Test Automation Best Practices
Test automation is the most efficient and effective means of test execution. Best practices coupled with automated testing creates an essential component for successful deployment.
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Introduced over the last decade and a half, automated testing has gone through many changes. The enterprise test management industry has introduced new tools and open-source tools are more accessible, while quality in innovation and advancements continues to influence the market. The popularity of automated testing has even encouraged automation providers to contribute several pre-formatted frameworks designed to circumvent the requirement for in-depth scripting knowledge. The industry seems to foresee a long-term relationship with automated testing.
What to Automate?
How much test automation is enough? Test automation consultants have written much on the subject, resulting in some agreement on the best testing modes with less agreement on how to accomplish them. Which areas of software testing can be automated? Automated tools are used to facilitate generally all testing designs and processes. The best software testing tools are those you can modify to your testing needs.
The purpose of test automation is to provide automated support for testing procedures. Integration, unit, and system testing work well with automated testing. A QA team keen on test design and execution develops the automated testing framework. The extent to which automation is used in the testing process defines the scope of automated testing.
Among system tests, automation best facilitates security, configuration, and load testing. Regression testing also works well with automation during development and at the initial time of release.
Test Automation (Source)
Test planning, design, builds, execution, analysis, verification, validation, and reporting are phases that include defect tracking, software and system configuration management, and software metrics, all working together and ultimately adhering to each other as a unified process of effective management strategies. The appropriate automation works in these testing situations to varying degrees, depending upon how the testing process is managed.
The QA testing team is the manpower nucleus of a testing project. Strategies that support and enhance communication among team members, allowing the interconnection of talents and the integration of perspectives, boost the effectiveness of the test procedure. Automated test management oversees the configurations of test modules, calculates the software testing metrics, and processes test deliverables, allowing teams a more concentrated focus on risk assessment, project design, and planning.
The efficiency of the team depends on the extent to which the team adheres to the following testing best practices.
- Analyze risk because risk mitigation in running testing procedures is crucial to the enterprise.
- Functional specifications allow testing to occur in parallel with coding.
- Reviews and inspections expand the efficiency of debugging software.
- Multi-platform testing includes code modification for performance on different server platforms.
- Internal betas are test releases to a limited number of customers.
- Automated test execution involves valuations using automated test management.
Each best practice relates to a testing phase. A deep dive into available testing resources along with strategic planning support best practices within software projects.
Designing tests and test data is the most crucial and time-consuming portion of the testing process. To be valid, test design must be precise in indicating the software functionalities to be tested. During the design phase, test conditions are identified based on specified test requirements, effective test modules and metrics are developed, and the anticipated behavior that will yield valid results is determined. Automated testing performs evaluations against manual test requirements to verify the reliability of the automated process.
The use of an automation framework to configure testing modules characterizes automated testing. The automated framework supports the development of automated test scripts while it also monitors and maintains test results and related documentation. The structural framework for an automated test suite is the structural foundation of automated testing.
Automation best focuses on identified priority factors for deployment. Manual testing can precede automated testing to contribute test conditions and data that test automation can use for regression and other types of testing.
A discussion begins the test planning process. Under consideration and discussion in the test planning process are, in sequential order, such factors as:
- Risk assessment.
- Identifying requirements.
- Prioritizing requirements.
- Estimating resource requirements.
- Assessing existing resources.
- Developing the testing plan.
- Assigning projects to QA team members.
QA management can structure test planning as a formal documentation or as an individual understanding with each team member.
Software Architecture Design (Source)
The test plan answers the who, what, when, where, how, and how long in respect to the testing process. Test planning allocates testing functions to each aligned software testing tool, facilitating the testing process of determining the who, what, when, where, how, and for how long with reliance on test automation. In addition, test planning scenarios can determine which tests lend themselves to automation. Test planning is both documented and dynamic.
As a dynamic entity, test planning keeps QA test engineers on track with project objectives and must be continuously updated. Test planning combines test requirements and design documentation to be implemented as test scenarios that develop and verify anticipated outcomes. Test scenarios can then be used to create test conditions, cases, and data that control how the test script responds to the application.
Executing the test begins with test construction, which stems from the design phase of testing. First requiring the writing of test scripts, automated testing then places scripts into execution. The test build should be parallel to software development to stay on track with sprints and iterations. Test scripting and test engineering are the two primary talent requirements for a reliable test build.
The extent to which testing is manual, automated, or a combined automated-manual process is determined by available resources, enterprise strategic objectives, and the extent of diverse talent within QA teams. Each process locates different classes of errors and accuracy depends on tests applying directly to application features. Efficient assessment requires first validating the data, next testing code functionality, and then conducting regression tests to evaluate and stabilize the release interface with affected applications and systems.
Test results are a set of actual output values which have been compared to anticipated output. While manually observing test output may be more intuitive, automated testing quickly and smoothly produces reliable test results. Additionally, Best Practices encourages that test outcomes be compared to validate reports and documentation from previous versions.
Testing works against a baseline which is built from initial requirements, test planning, and test design. It is against this baseline that all testing procedures are run and test results validated. Without an established baseline, precision no longer exists and the pass/fail test standard fails to produce conclusive results.
Reporting is all about documenting the process. Reporting documents a summary report for management and stakeholders, as well as a detailed report which is stored and given to development as feedback. Known defects that have not been addressed must be listed in order of severity in both report renditions. Test results are often decision-making resources as to whether to release a product.
Ongoing reporting is embedded in defect tracking and other operations that independently monitor applications subsequent to release testing.
Planned automation, or automated test management, is as necessary as is planning a manual testing project. Automated planning includes:
- Tracking and analyzing code coverage of which areas are least covered and therefore most at risk.
- Focused and purposeful sequential test layouts.
- Consistent updates to avoid coding decay from unresolved defects.
- Continuous integration to instantly identify new defects for quick recovery.
- Ability to run smaller batches from test suites for faster completion and feedback to developers.
- An integrated suite of automated tools that can be used by technical and nontechnical personnel.
- Diverse reusable automated test scripts for:
- Smoke tests.
- Test setup.
- Reliability of software and systems.
- Compatibility of software and systems.
- Object properties.
- Software and system functionalities.
- System performance.
Test automation is trending towards the life cycle test automation, integrating testing processes to support each other, consolidating results, and speeding up testing for reduced time-to-market. The automated test life cycle includes business strategies. Consequentially business analysis and stakeholder priorities resound throughout the cycle.
The software life cycle is more management-oriented than process-oriented. Data-driven automated testing provides techniques that can be applied daily in test automation processes. While not deductive, business management requirements can activate inductive innovation in test planning and design.
Software Testing Lifecycle (Source)
Test management tools completely integrate with the test life cycle to flexibly connect with testing tools from different providers. Therefore, requirements management, performance management, test script execution, and defect management are smoothly controlled by a choice of test management providers and add-ons. Customized features which reduce the need for redundant manual testing are also distributed by several providers.
Assumptions, Constraints, and Success Factors
Assumptions are tools that are necessary to assume testing. An integrated tool suite is the primary test management, planning, development, and implementation conveyance and must include:
- A defect backlog and resolution tool.
- A test requirements management component.
- A configuration management tool.
- Integration with desktop tools.
- Testing that is separate from development.
- Documented reports and records that are followed.
Constraints are restrictions to the process without which testing would have limited success. Normal constraints are:
- Automated tools and resources that remain independent of any set of manual tests.
- Automation teams that contain sufficient talent and manpower.
- Maintaining a high level of cooperation among team members and with management.
- Development that consistently creates testable applications.
- Acknowledging the possibility of late stage corporate mandates.
Success factors are based on guidelines which include:
- Automated testing that is central to the test effort and a full-time operation.
- A test automation framework that is developed separately from the test design process.
- A test framework that is independent of any application.
- A test framework that is easily scalable.
Based on success factors, strategic objectives more thoroughly detail the outlined goals for success and include:
- Devising a strategy for testing that can be implemented both manually and through test automation.
- Separating test design and test implementation, which allows designers to develop tests while test processing develops test scripts.
- Designing test cases to include navigation and execution steps in consolidated formats.
- Integrating the best features of keyword testing, data-driven testing, with the possible inclusion of functional decomposition testing.
- Applying an automated build validation, or smoke, test to each application release.
- Developing automated regression testing.
Automation has increased the crucial need for QA testers with experience and knowledge in coding, test planning, and design. Some preferred areas of specialization are:
- Domain knowledge.
- Knowledge of automated testing tools.
- Accelerated knowledge in specific areas of testing.
Test automation is led by experts who provide the overall automation strategy for the entire product life cycle. Experts must identify the right tool sets for each life cycle phase, with risk mitigation and time-to-market being considerations in the forefront of each strategy.
Through continuous innovation, the speed at which new applications can be developed is continuously accelerating. Software testing is somewhat lagging behind application development in new innovations. Consequently, as innovations are continually moving testing towards more inclusive automation, engineers are having to leverage skills in the areas of automated testing.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for an adept manual tester without extensive domain knowledge of an automation engineer without coding skills to fit into an automation team. Developing automated test frameworks to facilitate faster creation of test cases, faster automated test processes, and faster execution of test scenarios is becoming more critical to software deployment.
Test automation is the most efficient and effective means of test execution. Defects are considerably reduced due to the reduction of human error, which reduces costs in time-to-market. Therefore, many QA departments are switching to test automation. Upon completion of automated test scripts, automated results are more accurate, can be used to easily repeat testing, or extended to other tasks. Best practices coupled with automated testing creates an essential component for successful deployment.
Published at DZone with permission of Sanjay Zalavadia, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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