Best practices for mitigating test automation risks

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The strategy of automating software tests comes with numerous benefits. Not only does this practice help eliminate many of the complexities and errors seen with manual testing, but automation can also improve the user experience and streamline product launches.

However, with every advantageous approach comes associated risks. A number of issues can creep up during test automation that can lead to other problems if the team is not prepared. Today, we'll examine some of the best ways testing and QA teams can mitigate these risks and position themselves and their products for success.

Automation risks lead to higher costs

Oftentimes, problems with test automation come down to the project's bottom line. According to a study from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, inadequate testing processes lead to considerably high costs for software developers. Inefficient methods and tools cost the U.S. economy anywhere from $22.2 billion to $59.5 billion on an annual basis. Much of these costs are incurred by the development team, which has to carry out extra tests due to software failures or mitigation processes. As anywhere from 25 to 90 percent of software development budgets are spent on testing, there is often no room in the budget for unplanned, subsequent tests.

In order to prevent exceeding budgets and having to complete extra tests, QA and testing teams must ensure that they are avoiding the common pitfalls that lead to added testing needs. Efficient testing means catching application performance and other issues on the first go-around, so team members must be knowledgeable and understand what to look for.

Have a clear set of goals

It's also imperative to have a well-defined list of objectives in place before tests are carried out. These will not only help inform the tests themselves, but will also guide the team through the insights they glean from these tests. For each automated test, stakeholders should have a full understanding of what they hope to achieve and what steps they will take after they see the test results. Having clear goals established ahead of time will streamline overall testing processes and help ensure that the project remains on schedule.

Automation: Not a replacement for manual processes

While automated testing is certainly advantageous, industry expert Adrian Smith pointed out that it is by no means a replacement for manual, exploratory testing.Teams will need to leverage both manual and automated software testing to ensure the product is ready for launch."A mixture of testing types and levels is needed to achieve the desired quality and mitigate the risk associated with defects," Smith wrote.

Ensure stability before automation

When it comes to automated testing, timing is everything - the application must be developed and stable enough to stand up to the demands of the trials. Even in agile environments, it's important to ensure stability before carrying out automated tests. Skipping this step could lead to inadequate test results, as well as added work for both developers and testers. For this reason, it's critical to time tests at integral points during the process, particularly for agile developments.

Execute automated tests on a regular basis

It's also critical to keep in mind that automated testing is not a one-and-done process. Smith explained that in order to reap all the benefits this approach can offer, tests must be carried out on a consistent basis. "This has the effect of highlighting failures and providing continuous feedback about the health of the system," Smith pointed out. In order to support this, Smith recommended ensuring that automated tests are initiated through the continuous integration system, as opposed to manually. Otherwise, the risk of tests not being run on a regular basis increases.

Leveraging skilled resources is key

Software Testing Help noted that it's important to have a knowledgeable team in place when carrying out automated tests. Stakeholders with expertise in automated testing as well as programming and development can help the initiative be successful. However, skilled resources don't just extend to the team itself. QA must also have a robust solution in place as well that can help them manage tests and collaborate in real-time. Hence, it is imperative to have a test management strategy that fits the bill and provides users with the ability maintain multiple projects at once, and manage both automated and manual testing.

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