If you ask a DevOps expert about the fundamentals of the CI/CD pipeline, they will probably mention integration frameworks or code repository management. But what about test automation? Is the role of test automation in DevOps critical, or can all the testing still be done manually without affecting the speed of deployment?
Here is the truth: test automation is essential if you want your quality to keep up with the speed of releases. Like it or not, at least some of the testing in your CI/CD pipeline will have to be automated. With the growing complexity of code and the need for frequent releases, the optimization of processes takes the central stage. It is especially critical if the business focuses on mobile app development – and the global trends indicate that it should be your priority these days.
Mobile App Development and DevOps
The shift to the mobile-first model made companies rethink their development strategies to meet their customers’ needs. Reducing time to market for new features and updates, reacting to the latest market opportunities and predicting the changing demand – these are the new rules of competitiveness in the mobile app business. In fact, about 48% of mobile apps take four to six months of development time, with an average of one to four updates per month.
DevOps is by far the best approach to dealing with tough release deadlines and frequent updates in the mobile development lifecycle. Mobile app development projects usually have pressing deadlines since business needs dictate fast delivery. In these conditions, adopting agile development methods is crucial.
Another thing that makes DevOps methodologies vital for mobile app development is user feedback. While the negative comments and low ratings of a website are communicated to the tech team or support service, complaints about mobile apps are visible to everyone in the app store. That is why extensive functional, performance and usability testing, as well as an instant reaction to user feedback, is essential for surviving on the mobile market.
Automation is the Core Principle of DevOps
The DevOps practice depends on the automated setup, configurations and deployment to deliver updates quickly and on time. This means that automated testing should be a natural part of CI/CD since every code commit needs to be tested before being deployed. Test automation allows finding and fixing bugs faster while they’re small, innovating with less risk and reacting to customer needs in a matter of days or even hours.
The benefits seem apparent. But, while some companies are already appreciating the high efficiency of test automation in DevOps, the general approaches to testing still remain quite old-fashioned. Capgemini interviewed 500 senior-level IT executives from industries like financial services, high tech, healthcare, manufacturing and others to reveal that their large and mid-size companies don’t use test automation to its full potential. Automated tests were only used to execute 24% of test cases and 24% of end-to-end business scenarios.
On the other hand, a leading Australian bank that has over 5,000 builds for more than 100 applications embraced CI/CD and test automation tools. This allowed them to reduce build cycle time by 40%.
What Can Be Automated?
To keep the necessary integration-delivery pace, businesses need to automate as much of the testing stage as possible.
To follow the DevOps practice, the team has to start testing on the early stages of the development and proceed throughout its life cycle. Focusing on quality from day one and detecting problems when they are easier (and cheaper) to fix helps to maintain the necessary frequency of releases.
But keep in mind that you will need different types of testing on various stages of the development process. Plus, there will be different types of automated tests you’ll use on your project like unit, regression, integration, performance, functional testing and more.
So, what are the cases when test automation is most reasonable and beneficial?
- when you need to test critical features, the malfunction of which will be visible to users
- in the repetitive and labor-intensive parts
- testing functions that caused problems in the past
- components that require large amounts of data for testing
- load/stress testing
- testing against multiple browsers, builds, data sets
There is a variety of test automation tools on the market that will meet your needs and the skills of your QA team. And with a mobile device testing cloud, QA engineers can test from anywhere, on multiple devices, with any number of tests running simultaneously.
The Benefits of Automation in DevOps
Some of the top reasons why companies that follow DevOps practices should adopt test automation are:
- elimination of human errors
- no need for human intervention when tests are running
- increased device coverage
- faster feedback
- consistency ensured by automation
- automated reconfiguration
The advantages of test automation are numerous, but can it substitute manual testing? The best way is to automate as much as you can while still using manual testing for less critical app features, reviewing and updating testing scripts, fulfilling one-time testing which is too expensive or inefficient to automate, testing usability, etc. Humans can think and learn, which is no less critical in testing than automated processes.
With the continuous implementation of test automation, it will get easier to accurately measure the degree of automation based on the historical data. But for starters, you can use this standard calculation for the estimated test automation ROI:
Cost of test automation = cost of tools + cost of labor to create scripts + cost of automated test maintenance
If you use automated tests multiple times, the ROI adds up with every next use. Therefore, if the automation estimates are lower than manual testing, go on with the strategy and find as many areas to automate as it is reasonable.
Test automation is vital for the DevOps pipeline. High quality and frequent deliveries cannot go without fast, accurate and reliable automated tests. This doesn’t mean, however, that you can ignore manual testing. The winning strategy is to find the balance between automated tools and scripts and manual testing for one-time testing tasks or the ones that are too expensive to automate.