O Test Pioneers! Tips for blazing a test automation trail

Written by Jordan McMahon in Software robots in the workplace on April 15, 2015

Recently, Software Quality Engineering got together a Cubs fan, a former hand scanner tester, and a QA/Business Analyst to talk about what they have in common: experience with test automation, particularly in its early days at each of their companies.

The result was a set of tips for picking test automation software, managing expectations, and getting started with starter test automation projects that set the stage for future success.

Some takeaways from the event?

Lack of test automation knowledge is preventing adoption.

According to the results of an audience poll, 47% of attendees said that lack of test automation knowledge was the number one stopper, followed closely by perceived complexity in implementing and using automation products (36%).

Setting expectations early is absolutely, completely, non-negotiably critical.

Here’s the long and short of it: test automation saves hundreds and hundreds of hours, but it doesn’t happen overnight. And if it does, be suspect. One webinar participant recommended creating a roadmap for automation activities that clearly lays out time it takes to complete a task manually, time it will take to automate, anticipated time savings, anticipated cost savings, and other metrics that matter. This way, expectations will be visually and empirically set up from the get go, and can be referred back to as projects progress.

Building a solid foundation for automation leads to future success—faster.

If your initial goal is to automate as many test cases as fast as possible, rather than taking the time to ensure you know exactly how to set it up right the first time, you’ll end up spending a significant amount of time testing your tests, rather than your product. Instead, set up a QA environment to function alongside your live website or app, and prioritize projects.

Another great way to build the foundation is to allocate QA resources in a way that makes sense. Let’s say you have a team of 10 QAs. Start by having 5 work on automating test cases, while the other 5 carry on with manual testing. Those people can gradually be brought into the fold when the time is right, and meanwhile, you don’t lose momentum on current testing initiatives.

Go for a quick win

Look for that low-hanging fruit and pick it! “Quick win” is synonymous with “quick ROI,” which is always and endlessly appealing to management. Yes, you want to automate those cumbersome tasks that take 4 days to complete manually, but in order to set up an adequate automated test case for that, it takes a significant time investment. Better to start with some one-off tasks and get acclimated with the software. That way, when it comes time to develop the larger tasks, you’ll be ready to get it right the first time.

Don’t be afraid of services—but use them thoughtfully.

“Services” can get scary, especially when it comes to cost concerns. An option to going all in with services is to take a hybrid approach, wherein you get a combination of training and services. As services teams automate within your own test environment, you’re better able to ask the right questions and understand the functions you’ll likely be using. You’ll have pristine scripts ready faster, as well as a team ready to take over automation going forward. This type of “hand-holding” method can help amplify the bang for your buck.

To access the full webinar recording and see a demo of test automation software in action, check it out on YouTube at http://youtu.be/pHzMqpjvv6g.