Test Automation: Is it Worth the Investment?
Continuous testing is nowadays the key to alleviating some of the most common problem symptoms in software development, such as poor quality and late discovery of project flaws. Tested software means high quality software that is free of bugs and problems that could later disrupt business operations. At the same time frequent software testing (i.e. “continuous testing”) ensures that the changes to the software and the refactoring of the code do not introduce problems. Furthermore, continuous testing facilitates early discovery of problems (e.g., bugs, flaws) at the design and development phases, prior to their propagation in deployment and production. This is directly associated with significant cost savings: A bug fix during the software design or implementation phase incurs a few hundreds of dollars cost (e.g., due to the need for allocating person hours for debugging and refactoring), while this very same bug can cause economic damage of thousands of dollars in case it propagates to production.
The merits of testing have given rise to software development best practices, which prioritize the writing and execution of tests as part of the software development lifecycle. For example, the “test-first” approach mandates that developers first write the test case for a unit or module, prior to writing the respective code. According to Test Driven Development, software is produced based on the following cycle:
TDD is gradually become a cornerstone of agile software development, as it provides the foundation for ensuring the quality of development iterations. As we have explained in earlier post, agile software development is about iterative and evolutionary development cycles, which deliver functional versions of the product at the end of each iteration. Hence, the software delivered as part of each cycle is thoroughly tested. TDD and test-first programming not only ensure that all tests will be in place at the end of an iteration, but also that the release will be tested and functional.
The need for continuous and thorough testing, gives rise to the automation of the testing procedure. Indeed, manual testing might be feasible in very simple projects, but it’s very expensive and virtually a mission impossible when it comes to continually running test cases for large scale projects. Testing automation has distinct advantages, when compared to manual testing including:
The testing automation process should typically involve the following steps, which will get you the most of automation:
There are a number of best practices for planning and executing the automated testing process, which maximize productivity and the ROI of the testing automation process. In particular:
Overall, testing automation is an indispensible component of agile software engineering and a foundation for shortening release and innovation cycles. Therefore, putting these best practices to work, sooner than later, is important and will require serious commitment to get the most out of your automated testing process.
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