Automation is the way forward for enterprises that are serious about customer experience

Larry Goddard

Posted On: May 19, 2023

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Software engineering leaders are not prepared for the impact that moving to automated software testing will have on development practices, organizational changes and costs
— Take 4 Essential Steps to Implement Test Automation, Gartner

Test automation should ideally be the go-to part of the continuous testing strategy for enterprises. However, what is shocking is, it isn’t!

Let us take a look at a few numbers from Forrester Analytics Business Technographics Developer Survey, 2022. For the question ‘Using your best estimate, what percentage of each of the following are automated?’ –unit tests, functional tests, API tests, security tests, end-to-end tests, and continuous tests– the answers were respectively–25%, 24%, 24%, 24%, 22%, and 23%.

These numbers don’t look promising given the demand of the times we live in.

Now, the question that arises is– how can enterprises come up with the right test automation strategy that will truly augment their continuous testing efforts?

Why is test automation important for enterprises?

Speed.

Customers today want the best digital experience in the shortest possible time. Continuous testing is no longer a ‘good-to-have’, it is a ‘need-to-have’. And for organizations to up the pace of continuous testing, they need test automation.

It is like what Darwin said–survival of the fittest. You need to meet the challenging demands, else, digital-first customers will simply move on to your competitors.

As release velocity increases, manual testing cannot keep up with the need for speed. It soon becomes a blocker to your customer experience. In some cases, features are released without the right amount of testing leading to less-than-pleasant outcomes.

However, getting started with automation testing is no easy task. It must take into consideration various factors.

The nuts and bolts of the strategy

Tip 1- “Automate what you can rather than what you think you could”

The idea is to start simple. Instead of overhauling your existing testing way of life in one go, take baby steps and focus on areas with the maximum benefit. Maybe look at the manual tests you run most often and try to automate them. Spend a good chunk of time going over your manual tests to decide the right candidates for automation. You need a quick win to get started.

Tip 2- “Don’t be blown away by the available technology. Take what suits your unique needs”

In the 2021 Gartner Software Engineering Leaders Survey, 51% of respondents in the technology industry indicated that improving software quality was among the top three performance objectives on which they are being measured

It is important for leaders to carefully assess the pros and cons of each technology consideration before coming to a decision. Look at your team, their strengths, preferences, and ability. A recent example I can think of is ChatGPT. With all the talk around it, you might be tempted into thinking that maybe it could be worth a shot. Maybe it is, but it is your duty to thoroughly understand your use case, weigh the good, the bad, and the ugly, and then take an informed call. Buzzwords will come and go. It is really important to choose the right tool(s).

Tip 3- What’s the budget?

It is very important to have a good look at your purse. Do not spend money just because you have it. Discuss, debate, reach out to peers and then arrive at a decision. Also, a protip, the test automation journey might seem a bit costly to begin with, but over a period of time, it pays off. What you must ideally end up with is an automation way/strategy that works best for your unique needs. Just repeating it, budget is an enabler and not the solution.

Tip 4- “Build the right culture and team structure”

Shifting from a manual testing-led culture to an ‘automation-first’ culture is a significant shift. While there’s the technology and process bit of it, the mental shift is what I am talking about. As a leader, it is your responsibility to set the right goals, expected ROI, and the correct KPIs that will take your team toward the goal. You must personally dedicate time to this mega project and lead it from the front. You must understand the nuances and tackle daily problems until the project takes off and you can hand it back to the team. In this role, you will be responsible for the right team structure, identifying the right processes and tools, and in the end, actually making it work.

Pro tip- achieving 100% test automation isn’t possible. Also, it is important to hire the right talent, if needed, for bringing crucial skill sets to the table. Finally, leaders must ensure the right communication culture so that testers and developers can work hand-in-hand.

What are the benefits of test automation?

Speed and Efficiency

Test automation can significantly speed up the testing process and reduce the test cycle time, leading to faster release velocity and go-to-market time. Automated tests can be executed much faster than manual tests and can be run 24/7, which allows for more efficient testing and faster feedback on software quality.

Consistency

Automated tests are more consistent than manual tests because they are not affected by human errors or biases. This consistency helps ensure that the same tests are run the same way every time, leading to more reliable and accurate results.

Scalability

Test automation enables testing to be easily scaled up or down depending on the needs of the project. Automated tests can be run across multiple environments, configurations, and devices, making it easier to test software across a range of scenarios.

Reusability

Automated tests can be reused across different projects, saving time and effort in creating new tests for each project. This also ensures that the same tests are run across different projects, leading to consistency in testing and results.

Regression Testing

Regression testing is the process of testing changes to the software to ensure that previously working features still function correctly. Automated tests can be run as part of a continuous integration process to test changes quickly and consistently to the software and identify any regressions.

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Larry Goddard

Larry Goddard is the Test Automation Architect at Oxford University Press (OUP) with responsibility for developing the organization's Test Strategy and Testing Framework. He has over 20 years’ experience in the IT industry. Prior to joining OUP, he worked for a variety of multi-nationals including a major airline, a leading software testing company and two major telecommunications companies. He also acted as a technical advisor to a major fashion house and an Expert Witness to a leading international law firm. He was the winner of the YunoJuno Freelancers Award in 2016 and 2022 for Quality Assurance / Test Automation and is also the co-Founder of the KLASSI Brand. A member of BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT (MBCS), Larry is a Speaker at Tech Conferences and Meet-ups dealing with and highlighting Test Automation. He has an open- source Test Automation Framework - ‘klassi-js’ which is hosted on both NPM and GitHub. He also provides guidance as a Mentor for the Aleto Foundation and the Founders Institute.

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