Dos and Don’ts to Successfully Adopt Test Automation in DevOps
How to build powerful test automation in DevOps, and what to avoid? Here is a list of dos and don’ts of test automation in DevOps to compile a win-win approach.
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Gone are the days when releases to the production environment were rare. To outmaneuver the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, roll out software briskly while turning clients into brand advocates for life, businesses are continuously improving delivered IT products by releasing several and more times a day.
For that, the process of ensuring high build quality should accelerate substantially and take minutes, not hours. A cultural shift to DevOps became a way out. DevOps helps to build, test, and deploy faster, provide quick incident responses, and enhance collaboration between teams while unlocking software development innovation and increasing agility.
It’s test automation that helps make it happen. With a continuous interest in introducing it in the future as predicted by the World Quality Report 2021-22 (WQR), test automation powers DevOps and helps attain high product velocity without sacrificing quality.
However, companies still struggle with its implementation and usage because of an ill-conceived strategy or the lack of experience and resources. How does one not get caught between a rock and a hard place?
Organizations may evaluate the list of dos and don’ts before embracing test automation in DevOps to increase the chances of success and compile a win-win approach.
Automation in DevOps: Why It Really Matters?
Continuous integration, delivery, deployment, and testing play the first fiddle in the DevOps environment. Let's take a look at how!
Within continuous integration (CI), ongoing entry of code into the main repository after successful test launches and further automated testing performed by VCS for safe integration with the repository ensures quick fixing of potential issues from the get-go.
Continuous delivery (CD) enables constant software updates that go through manual and automated tests. The most tangible benefit of CD is a gradual delivery of novel functionality, which means teams can obtain immediate feedback from the end-users and briskly introduce changes to improve software operation.
Due to continuous deployment (CD), new functionality instantly appears in the main program because of an automated process. Often, Docker and Kubernetes containers serve this purpose. Software engineers update and deploy them to the production environment just in several minutes.
Continuous testing (CT) allows testing early, always, everywhere by leveraging automation to improve code quality, eliminate business risks associated with a release candidate, speed up the development processes, and optimize test coverage.
What unites all these practices? It’s test automation that goes hand in hand with DevOps and contributes to ensuring build stability, high speed, and scalability, as well as a consistent and predictable testing process.
An automation-first approach in software quality does help deliver good-to-go code and get ROI from invested efforts ― according to WQR, the number of executives who admitted the indicator growth increased from 37% last year to 50% today.
Efficient Test Automation Strategy in DevOps: Dos and Don’ts
When getting started with automated testing in a DevOps pipeline, organizations need to remember that we don’t live in an ideal world, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s always wise to analyze and consider existing workflows, release frequency, product maturity, test data, as this and other factors establish a win-win approach.
Still, some recommendations regarding test automation implementation and maintenance are universal and may suit any company.
5 Dos for Effective Test Automation in DevOps
To accelerate time to market and build better, more reliable software solutions, organizations can stick to the following principles that increase the success of test automation adoption.
1. Do engage right-skilled specialists
According to WQR, compared with the previous year, the importance of skilled engineers in implementing DevOps has grown significantly ― 50% of respondents find this to be a vital factor. Often, it’s not the number of people that matters, but the level of skills they apply to solve more complicated tasks in less time.
Meanwhile, the requirements for QA automation engineers in DevOps are strict and voluminous. From the technical perspective, the specialists hired should be adept at spotting automatable scenarios, scripting code creation and optimization in diverse programming languages, mastering CI/CD and cloud tools, architecture skills.
Soft skills do matter as well, as strong communication capabilities are necessary to ensure quick problem-solving in case of emergency and enable ongoing interaction with team members who are equally responsible for overall software quality.
2. Do select a fit-for-purpose toolkit
Careful consideration of the tool is vital as only the right test automation toolset helps achieve the desired goal of DevOps ― quality at speed. To choose wisely, organizations should bear in mind the following high-priority criteria:
- Smooth integration into CI/CD pipelines and with CI/CD plug-ins, such as reporters.
- Well-designed structure and architecture of the test automation approach.
- Flexible test execution environment infrastructure.
- Simplified maintenance of automated test suites.
- The short learning curve to avoid any process disruption.
- Licensing and support costs that fully match the allocated budget.
3. Do continuously maintain test automation suites
A stable test automation suite is a cornerstone of meeting the targets and ensuring the continuity of a testing process. Product code is constantly changing. So, it’s vital to keep the test set in order and always review, audit, and refactor it when required to ensure that all QA engineers leverage updated test cases.
4. Do focus on metrics to monitor progress
When implementing test automation, tracking its effectiveness and business impact is the bedrock of heading in the right direction. QA metrics such as:
- The number of passed/failed test cases and spotted defects.
- Time required to execute automated suites.
- Frequency of test failures.
- Tests and system logs.
help provide insight into all automated test cases across delivery pipelines, determine areas prone to failures, and identify better ways of writing test cases.
5. Do care of test documentation and reporting
To increase the transparency of a testing process, provide a detailed overview of planned QA activities, or help developers faster identify the root cause of test failures, organizations should carefully maintain test documentation ― from quality management plans to test reports. This approach will also streamline the onboarding of new test automation team members.
4 Don’ts or What Negatively Impacts Test Automation Outcomes
On the way to reaching fast delivery, scalability, and optimization of resources, organizations should be careful with spreading test automation practice and keep from going to extremes.
1. Don’t overdo DevOps automation
Striking a balance is the key.
First, automation is about bringing technology around manual processes to make them repeatable. If the manual processes have a poor establishment, companies only make them fulfill quicker. So, do primarily focus on tuning them accurately.
Secondly, to each their own, your business is unique. Test automation solutions uniting too many tools may be a silver bullet to some companies and a disaster for yours. Only by fully understanding requirements for entire software development and identifying processes that can be automated, businesses then can select a fit-for-purpose approach.
2. Don’t eliminate manual testing completely
Focusing on 100% automation may be the wrong way. Attempting to automate all the features can lead to money and effort loss with no value for businesses. Test automation is, first of all, a tool used to strengthen manual testing. There always will be scenarios that must be manual ― those that refer to exploratory testing to examine system behavior, usability testing to deliver engaging design and build credibility, ad-hoc testing to spot defects that rarely occur when sticking to a formal process, and others.
3. Don’t follow the false economy
I’ve already mentioned that costs that companies spend on tools should correlate with their budget. But trying to economize on them may cause inconvenience. Why?
Yes, open-source solutions are widely marketed. However, they require teams to apply good technical skills when handling the tool in case of any issues as no official support is provided.
Another factor is functional limitations due to no licensing fees, so companies should fully realize the goals and features required to achieve them. Often, the combination of commercial and open-source solutions contributes to meeting the targets.
4. Don’t start with automating voluminous tasks
Instead, focus on smaller parts first. When automating large projects, reorganizing and prioritizing them into smaller tasks help significantly save testing time and avoid critical issues that can cause temporary disruption. Implement test automation step by step, paying attention to the priorities and measurement of its effectiveness.
Test Automation Success in DevOps
Within DevOps culture, quality has become the shared responsibility of all team members who often gravitate towards applying test automation to briskly ship code changes, receive feedback, and tweak solutions to perfection.
However, implementing it in DevOps may be a tricky task. To embrace automation with confidence, companies may focus on the following best practices:
- Do engage right-skilled specialists.
- Do select a fit-for-purpose toolkit.
- Do continuously maintain test automation suites.
- Do focus on metrics to monitor progress.
- Do care of test documentation and reporting.
At the same time, QA teams can succeed faster by avoiding common mistakes and:
- Not overdoing DevOps automation.
- Not eliminating manual testing completely.
- Not following false economy.
- Not starting with automating voluminous tasks.
By following these rules, organizations can guarantee a pervasive quality assurance process, accelerate product delivery, and reduce operational costs.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.