The agile approach to software development has transformed the entire SDLC. The reason for the modern software development industry’s continual progress is companies believed in Agile methodology and have started adopting the practice religiously.
In its 23rd US CEO survey, 2020, PWC states that “83% of US CEOs plan operational efficiencies to help drive growth vs. 77% of CEOs globally.”
StackOverflow Developer Survey states that “Almost 86% of 101,5 international surveyed software developers use Agile in their work.”
While modern software development factories are focused on improving methodologies, one must not overlook that software testing is also one of the prime measures to enhance software quality.
When agile software development is all about speeding up the process with top-of-the-line software quality, manual testing falls short of matching the process and workflow speed.
That’s when test automation comes into the picture—taking software testing and quality assurance to the next level, demanding some real best practices.
Software testing is the measure of comparing the actual outcome and predicted outcome. Divided into two major parts:
Test automation uses software/programmed mechanisms to compare the testing output and control the tests’ execution.
While nearly 50% of the companies are using agile development in their all or most application development according to the Gartner survey report Oct 2019, let’s examine what test automation best practices can boost test automation(and the business) in an agile environment.
“The important thing is not your process. The important thing is your process for improving your process.”– Henrik Kniberg, Agile trainer and Author
The revenue of software development companies relies on the quality of service they provide to their clients. It means a constant attempt to provide a “zero complaints” experience in software products. To achieve this, perfecting the software development process and software testing is a must.
Of course, the CTOs shouldn’t miss any opportunity to improve their test automation strategies or practices in an agile development environment.
Here are the steps to sharpen the customer experience by improving software quality, i.e., boosting test automation practices in agile development.
1. Scaling Agile Testers’ Skills:
The agile development environment is a team-based practice to fulfill the goals. To automate the agile development testing process, scaling the agile testers’ skills is essential.
An agile tester has to incorporate with a range of testing frameworks and participate as an integral part of the development team. For example, from a detailed understanding of project features to ideas about design and organizing critical testing activities, an agile tester must know it all. It has to be more collaborative to deliver high-quality software products.
The agile testing methodology has significantly changed the concept of involving testers in the software development process. QA engineers are involved in every aspect of project development, including testing, developing, and understanding web/mobile apps’ development life cycle.
With this, we can assume the type of responsibilities QA professionals will experience.
Agile testers can boost the test automation process by acquiring/sharpening below skills:
- Communication– Contrary to the traditional silo, testers need not appear at the last stage of the software development life cycle but have to present their observations and understanding to the business leaders. They have to proactively identify future defects to avoid long development times and bring out the best from the agile practice. Hence, communication is paramount.
- Critical thinking– Critical and analytical thinking leads to identify hidden errors and a possible solution to it. Acquiring these skills will help agile testers formulating exciting questions about the feature/functionality, improve testing methods, and develop testing scenarios.
- Continuous testing– Broadcom states that continuous testing and almost everything continuous in agile makes a big difference in software quality in the modern software development era. It involves continuous improvement, releasing of software, testing, integrating, and more. “Test Early, Test Often” approach makes it possible to democratize performance testing in agile development.
- Quality at speed– According to Capgemini’s top software testing trends, quality is now an enterprise-wide mission. Along with this, speed and efficiency are at the core of the software quality ambitions. It is increasingly in demand to accelerate the testing agility and scale the scope from testing to predictive analysis of defects.
- Scrum participation– This includes learning to add value to the business and building quality software products by getting involved in each stage of the SDLC, understanding the purpose of an agile team, and scrum.
2. Selection of tests for Automated Testing:
Test automation fundamentally improves the overall team performance, resulting in quality products, reliability, and cuts the deviation in results. But despite all these benefits, the critical step is to gain maximum return on investment.
That is to calculate the return on investment.
You can do it by making a selection of test cases. The proper selection of test cases results in reduced testing cost and time, improved quality of production, increased test coverage, and early detection of errors.
Automated testing without calculative selection is a sheer waste of time and resources.
One can optimize it by understanding what a critical and integral part of software testing is. Like one should avoid overly complex test scenarios in test automation since it increases the execution time.
The selection of test cases for automated testing can be based on the following parameters:
- Routine tests that are used to check the build’s overall performance, adverse effects, and verification of most essential functions. For example, regression testing, smoke testing, and sanity testing.
- Tests that are manually exhausting like repetitive test runs
- Tests with high risk or the ones which are more prone to human errors
- Evaluating the time invested- if automation process itself is time-consuming, there is no point in automating the test case
- An unknown number of test iterations- mathematical operations like long divisions, Fibonacci numbers
- Complex test cases that are hard to perform manually- tests that require exhaustive inputs, critical parts of a website
3. Setting the Ideal Timing:
The Agile environment is time-constrained. To get most out of test automation in your SDLC, try to allocate the time for testing when agile.
Agile development runs on a sprints-based approach. Sprint is a short timeframe to complete specific tasks/module development. To cope with these timeframes, software development teams need to focus on allocating sufficient testing time.
Because sometimes more sprints consume more time and reduce the overall build time, including development, debugging, and testing.
The best thing is to perform the parallel running of tests to software development.
It requires agile testers to be in touch with the development team and communicate the project’s functionality and features in detail.
In agile practice, it is necessary to pass on the builds in the testing right after the development. But when the number of sprints increases, the time allocated for testing seems insufficient in test automation because it involves developers and testers both to accomplish a successful test suite.
Hence, setting the ideal timing in test automation can significantly boost agile development. However, this requires experienced QA engineers with extensive knowledge of writing test cases and understanding project workflows.
4. Breaking the Application into Modules:
Developing a modular setup for test automation involves breaking down the application modules into smaller functions and then writing the test scripts.
For example, you are writing test code for testing the inquiry form.
It could have a single form for performing all actions, such as inserting the data, clicking the submit button, and waiting for the thank you message.
Modular code involves creating small separate functions for these actions. It helps to reuse the functions in other testable code like the Edit Enquiry feature.
There are three types of modularization:
- Breaking the Application Under Test
- Breaking the code units
- Breaking the test cases
Modularity in test automation helps taking forward maintainability and scalability at a significant level. It reduces the redundancy of code by allowing linking to required test cases at multiple levels.
It also allows interchanging the test suits between different applications under test. It merely requires updating the code unit and the test automation process for the entire application to run.
While testing complex applications, you need to break down the application functionality into small pieces. It could be a tedious task, but the benefits are worth the effort. Modular testing helps rearrange the workflow and presents a roadmap for different testing scenarios.
More Flexibility, More Business Benefits:
- Less time due to reusability of test scripts
- Reducing the overall workload
- Helps convert functions into tests scenarios
- Organized pattern of tests by functions
- Faster and efficient test suites
- Changes to the application won’t affect the entire app but the respective test module and script.
- Creates an abstraction layer so the changes in specific module won’t affect the comprehensive application
- QA engineers can focus more on executing tests or finding defects rather than just writing tests.
5. Writing Tests for Mature Code:
Test automation is concerned with genuine test cases, time, and code. If you consider writing the test cases beforehand, you will be modifying a lot in the test code because the application code still has a lot more to change as per the requirement.
Agile development invites more change requests while developing features or functionality; it increases the chances of iterating complete functionality.
In those cases, writing test cases too early often leads to significant changes.
Write a test case once the feature gets stabilized and mature in agile environments. It helps save the time wasted rewriting the test case and reiterating the testing process.
In agile development, the successful completion of test automation is considered with scheduling the test cases just after the feature becomes stable. This makes it easier to keep a buffer between the new testable code and the code that is ready to be tested.
6. Encourage Developers to Write Test Friendly Code:
It is inevitable for software development teams to be supportive of each other. When implementing test automation in software testing, encouraging developers to write test-friendly codes would avoid unnecessary time consumption and unwanted defects.
For example, ask them to give unique identifiers to elements and controls instead of default names.
It could be FirstName, LastName instead of EnterDetail Box1, EnterDetail Box2. These unique and intelligible names make code more readable and test friendly regardless of the design controls’ shuffling. This practice helps developers be on the same page as testers and makes test automation even more seamless.
Working on your test automation process could be difficult but surely not impossible.
Test automation cannot replace manual testing, but it’s an excellent addition to it. And when it is clubbed with agile development, it’s an even more potent combination to strategize the modern software development processes. However, it needs proper planning and execution. Test automation and agile methodologies are an asset to the organization if appropriately utilized.
The above discussed six ways to boost test automation might not be your standard book of test automation practices, but an addition to your list of how to speed up software development. Test automation saves a lot of time, produces out-of-the-box quality software, and results in “thankful” additions to your software development company if paired with innovative learning and best practices.
Hardik Shah is a Tech Consultant at Simform, a firm which provides mobile app development services. He leads large scale mobility programs covering platforms, solutions, governance, standardization, and best practices.