People working closely with software development will already be aware of the concept of test automation. It has, after all, been trending for some years already. But how many have actually adopted test automation in their own product development? Not that many. This is why I want to look a bit closer at those contexts in which test automation can really help.
Test automation can bring considerable benefits to the product development of, for instance, applications, embedded systems, machine control units, smart devices, and IoT solutions.
And if the company aims to do agile software development according to agile principles, and wants to automate time-consuming work that would otherwise have to be done manually, test automation is definitely worthwhile.
Test automation is a challenge to implement, however, if the development process has already begun. This is why the decision to use test automation should be made at the very beginning of a new project to reap the maximum benefit from it.
Who is test automation for?
Test automation is suitable for all kinds of ICT product development. All products must anyway be verified, and if the aim is to meet the standards set for this kind of product, these will also be documented.
Test automation is particularly good in systems or products that
- are connected via interfaces to other systems or devices, with data moving between these – for example, IoT solutions, business systems, and other industry-specific solutions;
- have a long lifecycle and are under constant development – for instance, SaaS models, embedded systems, and other industry-specific solutions;
- have very high requirements for operational reliability (where a malfunction could cause personal injury) – such as safety-critical systems, and medical equipment.
In these cases, test automation can improve quality while keeping development fast and efficient.
What kind of opportunities does test automation bring?
Effectiveness – tests are often set to run overnight, which leaves more time for development work during the day. In the morning, a test report is ready for developers to read. The same tests done manually could take weeks.
Quality – minimising the possibility for human errors through routine testing. Where a person would tire of repetitive routine actions, a machine does not. It will tirelessly and without mistakes run hundreds of variations for each feature tested, when a person would get easily distracted.
In constant development, regression testing is particularly useful: tests can be made to a recently updated product to check if the bugs it was designed to fix have indeed been fixed. Automation of this process not only saves a significant amount of time, but soothes nerves as well.
On the other hand, a machine is not at its best in complicated test scenarios, so the time resources, concentration, nerves and creativity of human testers are best saved for these.
Transparent product development – test automation makes life easier for the person in charge of the whole product development process. Test automation can give a clear idea of the different tests conducted, the test results and the state of product development overall. It means the team leader or development manager will always know where the testing of each product is at. This will naturally help with time planning and keeping to schedules.
Traceability and product development documentation are also related to transparency. Because test automation shows how the system or product is functioning and, at the same time, creates the respective documentation, it is easy to verify that the requirements for different standards are met.
Better product development – test automation can provide feedback for the product development itself. If the same kinds of mistakes are regularly repeated in the test results, following these up may lead to the root of the problem. If there is a repeated fault in the coding, this can result in mistakes being repeated. The mistakes be found and fixed by uncovering these patterns – this is the basis of all development, and product development makes no exception.
Test automation will manifest itself most concretely in quicker completion times, less mistakes, which together will mean lower overall expenditure.
The most common challenges facing test automation
Now I’ve told you about the sunny side of test automation, I can frankly tell you about the challenges facing test automation, and when sometimes it can even turn into a curse.
It can be slow – and not especially cheap – to set up test automation. However, if there are many things to test, it will pay for itself and more, especially if high quality is a significant factor.
And like any tool or solution, test automation doesn’t do anything by itself unless it is used carefully and in the right way, when it can be an extremely good tool.
Test automation requires constant learning and an active approach. In effect, this means that the automation must be developed alongside product development. The most common reasons why test automation can fail are:
- Test automation is brought in at too late a stage – it is best to use test automation from the very beginning of product development, but often it is only thought about at a stage when it is hard or impossible to introduce.
- It is set up or introduced sloppily – good things are rarely created in a hurry. This particularly applies to setting up test automation. If the decision is made to use test automation, then it is worthwhile to invest in time and skills to be available for setting it up.
Make product development more efficient with test automation
Test automation can make product development considerably easier:
- when products have a long lifecycle, lots of functions, or high quality control requirements;
- when there’s a need to make product development more efficient, economic, and high quality – with the will to invest both time and money to make this happen;
- when the project team is aware of what committing to test automation means – bringing it in at an early enough stage, making definitions correct from the start, and regularly developing the testing.
When used right like this, test automation can result in a considerable leap forward in product development and product quality.
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