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A Comprehensive Guide to Test Automation

Digital Transformation is accelerating across all industry verticals and market sectors. Evolving customer expectations are requiring retailers and B2C organisations to re-evaluate their operating models.

With the new IT infrastructures required for digital transformation comes a high rate of new systems, releases and upgrades across a growing number of applications. This has made quality assurance and testing vital for the early identification of bugs and to prevent critical systems from failing.

This guide is an in-depth resource addressing the fundamental questions associated with Test Automation and its successful use by retail and B2C organisations.

What is Test Automation?

Automation Testing refers to the software testing technique where test suites are executed using custom automated testing software strategies and an open-source approach to compare the actual and expected outcomes. It includes automating repetitive but necessary tasks through a formalised process that may already be in place, or performing additional testing tasks that otherwise would be difficult to perform manually.

Refer to the complete Glossary

There are two types of software testing – automated and manual. Each plays a key role in the world of successful software development and implementation. Discovery Testing and Usability Testing are vital and irreplaceable. This is equally the case for Regression and Functional testing, but these take significant time and effort when performed manually.

Manual testing calls for human interaction to test the functionality of the software by determining real-world usage. In contrast, Test Automation – as the name implies - involves the implementation of an automated solution. This Automation allows businesses to focus on higher-value tasks and to increase the overall test coverage and scalability.

How Test Automation Work?

Test Automation is the core activity of any agile development methodology. As we move towards continuous deployment, test automation provides the vital, rapid feedback response regarding the health of an application. Whilst the primary objective is a focus on quality assurance, Test Automation also prompts involvement and commitment from the entire software team, involving business analysts, developers, and DevOps engineers.

Automated regression tests are executed continuously to provide consistent, reliable test results for prompt analysis and feedback. This helps accelerate the development of new features by incorporating insights from the automated results. The outcome is therefore Development and Automated Testing as a united activity, maintaining quality across new and existing functionality.

The Objective: Achieve Continuous Regression

As automation becomes more integrated into an agile development world, it is important to realise the benefits of early testing. Timely automated testing yields greater efficiency and accuracy in the development and design of the testing programme, which in turn enables the continuous automation of iteratively built code.

What is a Test Automation Framework?

Test Automation is implemented within a framework including common practices, standards, and testing tools. There are various common frameworks which are Keyword-driven and Data-driven, as well as frameworks for modular testing and linear scripting.

Keyword-Driven Framework
This framework utilises table formats and defines keywords for each function and execution method. Extensive programming knowledge is needed to work on the keywords and create the testing script.

Data-Driven Framework
This framework enables script creation to work for multiple data sets that provide wider coverage with fewer tests.

Modular Testing Framework
In this framework, scripts are created for small and independent tests to reduce redundancy. But this process is more time-consuming.

Linear Scripting Framework
This framework is used for small applications, as it enables the use of test scripts with minimum planning, since it doesn’t support reusable scripts.

Is Test Automation Worthwhile?

Test Automation reduces the cost associated with manual work during iterative testing cycles. The automation solutions expedite test execution, with the overall process becoming faster by delivering the product to the end-users in quick iterations. Test Automation improves the overall efficiency and coverage across environments. With the ability to schedule numerous tests to run multiple times in a day, test automation delivers a rapid return on the investment.

Benefits of automation testing
  1. Increased Coverage: Test Automation increases the code coverage. The more tests are performed, the more code, functionality, and non-functionality are covered as a result. Test Automation not only improves overall software quality, but also reduces the time to market.
  2. Quicker Results: Test Automation can provide instant results to shorten the feedback loop. This enables the entire team involved in the software development program to act promptly and make the necessary changes.
  3. Return on Investment: Manual testing involves an enormous amount of resources due to the need for repetitive tasks. In contrast, Automated Testing allows testers focus on applying their knowledge and skills to exploring the system for finding bugs that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.

Whilst the initial investment in Test Automation may be higher, early defect identification can ensure that potentially expensive, reputation-damaging errors are avoided before they reach the end customer.

PMC’s range of bespoke test automation solutions can typically reduce manual test effort by up to 70%, whether this is for web, API, mobile, POS, or other systems testing. Additionally, running automated tests would be expected to reduce the equivalent manual testing time by 90%.

What to Automate in Software Testing?

Not all tests can be automated and it is crucial to correctly determine what to automate. If a test is to be performed only a couple of times, then manual testing is preferable. Repetitive tests and those requiring large data to act should be automated.

The following tests can be automated to achieve the maximum impact:

  1. Repetitive tests
  2. Tests that can include human error.
  3. Tests requiring multiple data sets.
  4. Functionality introducing high-risk conditions.
  5. Tests are impossible to run manually.
  6. Tests running on multiple hardware or software platforms and configurations.
  7. Tests taking enormous effort and time when tested manually.

Automation applies computation to software engineering activities, backed by a comprehensive R&D and tech-driven approach. The goal is to automate these activities partially or fully, thereby noticeably increasing both quality and productivity. Extending a coded approach to Test Automation solutions and frameworks provides customers with minimised long-term maintenance costs and an improved ROI as a result of scaled-down manual efforts.

Kaushal Shah, Customer Delivery & Automation Lead

How to Create Test Automation Strategy?

An automated testing strategy should encompass the overall approach to testing and reporting. All testing processes should be defined and planned along with the expectations for the testing cycle.

Stages of automation testing

The 5 stages of an Automated Testing process run in parallel with the software development lifecycle (SDLC). These stages are:

  1. Planning
  2. Define the final goal to be achieved and the feasibility analysis required to support it. Address the basic questions of which tests can be automated, which tests need manual intervention, what is the overall budget and what expertise is needed?

  3. Design
  4. Create a test plan to design the approach based on the end goal. Select the framework within which the test scenarios will operate. Be sure to select an automation solution that meets business needs and fits your requirements in terms of cost, functionality and flexibility.

  5. Development
  6. The right environment plays a key role in maximising test coverage across different scenarios. Automation Engineers need to work closely with developers to have the correct access to the environments, test data login credentials, and build a similar environment on the local machines, if needed. Automation Engineers need to work closely with developers to have the correct access to the environments, test data login credentials, and build a similar environment on the local machines, if needed. Test engineers will write test scripts based on the requirements and scripting standards. These scripts should be structured, reusable, and easy for others to understand.

  7. Execution
  8. Test engineers will focus on executing the developed test scenarios individually as well as in parallel to achieve the quicker and accurate results.

  9. Reporting and Maintenance
  10. Post-test execution, a report containing bugs and defects details will be generated from an automated tool.

What are the Barriers to Test Automation?

There are various reasons why the Test Automation strategy may fail and businesses may not realise its full value. In such scenarios, it is vital to understand the barriers to successful Test Automation. These barriers may arise because of a skills gap, failure to gauge return on investment, team communication, incorrect test automation approach, or difficulty in deciding what to automate.

PMC can help businesses to remove these barriers. PMC Test Automation teams are highly skilled to deliver automation solutions for diverse clients and projects, across web, mobile, POS, API, microservices, and much more.

We provide a code and tool agnostic approach, with programming experience spanning Java, JavaScript, Protractor, Jasmine, Mocha amongst others, to deliver successful test automation within an Agile methodology.

Know more about PMC's Automated Testing Services.

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