consuming, it often requires more personnel than you would otherwise need. If you implement automated testing, you'll just need a single automation engineer to write the scripts that automate your tests instead of numerous employees that dedicate a significant amount of their time manually testing your software. This allows you to consolidate your staff since you'll no longer multiple manual testers, which in turn can help reduce your overhead costs.

Increase Business Efficiency

By implementing automated testing, your personnel will no longer have to dedicate a substantial amount of their time to the task, meaning they can focus on their other responsibilities. This allows them to be more productive, in turn making your company more efficient.

Decrease the Time Spent on Testing by Personnel

It can take a long time to run tests. Add in the time you'll need to run tests on more than one software program and that you'll need to do so on a regular basis, and that amounts to a significant chunk of personnel time dedicated to the task. With automated testing, you can start the tests in the evening before your staff leaves the office and have the results ready in the morning when they return. As a result, the time your personnel would have spent testing your software can be allocated to more important tasks.

Increase the Overall Speed of Testing

Once an automated test has been written, it can be run over and over again. With manual testing, your personnel will have to perform the test step by step each time they run it, which is incredibly inefficient. Humans testing software takes a lot more time to do than automated testing does.

Decrease the Margin of Error

One of the major issues with running tests manually is that the employees who are running those tests are human. They can make mistakes because they weren't paying attention. In fact, it's not uncommon for errors to be made during the manual testing process just because of how long and boring the task is. When someone who is performing a manual test grows bored (it's not the most exciting of tasks, after all), they will be more likely to make mistakes as they pay less attention to what they're doing. These human errors will no longer happen if you automate your testing.

How to Get Started

It's important to understand that automated testing isn't as simple as just pressing a button. You need to write an automated test script, which can take some time. You'll need to figure out what you're testing for so that you can identify and resolve issues that will actually impact your company's operations. Keeping that in mind, the best way to go about implementing automated testing is by following these steps:

Determine Your Test Strategy & Plan

Job one is to determine what test cases you should automate. It can be time-consuming to write an automated test script, which means if you only need to perform the test a few times, you might be better off manually testing. However, if repetitive tests will be required for multiple builds, then automating your test is the way to go. Additionally, regression testing, load testing, and performance testing can all benefit from automation.

Determine the Framework You Want to Implement

The framework generally combines coding standards, guidelines, processes, concepts, reporting mechanisms, modularity, test data injections, and more. Essentially, the framework is the set of guidelines and rules that are used to create and design your test cases. Using a framework will make running your automated tests more efficient, lower your maintenance costs, maximize your test coverage, minimize the need for manual intervention, and improve the accuracy of the test. The following are the different types of frameworks that you can use:

Data-Driven Framework

This type of framework stores data externally instead of being hard-coded into the script. The benefits of such a framework include being able to execute tests with multiple data sets, making it easy to change test scripts without affecting the data being used, allowing tests to be executed much faster, and reducing the number of scripts you need.

Keyword-Driven Testing Framework

This framework lays out the different functions of the application in a table along with instructions presented in consecutive order for each test you want to run. The keywords are the parts of the script that represent the actions that are being performed to test the graphical user interface (GUI) of your application. Once you set up the table, you'll just need to write the code that executes the necessary action based on those keywords. Keyword-driven testing allows for reusable code, requires minimal scripting knowledge, and allows you to build your test scripts independent of the applications that you're testing. However, setting up this framework is very time-consuming and costly -- and maintaining your keywords can be challenging if scaling a test operation.

Module-Based Testing Framework

This framework divides the software you're testing into different modules. Each module is given its own test script. These test scripts are then combined to build larger tests in a hierarchical manner. However, you'll have to build an abstraction layer to prevent changes made in individual sections from affecting the overarching module. This type of framework is beneficial because the test scripts created for each different module can be reused and because maintenance is easier and cheaper. The main drawback is that you can't use multiple data sets because the data is hard-coded into the test script.

Library Architecture Testing Framework

This framework is similar to module-based testing; however, instead of separating the application into test scripts, its divided into functions that can also be used by other parts of the application. This makes maintenance and scalability easier and more cost-efficient, while also making the framework more reusable since the library of common functions can be used by multiple test scripts. The drawbacks are that any changes to the data will require changes to the scripts and that the test scripts do take longer to create.

Hybrid Testing Framework

A hybrid framework is the combination of different elements of the previous frameworks. Creating a hybrid framework allows you to take advantage of some of the benefits of certain frameworks while mitigating the drawbacks of others.

Determine the Type & Scope of The Test

Testing every facet of an application isn't very efficient. It's why you should identify what your testing goals are beforehand so that you can determine the scope of your test. For example, determine what features you use and depend on - these are the features that you'll want to test. This will also allow you to choose the type of testing you want to perform. The following are some of the different types of tests you can implement:

Unit Testing:

Unit testing allows you to test the smallest piece of code that can be isolated within a system.

Integration Testing:

Integration testing allows you to identify information on how two systems work together. You can perform such tests wherever there is a coupling between two software systems.

Functional Testing:

Functional testing compares the interface between the application to the rest of the system and the users. For example, it's what you would use to test the user interface of an application.

Regression Testing:

Regression tests allow you to determine whether any changes or additions to the application has caused issues to existing functionality. It can be used to test for new bugs.

Keyword-Driven Testing:

Keyword-driven tests simulate the actions of users on the application to test their function.

Data-Driven Testing:

Data-driven testing involves uploading external data in order to extend your automated test cases and determine if it causes errors in the application.

Smoke Testing:

Smoke testing identifies major issues without going into depth. Essentially, it's used to determine if further, more in-depth testing is required.

Select Your Testing Suite

There are many different automation testing tools to choose from. The following are a few tips for choosing the testing suite that will best suit your testing needs:

Ease of Development:

Choose a suite that makes it as easy as possible to develop and maintain your automated testing scripts.

Ease of Use:

Once the script has been developed, make sure the tool allows non-technical users to run the tests with ease.

Multiple Platform Support:

Look for a tool that provides desktop, online, and mobile platform support.

Intuitive Reporting:

Your management team will need to be able to understand the test reports.

Cross-Browser Testing Capabilities:

If you have multiple end-users and there are no browser restrictions in place, find a tool that offers cross-browser testing capabilities.

Technical Support:

Make sure the developer offers technical support and assistance that your automation engineer can turn to when needed.

Execute and Maintain

Although you won't need nearly as big a team performing your software testing as you would if you were testing manually, you will still need the tests to be executed even if they will run automatically. You will also need personnel to analyze the results once the tests have been completed. It's one of the reasons why the tools you put into place should be user-friendly. Because you'll want to run the tests semi-regularly, use a framework that allows for repeated testing.

Automated Testing Best Practices

Just because you implement automated testing doesn't mean it will automatically make your business processes more efficient and cost-effective. To get the most out of your automated testing, implement the following practices:

Create Standardized Metrics

It's going to be a real challenge if the metrics for all of your automated tests are different. It will make communication between team members much more difficult as well. Create standardized business metrics based on your company's requirements and to help you set up a basic guideline for creating your automated testing scripts. This will make data validation easier and will help democratize your data as well, thereby improving communication and efficiency throughout your company's different departments.

Measure Results Consistently

You can’t determine the outcome of your tests if you don't measure the results consistently. Make sure to measure and quantify the test's results. Compare them to the results you expected to determine whether the application is providing the expected business value and to ensure there are no deviations from the goals you've established.

Involve Business Analysts

Make sure that your automation engineer receives input from your company's business analysts about rules and test scenarios before they begin writing automated scripts to run in your applications. Your business analysts are typically the users of your software and therefore can provide information on whether the software meets their requirements. They can also provide sample outputs to compare to new outputs for regression testing.

Additionally, business analysts can write high-level test cases to be used in the testing. They can then validate that the results match those that are expected. By involving your business analysts, you will strengthen your automation strategy and ensure that your tests will actually have a positive impact on your company's processes and efficiency.

Manually Run and Review Tests Before Automating Them

It's important that you design, run and review your tests manually before you automate them. By testing manually, you can determine what features or functions need to be tested, and to record feedback that you wouldn't be able to through automation, such as how user-friendly the interface of a program is. Once you've written the test, run it, and then reviewed the results, you can make the tweaks necessary to automate it.

Aim for Fast Feedback

The faster you're able to run your tests, the quicker you'll receive valuable feedback about your applications. You can speed up testing speeds in a number of different ways. Plan your tests out carefully so you're not wasting time testing every feature of an application when it's not necessary.

You should also reuse the processes that you've developed using existing frameworks, whether you've built those frameworks yourself or are using ones built outside your company (such as those available online). This will help you avoid wasting time writing scripts and creating tests for each execution. Additionally, pinpoint flakey tests that have reported false negatives. Remove these from your automated testing process to avoid wasting time on tests that don't provide accurate results.

Don't Just Verify Functionality and Performance; Always Consider Business Goals

When it comes to working with a software provider, make sure they automate their tests. Doing so is an effective and efficient way to test their programs for vulnerabilities, bugs, and user control issues. However, just because they use automated testing doesn't necessarily mean their software is the best solution for you. Choosing a software provider isn't just about making sure the programs you're using are functioning and performing the way they should. It's also about making sure that they are working in alignment with your business goals.

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