In an agile business, automation is becoming an essential process, but that does not mean that it's the answer for everything. Organizations should automate as much as possible, while understanding that there are some elements that will not be able to undergo this transition. Test automation, while being able to improve numerous aspects of software development, has limitations that developers and quality assurance teams should be aware of from the start. Here are a few of the biggest restrictions that will likely be seen with automated testing:
1) Continuous adjustment to testing code
Once a script has been established, that doesn't mean that the test will never be touched again. In fact, DZone contributor Aleksey Savkin noted that whenever an app is updated, the test must be able to reliably produce accurate results. If the test code is not adjusted accordingly to match new elements that have been introduced in the software, it could lead to false results, ultimately leaving the product with vulnerabilities and defects.
However, with appropriate test management tools, QA teams could easily handle these changes and ensure that they are reflected in the testing scripts.
"[W]henever a change occurs in the code, the software automatically prompts the tester that the piece of code which you want to test has been modified and you should verify that testing code is updated accordingly or not," Savkin wrote. "This will avoid any test case to give faulty result."
2) Cannot be used for testing UX
Possibly one of the biggest limitations of test automation is that it can't think like a human, meaning that user experience tests will need to be done manually. The appearance, ease of use and consistency are not items that an automated test script would accurately be able to evaluate. Test automation may pass an application because there are no discernable errors, but users may find that it's hard to navigate or doesn't have the functionality that they need.
User experience is a major part of an application project, but it simply cannot be automated. How would you begin coding a script to test the navigation or usability of a program? It would be challenging to establish quantifiable characteristics that would generate the information needed for continual improvement. For this reason, QA teams stick to manual testing in this case over automation.
3) Script reliability depends on programmer
Organizations are increasingly looking for experts that understand how to work with automated processes. Project management expert Susan de Sousa noted on her blog that testers must be experienced in writing automated test scripts. If a coder does not have the proficiency in this area, it could lead to the failure of a project and the inability to fix scripts for future projects.
"Writing test automation scripts is not an easy task," de Sousa wrote. "You really need testers who are experienced in doing this otherwise it will go horribly wrong and you will end up spending even more money and time than if done manually."
Because test automation relies so much on QA and developers, test management solutions could be critical to ensuring that their projects are proceeding as expected.
4) Requires silo elimination
In many traditional development setups, coders were often working on their own projects, without sharing their versions across the board. This, of course, could create significant problems in an automated environment if the QA teams do not have the correct version of the program. Savkin noted that with the right tools, developers can eliminate the silos in their testing operations.
Automated testing tools can help place code of individual programmers into a central repository to track versions. It will also alert QA teams when changes are made ensuring that manual tracking is eliminated. Organizations must ensure that they encourage the elimination of silos and foster collaboration among their developers and QA professionals. This will allow employees to communicate more effectively and consistently improve the quality of software projects.
While test automation does have some limitations, it can still be valuable for an agile organization to adopt for its software development processes. By understanding these restrictions, QA teams can better plan for them and leverage automated testing effectively.