The ins and outs of testing automation

16 Aug 2019
The ins and outs of testing automation

Steve Beck, Delivery Manager: Test Automation at Inspired Testing.

If the benefits are so clear, why is there still resistance?

By now, the primary benefits of automated testing are proven and well-documented: reducing release to market timelines; improving software quality; running large numbers of tests in a short period of time; quickly identifying gaps and errors in data. Despite this, however, many organisations are resisting the change.

“There are multiple reasons why companies don’t automate,” says Steve Beck, Delivery Manager, Inspired Testing Cape Town. “It’s important for us as testing consultants to gain insight into these reasons and ensure that we understand automation from our clients’ perspective. Each company has its own unique circumstances and requirements, and individuals within organisations have fears and concerns about automation. A cookie-cutter approach to automation doesn’t work and it’s not enough to rattle off a list of benefits.”

Getting beneath the skin

Throughout his many years leading teams at clients in the Fintech and Insurance sector, Beck has been privy to a number of reasons why test automation won’t work.

If we automate, our testers will be out of a job.

“On the contrary, if you automate, your resources can be put to better use, working smarter instead of harder. Automated testing does the heavy lifting, the boring and the monotonous, while your manual testers or test analysts can use their clever analytical skills and deep knowledge to qualitatively assess the data within the framework of accepted criteria,” says Beck. “They can look at the data from a high-level perspective, knowing that the automation script has run the calculations. They can check that the automation process is doing what is required, and pick up data that is outside the accepted criteria. They ensure that the data fits the test parameters and that they are checking data that must be tested. They will also pick up errors in the data, because the automation process will produce a different result – which will become evident during their analysis. It is impossible for a manual tester to test at the same level as the automation script – but it is also impossible for the automation process to analyse the data in the same way as a manual tester or test analyst. Automation is there to make life easier for the tester and for team leaders to maximise the value of their testing team.”

We don’t see the ROI of automation

In the long-term insurance industry, forms such as quotes contain a massive amount of data. Every option that is chosen has an outcome and each one has to be validated on the system. There are thousands of cells, all of which have a potential monetary value and carry enormous risk, being, for example, someone’s life insurance or critical illness insurance. The amount of data is staggering, and to manually test for errors is neither time nor cost-efficient. “Automation will run the test at a fraction of the time, picking up errors through the algorithm. Human error is significantly reduced and as the data is groomed and refined, the development team and the test analysts will pick up more bugs. In this way, the ROI becomes more visible as the process continues – it’s not instant gratification, but you can certainly have some quick wins off the bat,” says Beck. From there, it’s about setting smaller, achievable goals. “If you silo your risks and clearly define the areas you want to automate, you’ll have value popping out all the time.”

Our tests failed because we automated

“In some instances, automation is seen as the reason tests fail,” says Beck. “Sometimes there is a perception that automation is not reflecting reality, where an organisation might not want to accept that something is wrong with their processes.” In other instances, says Beck, the project owner may not be totally up to speed or fail to communicate, causing a bottleneck in the automation process. Collaboration and the alignment of interests between the automation team and project owner can help overcome these issues.

Our organisation is highly complex, where would we start?

“Automation needs to cover your biggest risk areas first. It’s critical to automate the right parts of the system, to eliminate game-breaking bugs. The project owner is the guide for the automation team – it’s essential for the automation team to work collaboratively with the project owner to ascertain risk areas. This is where we start,” Beck explains.

We’ve automated, but the project sponsor hasn’t bought in

This, agrees Beck, can be a great stumbling block to successful automation. “We see our clients achieve their greatest successes when the project sponsor is fully committed to and believes in the value of automation. Once this happens, everything shifts. Instead of ignoring the automation results, the project sponsor wants to know the results. Then automation starts to prop up the dev team’s releases and gives the developers confidence in their build.”

For test automation to work, it is critical that each part of the development team – and all departments throughout the business - see the value it generates. By bringing all concerns and fears to the table for open and honest discussion, resistance to change and real concerns can be addressed, to ensure the success of your automation journey.

Inspired Testing’s disruptive onshore offshore model offers a revitalised alternative to outdated offshore models. With a scalable pool of 250+ expert SQA professionals in the UK and South Africa, the company’s strength lies in knowing how to structure, execute and automate testing. Importantly, our ISO 27001 certification and its alignment to the UK/EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) ensures full protection of critical personal data. Inspired Testing uses a unique combination of experience, technique and blended onshore offshore delivery capabilities to provide expert software testing across most platforms, devices and environments.

Inspired Testing is a wholly-owned subsidiary of software and technology group Dynamic Technologies. With 1 000+ staff and thirteen group companies across the UK and South Africa, Dynamic Technologies provides a diverse range of technology solutions, digital services, training solutions and related core competencies. Our group companies comprise DVT (including the DVT Academy), Inspired Testing, DotModus, CloudSmiths, IndigoCube, Blue Pencil Consulting, Dynamic DNA, Blue Pencil Creative, Emerald Consulting, Dynamic Talent, EventSmiths and Swarm.

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