Five Mistakes to Avoid While Testing In an Automated Agile Environment

With the IT industry having undergone numerous dynamic changes, it has brought forth a number of new perspectives and objectives for automated testing. This pertains specifically to those areas that have emerged in the past decade such as e-commerce, SaaS applications, and cloud-based services.

Over the past five years, there has been a rapid growth in the number of Scrum and Agile projects while the IT industry has adopted the use of numerous new tools to be in tune with an ever-changing approach. One of the most noticeable advancements in this field has been that of automation testing.

Automated testing offers a number of benefits but at the same time, if not done correctly, it may result in failure. Some of the common sins committed while automating testing in an agile environment include – choosing the wrong time to start automation and making use of inappropriate automation testing tools. The test automation framework also deserves special attention.

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Let us now take a look at some of the top mistakes that you should avoid while running an automation test in an agile environment.

1) Selecting the wrong automation tool

Problem: A popular automation tool may contain a commendable, rich set of features while being extremely affordable. Nevertheless, there may be hidden problems that are not too obvious at first glance. A lack of reliability and insufficient product support are among the problems usually encountered. Both open source and commercial tools can be prone to such issues. An agile environment can be used for performing test-driven as well as behavior-driven development. However, the high licensing cost often proves to be a stumbling block in automating the testing process.

Solution: While selecting a commercial test automation tool for your project, considering the prices and features of the tool are not enough; you need to analyze the recommendations and feedback from those individuals who have successfully implemented the same on real-time projects. The first thing you need to consider is the community support for these tools are powered by support from the user community and not necessarily a vendor. A strong community and active forum will help resolve the issues you may encounter with your automation tool.

2) Choosing the wrong time to start

Problem: A common mistake at the start of test automation is starting on the automation too early. The efforts required in redevelopment of automation scripts does not always justify the benefits, or lack of it, achieved in the final stage of iteration. This is a particularly serious issue for graphical user interface (GUI) test automation. A GUI test automation script is more likely to be broken down by development than other automated test types such as API tests or unit tests. An early start of test automation may result in spending meaningless, repeatable efforts on redeveloping the automated tests.

Solution: Over the phase of a development process, the Quality Assurance (QA) team members should spend a good amount of time in the creation of detailed manual test scripts for automation. If the test cases have sufficient details, you can automate them successfully once the given feature has completed. Writing an automated test from beforehand may not be a bad idea but it should be done only when an individual is certain that further developments within the respective iteration will not disrupt the new tests.

3) Inability to select the right development framework

Problem: The biggest issue with the traditional agile framework is that the absence of user points does not encourage the inclusion of test automation framework development tasks. However, it is far from a secret that a good and effective test automation calls for both framework and tools. Even after spending a few thousand dollars on test automation tools, a framework will yet be needed for test automation engineers so that it fits in easily with an agile development process.

Solution: A test automation framework does not require more than two weeks to develop so you should probably take care of it in the very first agile iteration. However, you should also take note that in certain cases the project requirements may run over a number of iterations before it is completed. The development product can be tested within that duration itself. While the manual testers will have to deal with an increase in their workload, these tests will be limited to development and back-end tests so that the pressure balances itself.

4) The right test case selection

Problem: Another mistake in agile test automation process is to try and automate all the test cases. However, if the focus lies on efficiency and quality, automating them all does not represent a viable solution. It can lead to a useless expenditure of money and effort without contributing value to the overall product.

Solution: Some cases are better off when automated while others do not prove so effective. A test case should be automated only when it requires lot of manual testing and consumes lot of time in executing manually. If you have an application whose functionality frequently changes, then automating the test may prove too expensive and is not a viable solution.

5) Test automation or manual testing: The right way forward

Problem: When the automated testing and manual testing teams within an organization are not on the same wavelength, it proves to be an agile test automation error. You may end up spending a whole lot of effort only to be greeted by a sub-par software in the end. Sometimes, a lack of skills on the part of the manual testing team forces them to hand-off responsibility to the automated testing team, leading to loss of synchronization among the units. Moreover, certain sections of the application receive greater focus while others are not covered at all.

Solution: Ideally QA team members should work closely with Agile teams for a better quality, early delivery and value for business. Whilst this might not be cost effective always and in varied circumstances QA teams can also work in distributed locations. The test cases should be presented in easily readable and understandable formats so that even non-technical staff can understand it. This can be achieved in a number of ways such as keyword-driven frameworks or maintaining a clean code. Moreover, agile development dictates that you have only one testing team to take care of the manual as well as automated testing process, working closely with the team of developers.

These are some of the most common mistakes that affect test automation efficiency of a project, leading to production of poor quality in results. Test automation activities should be considered an integral part of project quality assurance and if you are serious, avoiding most of these mistakes won’t be too big a task!

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Metrics and Measures to find the True ROI of Test Automation

Products and new features roll out in competitive market demands shortened quality testing cycles and time to market. With today’s new age applications, performing tests manually like regression testing and running the test cases multiple times can be laborious and time consuming. And one cannot compromise on the quality of the end product at the same time. So, automation in testing arena plays a vital role and become inevitable in IT industry. By way of automation, these test cases take lesser time to run the regression testing cycles.

Automaton regression testing not only results in saving time but also costs, especially if the test cases don’t change frequently and regular test cycles are required. Regular maintenance activities like patches or upgrades over the application’s lifetime can result in working features to regress; meaning regression cycles can be run for any change which happens in the environment. But having said all that, automated testing cannot be beneficial at all the times. We need to analyse the situation in terms of ROI and see where the automated testing is truly benefiting us.

Metrics and Measures of ROI

The value of test automation can be truly analysed by considering the metrics and measures which can help the project team members, managers as well as the stakeholders. ROI on test automation can be known by many ways but we will first consider the metrics like test coverage, time gain and defects found. Good test automation metrics can be easily related to main project attributed like quality, cost, risk and schedule. Below is the outline of few such metrics for test automation.

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Coverage for test automation

Test automation coverage metrics signifies the number of test cases automated vs. total number of test cases that are automatable. Improved test coverage signifies finding the defects faster, enabling teams to fix then earlier, thus leading to high quality and lower risk.

Time gained for every regressing cycle

With agile and devops everywhere, there are daily and weekly builds in a product lifecycle, wherein the need to run regression cycles frequently or sometimes even daily becomes obvious. Automating these tests can cut the testing time significantly, enabling the teams to run them multiple times in shorter time duration in turn reducing the overall project schedule and cost.

There is cost saving with automation but one should not forget the initial cost of automating the test cases i.e. the efforts and tools needed to automate which is always high but with every automated test cycle, there is some cost saving and after a number of test cycles, the cost saving for each test cycle will add up to the initial cost of automation.. The project team is required to detect this inflection point depending upon the number of test cycles.

Defects detected per regression cycle

The number of defects found with every regression cycle indicates about the quality of the product and effectiveness of the automation procedure.

The True ROI for test automation

The ROI for test automation can move into positive zone depending upon the number of regression cycles required or projected for the lifetime of the product or application.

The classic ROI for test automation can be simply calculated by the below formula:

ROI= (Cost of manual testing – Cost of automation)/Cost of automation

This formula looks right, isn’t it? But the problem with classic ROI calculation is, we cannot compare automation testing with manual testing as executing the same number of manual tests as automated ones is near to impossible. The true Automation ROI value is the benefit of this type of testing and it can be: a) Reduced time to market, b)Increased test efficiency (Productivity),c) Increased test effectiveness.

Teams also need to consider the consistent cost for automation, primarily related to maintenance. Every application requires changes throughout its life, all these changes effect test automation scripts that need to be changed depending on the change in the application.

Automation does produce tangible and intangible benefits. Tangible benefits might be related to hours saved and time gained, intangible benefits can comprise faster feedback from people, identifying defects faster in the development cycle.

Conclusion

So, it’s implicit to say that the testing automation is a good investment as it provides business value in terms of improved software quality, nil operational problems and legal problems, maintained customer image, lower costs of fixing bugs and reduced per hour cost of testing. Also, it provides IT value in terms of simplified routine tasks, increased scope of coverage, quicker test runs and increased testing hours etc.

Why is Root Cause Analysis extremely important?

When developing a product, while it is extremely difficult to maintain quality of the product due to its complexity and shorter time to market, it is also important to keep the cost low to stay competitive.It becomes essential for the software developers to consider variousaspects while developing any product. Though, all the guidelines are abided, problems still arise in the software in form of defects. There are several factors for the defect to arise and product to fail such as, human factor, communication failure, poor design logic, unrealistic development timeframe, lack of skilled testing, poor coding practices etc. Besides this, the difficulty intensifies if the same defects recur during the development cycle of the products either new or enhanced versions. The solution lies in conducting the root cause analysis of the defects and then taking corrective actions so that they don’t recur.

What is Root Cause Analysis?

At the very basic level, root cause analysis is a methodology used to find the underlying cause of the defect. As it signifies to product development, Root cause analysis is a systematic procedure for putting the defects in categories and analysing them before release, after the release or both. WhenRCAis performed properly, it shows the points in the development cycle that are causing the main and recurring defects. Root Cause Corrective Action (RCCA) is when corrective actions are applied to solve the problems that occur during RCA. The corrective actions are carried out far upstream in the procedure as possible, as catching failures upstream prevents rework, saves time and money by not letting the problem to take place.

How it helps reduce recurring defects?

Firstly, the defects are logged and documented. Secondly, the defects are reviewed and analysed using the root cause analysis techniques. But before Root Cause analysis is performed, a Pareto graph is outlined to show the defect type with highest frequency of occurrence which becomes the target. An example of defect classification in a Pareto graph is shown below:

According to the Pareto graph, the category for which the highest numbers of defects are found should be paid attention to at first.

Defect follows the below key principles:

  • Minimizing the defects to improve quality: the analysis must lead to making changes in processes which help prevention of defects in the early stages and ensure early detection.
  • Utilizing local and third party expertise: the people who really know what went wrong should be there to analyse processes along with third party experts. A good debate ensures all possibilities are taken care of, analysed and the best possible action is taken.

With these guidelines, defects are analysed to find their origins. A collection of these causes will help in conducting the root cause analysis in effective manner.

Why Root Cause Analysis is extremely important?

The main benefit of RCA is that it finds the fundamental errors in the development process, enabling teams to enact right measures to fix the problems and stop them from recurring ahead. Hence, there is lesser rework and fewer defects in the final product.

  • Reduced cost: the cost of fixing defects increases later the defects are found in the development process and if a defect makes it into the final release, customers may never buy the product again, resulting in loss of revenue to the firm.
  • Identify failure: It points RCA is mainly helpful for teams that think they have apt development and QA procedures but still face recurring defects. Obviously, something is broken but what, why and where are the questions that need to be answered. RCA helps answer these questions and find the real (root) cause of the problem and not just the obvious (direct) cause.
  • Improve safety and reliability: As root cause analysis helps reducing the number of defects in future, it can be mainly beneficial to firms in quality critical industries where product reliability and safety are mainly important.
  • Enhance time to market: On finding the root cause of a defect and taking the subsequent corrective action, releases of the product take less time in testing and the product is released in the market sooner with lesser uncaught defects.

The benefits of adopting the Root Cause Analysis process to prevent defects are enormous viz. reduces development time and cost, increases customer satisfaction, reduces rework effort thereby decreases cost and improves the quality of the product.