Test automation best practices that deliver a solid return on investment

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Posted by Brian Borg

By employing test automation best practices you stand to see a number of benefits. Automated testing is known to shorten your development cycles, reduce the inconvenience of repetitive tasks and help improve your product's quality.

But what's the best way to get started? A Software Testing News survey reported that, 81 percent of companies see a return on investment (ROI) in the first year of implementing automated tests.

Here are a few best practices to help you deliver ROI with test automation.

Consider using a BDD framework

A Behaviour Driven Development (BDD) framework is a software test case development approach, allowing the tester to create test cases in simple text language. Using simple language in the test case scenarios helps non-technical team members to understand what is going on in the project.

The main advantage of BDD is that it's low jargon. Using a BDD framework saves you time. In reviewing tests, you will be less likely to encounter mistakes and misunderstandings, and QA leads won't waste time having to answer questions or explain what each test is doing. Having a simple document to refer to will make it easier for everyone to measure the outcomes of your product testing.

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Choose your tests and testers wisely

Take into account the pros and cons of automating your test cases. Factor these into your selection process when choosing which of your tests are best automated, and ask questions like:

  • What tests are most time-consuming to execute manually?
  • Which tests are repeated frequently?
  • Does the test cover high risk/high priority functionality?
  • Does the test require a large data set?

Your answers to these will guide your decision making for which tests to automate. Since your sanity, smoke, and/or critical path test plans will be executed most frequently, they are the best candidates to automate right away. These tests will tick the most boxes from the above list of questions.

Selecting the right people to create your automation scripts is crucial. If you use inexperienced testers because they're 'cheaper' or already on hand, you could end up paying through the nose in time and error later on. Capers Jones found that the cost to address bugs post-release is around $16,000, but a bug found at the design phase costs $25.

Hiring experienced testers is the best decision for a positive and measurable ROI. Automation requires upfront effort and skill to be successful so testers should know their stuff.

Evaluate the cost of manual vs automated

Look at the time required to complete the automation process vs carrying out the test manually. If you can prove that the automation process will take more time then it is clearly not worth it and there will be a negative ROI in comparison. We wrote an article all about this, check it out here.

Measuring ROI

'Although automation may be seen as too expensive to implement (we often hear, “I don’t have time or budget to automate— it’s not a feature!”), automation is truly a sound investment.' - Google, State of DevOps report 2019

Test automation will always require an upfront and ongoing investment, but with repetitive usage it will yield incredible savings over-time. If you depend solely on manual testing as your product grows you are neglecting to recognize the benefits, and may even put your product and possibly your organization at risk.

Use these best practices from the beginning and it will allow you to understand and measure the value that test automation delivers. Got a question about automation testing? We're here to help. Contact OnPath, today.

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