When and When Not to Automate | TechWell

When and When Not to Automate

Agile development has emerged as a powerhouse in the software world and has completely changed how teams do their jobs. Not only does this new set of practices call for shorter, faster iterations, but it also emphasizes the ability to include quality assurance teams throughout the process in collaboration with developers. While all of this has the potential to benefit organizations, they won't be agile without the right tools to help them along the way.

Enter automation. With the power of automation integration, your team can execute tests on a schedule without having to manually press any buttons or run the test yourself. This is obviously a huge value to QA teams, but not everything can or should be automated. By understanding the difference, teams will be able to utilize their tools more effectively and streamline their operations for better results. Let's take a look at when and when not to automate.

Automation Use Cases
In software development, automation has become a solution to many age-old problems and has introduced a new way of getting projects done. Organizations typically automate tests that are repeatable or often used across projects. This way, QA teams won't have to continually rewrite the scripts and manually execute them. Instead, the test case is written once and saved in the repository, where it can be scheduled to run on a regular basis and assigned to various applications. With these capabilities, QA can finish other tasks without worrying about if a test is running successfully. Businesses will also be able to hit the market faster than ever and mitigate human errors that were prevalent in traditional, manual testing.

There are a few other specific cases where QA can leverage automation to their advantage. Software Testing Help noted that when you have a lot of regression work, you can explore automation testing processes to streamline vetting functionality. This means that even if you have numerous changes in a row for a particular feature, you'll easily be able to catch any bugs without having to exert the time and energy to do it manually. If you have a lot of these functional changes, but your GUI is almost frozen, you can also apply automation to speed up testing. Before you send your app to production, you can check the load capacity with load testing automation to create virtual users and identify potential weak points.

Manual Is Still Necessary
Although automation is a significant asset to QA teams and provides improvement over legacy methods, there are a few cases where manual efforts would better serve the development process. Simple Talk contributor Chris George noted that while unit tests—the repeatable variety that are discussed above—are going to be heavily automated, GUI tests will likely not get the automation treatment. With GUI, functionality is only present through the user interface, meaning that a live person is required for this type of evaluation. While a computer can run through lines of code and understand when a strand is out of place, it cannot make judgment calls based on how well a particular feature works for the end user.

In this instance, QA testers can shine by using their saved time to focus on the user experience and defect management. Leaving these tests as manual operations will also save the time and money it would take to write and maintain them. QA staff could address exploratory testing and make changes based on their insight. This will help make the app more successful and more viable for the organization as a whole.

"You cannot 100 percent automate your testing work," Software Testing Help stated. "Certainly you have areas like performance testing, regression testing, load/stress testing where you can have chance of reaching near to 100 percent automation. Areas like user interface, documentation, installation, compatibility and recovery where testing must be done manually."

The Right Combination
Your testing processes will largely depend on your needs, but many organizations will utilize a combination of automation and manual testing—the trick is getting the formula exactly right. Automation can be applied to all of those tedious tests that are repeated throughout projects. Manual testing, however, is directed toward specific elements that computers would have trouble picking up, such as a feature's functionality, the overall look of the application, and the ease of navigation. QA teams can leverage a test management system to handle all of these different aspects. Through a single platform, all tests can be categorized, prioritized, and tracked to ensure that everyone is on the same page at any time. Its real-time reports will also help eliminate bugs faster and provide a better picture of how projects are progressing.

"Test Automation is a valuable milestone to achieving frequent, reliable releases, but it can also be a burden, and a drain on resources," George wrote. "The key is to balance the value of adding automation with the time it will take to do so. Some tests just aren't worth writing and are quicker and more reliable to perform manually."

Automation is forever changing software development operations, but it is not an all-powerful practice that should be used in all cases. By understanding how automation can be used—and when manual is the better choice—QA teams can leverage these practices effectively and ensure they are maximizing their potential benefits.

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