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While many companies today understand the importance of implementing test automation into their processes, not all manage to do it properly. Continuous deployment and quick reaction to customer feedback form new rules of competitiveness. This makes the seamless introduction of automation a necessity, not an option. As the fail of test automation is costly in terms of both time and money, we’re going to walk you through how to predict these problems before they occur.

Reasons Why Test Automation May Fail and How to Avoid Them?

91% of software developers have reported the transition to agile methodologies in 2018, with DevOps implementation still in progress. And while test automation seems like a natural addition to DevOps, it is still not a default choice for some organizations. The need for automation is apparent: in 2018, 54% of mobile app development teams said they tested daily, with 82% agreeing they would test more frequently the following year. But the thing is, 19% of respondents agree that test automation is challenging to adopt, and here are some of the reasons why.

1. Introducing Test Automation Without Changing the Development Culture

This is the first and foremost step any company should be ready to adopt before considering test automation integration. By failing to recognize the transformative nature of automation, the organization experiences a lot of obstacles along the way.

Problem: Test automation is introduced to the company’s legacy processes.

Treatment: Shaping culture is the task of the company leaders. From the C-level executives and down, the company’s culture needs to be changed to adopt automation. Everyone must understand the benefits: the engineering team, the QAs, customer support and management. Test automation is not a single-project issue, so you will have to support it by setting standards, training sessions, tools and experiments. Failing to agree upon the general guidelines will lead to using different approaches to test automation across different teams. Only after becoming an integral part of software development processes will test automation start bearing fruit.

2. Not Understanding the Importance of a Test Automation Strategy

After the company has taken a stable course to automation, and every team understands the purpose and benefits of this approach, it’s time to agree upon the strategy. Since it depends on different specialists within the organization, understanding the roles of every person is essential for preventing fail of test automation.

Problem: Unrealistic expectations and lacking technical talent are the initial consequences of an unclear test automation strategy.

Treatment: Your test automation shouldn’t start with choosing frameworks and tools. Instead, you need to build your processes according to the test automation pyramid – a strategy introduced by Mike Cohn in his book “Succeeding with Agile.” Your test framework should consist of three layers that can be simplified to the following (from the bottom up):

  • unit tests
  • service tests
  • UI tests

The two primary things you have to remember about these layers are a) you have to write tests with different granularity and b) the higher you climb, the fewer tests you should have.

Lots of small unit tests are a developers’ task, but make sure you have an experienced QA professional to guide the developers. Next, move to the API/integration/component automated testing and then automate some UI tests. Your developers and QA specialist will have to collaborate for that. The UI part is the most costly and time-consuming one, so make sure to evaluate the critical test cases thoroughly. It has to be complemented by manual and exploratory testing, so don’t underestimate the importance of manual testers.

3. Failing to Choose What to Automate

Sometimes, development companies are so excited by the test automation that they try to replace as many manual tests as possible. Not everything can and should be automated. Because automated testing requires considerable time and effort, teams have to analyze and agree on the parts where automated tests will be the most efficient.

Problem: Automating everything and not automating enough for an efficient process.

Treatment: If you can doesn’t mean you should. Some tests are better-left manual, and the trick is to understand what will be the most efficient to automate. Here’s a short guide on what can be automated (however, it still depends on your strategy and the talent available):

  • the critical features that influence the functionality severely if they fail
  • testing against multiple configurations (i.e., several operating systems, browsers, etc.)
  • data-driven tests
  • tests that require extensive data input
  • stress and load tests, time-consuming tasks

You should NOT automate UX testing, exploratory testing and the tasks that have to be done ASAP.

4. Choosing the Wrong Test Automation Tools

To make your automation efforts work, you should choose the tools that fit your goals and requirements. To do that, you’ll need to single out the major criteria: from testing goals to the choice of the technology that matches your team’s skills best. It’s a good idea to involve a couple more team members in the process of choosing the right tools.

Problem: Companies often fall for rigid tools that don’t necessarily fit your specific test automation goals nor are very hard to scale.

Treatment: The market offers a variety of test automation tools, both paid and free. Allocate some time to study the options according to the following criteria:

  • budget and skillset
  • suitability for the project environment, technology, objects in the code, etc.
  • stability of the current version
  • support of as many test types as possible
  • ease of integration with the existing tools
  • exhaustive reporting

You can study the reviews of the top testing tools, but your priority should be your project’s requirements. The ROI of any tool relies on your specific automation needs, so you won’t find an easy answer like “this tool is the best, and that one is the worst.” The type of your project, its scope and code language should be the primary differentiators.

5. Missing Test Code Review

Since the test code is still code, it has to be tested, reviewed and supported. Creating test cases is one thing, but analyzing if they are still valuable is also essential. Many companies pay a lot of attention to automation but fail to keep supporting it. As time passes, they see that their automated tests just don’t work anymore. False positives and false negatives interfere with the testing and outweigh the value of automation.

Problem: After creating test cases, teams fail to support and review them.

Treatment: The app is changing, and the automation code should evolve together with the project. So, make sure to review the code regularly and modify it according to the changing business needs, the conditions you want to check the features against and the evolution of the project in general. Automated scripts require maintenance and management carried out by experienced QA engineers. It is part of the general testing strategy and a necessary prerequisite of successful automation.

In Conclusion

To avoid the fail of test automation, automation should be a transformative approach that changes not only the testing itself but the entire culture of an organization. Also, a clear strategy and a shared vision of the test automation goals, tasks and outcomes should be supported by teams across the company. Only then should the teams decide on the cases that need automation and the tools.

Test automation is a type of software development, and just like any other code, it requires time, effort and resources as well as continuous maintenance and management. As soon as companies accept that, they will be able to make the most out of automation and improve the frequency and quality of releases significantly.

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Victoria Bezsmolna

Tech Writer