Test automation is a critical part of modern software development processes. It saves you time, improves the product quality, and reduces time-to-market.
But many companies find it difficult to implement an effective automation system. They might automate the wrong tests, drop the work midway and return to manual testing, use the wrong tools or frameworks. This causes additional expenses that are possible to avoid if you have a good test automation strategy.
In this article, we will tell you, what is a test automation strategy and how to design one for your project. You will learn, how to start automating, which tests to automate, how to choose automation tools and avoid the common mistakes while implementing your strategy.
What is a test automation strategy?
A test automation strategy is an approach planned by the QA Mentor Automation Expert department. It comprises a set of reusable automated scripts and decides on the overall plan of project automation. A correct test automation strategy and roadmap ensures higher ROI, better coverage, and increased reliability of the tests.
Once created, the test strategy can be used in numerous projects, testing phases, and environments. A good automation strategy helps the business to keep pace with the market and to deliver products of better quality.
Test strategy vs test plan
Both test strategy and test plan are essential elements of the quality assurance process. They have something in common, so it might be confusing to distinguish them. Let’s see, how test strategy is different from the test plan and when each of them should be used.
- Goal. Test strategy explains test design and determines how testing should be done. Test plan defines specific details of testing a particular project.
- Components. Test strategy includes the goals and scope, formats of documentation, description of testing processes, the structure of test report, communication strategy. Test plan includes features to test, testing techniques and tasks, pass \ fail criteria, deliverables, responsibilities, schedule etc.
- The use. The strategy is once designed and used for organizational purposes across different projects. The plan is a specification that is created for each separate project and is rarely repeated
- Flexibility. Once designed, the test strategy isn’t changed. The plan is more flexible and can be changed depending on test results.
- The responsible person. The test strategy is created by the project manager while the plan is carried by the test manager
As a conclusion, the test strategy is a broad document that defines the testing processes for all projects of the company. The plan is designed specifically for each project and defines the way it will be tested.
Why you need a test automation strategy
Designing a test automation strategy in Agile is a good way to improve the business processes and to organize the testing process.
Here are the benefits of having an automation strategy:
- More comprehensive testing. Having a test strategy, it is easier to design a test plan even for complex automation tasks. This will help to improve the test coverage and the quality of the final product
- Re-use of critical components. Introducing an automation strategy will help to design a reusable testing framework. This will speed up the testing process and improve the productivity of the employees
- Reducing maintenance costs. With reusable components, you will spend less money on designing new testing frameworks. Having a strategy helps the team to adapt to the changing conditions quickly and efficiently.
- Creating the testing standard. The strategy will become a standard that will be used across all projects of the organization that will make the testing process more smooth and efficient.
Generally, having a test strategy will increase your confidence and help to deliver software of better quality to the stakeholders.
Automation strategy structure
Generally, the automation strategy includes the overall company’s approach to testing and reporting. It plans and outlines the testing processes and procedures for the work of testers.
Generally, the test automation approach includes the following points:
- Test environment. First, the testing environment should be fully controlled and give the developers the freedom to edit all the necessary data. Some cases require several environments working simultaneously while the tests are run. In this case, the QA specialist has to make sure that all the systems are compatible with each other.
- Testing approach. Here the testers define the testing copes, create the lists of activities and assign the responsible team members to control each section. A standard automated test pipeline generally runs the following stages: Initiation, Automation Test Planning, Execution, Reporting, Close-out.
- Testing tools. A test specialist has to choose which tools will be used for different sections and environments.
The automation strategy is dependent on the company structure, the number of people involved in the processes, the methodology of business, the number of actions to be taken in each section.
How to create an automation strategy for your project
Now that you understand, what is a test automation strategy and why is it necessary for your business, we have prepared a simple test automation strategy example for your project.
Step 1. Decide which tests you will automate
First, you need to decide, which tests you will be automating. It’s impossible to achieve 100% automation coverage — there are still bottlenecks that can be tested only manually. So, before developing the automation strategy, you need to decide which cases you will automate.
You can consider the automation if it matches the following parameters:
- Runs in numerous environments. If you are testing an app on multiple devices, operating systems, browsers, manual testing will take a lot of resources. With automation scripts, it will be easier and faster.
- Needs a large data input. If the case requires a lot of data, consider automating it. Not to collect the data manually, you can also use a data generation tool.
- Takes a lot of time to perform. Some tests need to be continuously controlled during 10-12 hours — in this case, you’d better definitely consider automation. The executed script doesn’t require much human attention — all the tester needs to do is to analyze the results of the script execution.
- Performance testing. Here we check, how the app works in case thousands of users access it simultaneously. It’s impossible to achieve without test automation.
- Data-driven testing. If your test case involves changing the data sets of the tests, automation is what you need. You will be able to run many tests at a time, change the data inputs, improving the quality of results.
Step 2. Select the automation tools
Choosing the suite of tools is particularly important in developing the automated testing strategy. There are dozens of tools with different functionality, benefits and limitations.
To choose the necessary ones, you may consider the following factors:
- Complexity. Here you need to make sure that the tool matches the abilities of your QA team, languages they are familiar with, their previous experience with automation tools. Also, pay attention to the test cases you will automate — using complex and powerful software for simple tasks will slow down your processes.
- Technical feasibility. The tool should provide you with the main benefits of test automation — run tests without supervision, collect reports, run many tests at a time etc.
- Test data. It’s better to choose a tool with data management features. With them, you will be able to run the tests with large data input and data-driven ones
- Reusability of scripts. It’s good if the app allows you to keep all the written scripts in a database and use them in different projects
- Support of different environments. It’s important that the tool is able to transfer the script to a different environment and automatically change the app-specific data.
Step 3. Create automation framework
Test automation framework is a set of principles your testers will be used across different projects. You need to make sure that it’s scalable, covers not just the execution of a single test case, but the entire system of test cases and reports. Your testing framework will depend on the scope of testing and the tools you will choose.
Here are some general principles of creating a framework:
- Use the PageObjects model (POM). The increasing coverage may lead to appearing an unmaintainable structure. Introducing POM, you will be able to keep the tests and element locators separately and avoid creating code duplicates
- Use object repositories for automated testing. Instead of scattering the objects across the test scripts, it’s better to keep them in a centralized location. The repository will allow the testers to keep and declare all the elements of the application
- Define the testing scope. Make sure your testing requirements are clear — this will help to define if your test passed or failed. If the requirements are vague, the major insights and issues can be missed.
- Have all the needed documentation. The documentation will help the team members to master the tools and to solve the problems that might emerge during the script execution.
Step 4. Set up the testing environment
The environment is a combination of software and hardware necessary to test the performance of the system.
Here is a short checklist to make sure it’s set correctly:
- Check if all the necessary equipment is ready
- Make sure that all the testing apps are installed
- Ensure that all the standard datasets are available
- Assign the environment maintenance to a responsible person in a team
- Schedule the use of testing environment
- Check the connection before starting the testing
This will help to check if the environment is configured correctly and to increase the efficiency of testing.
Step 5. Developing test plan
To make the testing process smooth, you need to define a strategy for the automation test plan that be executed. The test plan is a list of testing activities described in a detail.
Here is a structure of a test plan:
- Description of daily tasks. Here one can find the status of the task, progress update etc
- Pipeline orchestrators for test executions. They will help to automate the task sequences to complete them in a fixed order
- Keeping tests change-resistant. This is a set of guidelines covering the ways the test cases interact with the components of the app in testing
Step 6. Write the scripts
The main stage of test automation is writing the scripts for test execution. To make sure your test cases are efficient, check your scripts according to the following guidelines:
- Prioritize the scenarios. Define and test the most important flows. They include a login page, checkouts, shopping cart. You can use the Analytics data to find out the most used flows
- Break scenarios down. Break complex scripts into a set of simple tests. Once each of them is tested, run a sequence test to make sure that the performance is good as well
- Make sure that the initial test state is the same. Automated tests consist of a fixed number of actions. To avoid compromising the flow, it’s necessary to start them with the same state
- Reduce the number of if-statements. To ensure that the test is predictable, try to avoid occurrence conditions
- Write isolated scripts. With self-contained flows, the quality of parallel testing improves. If there is a delay with an independent test, the entire sequence won’t be compromised.
Step 7. Make the reporting system
Once the test sequence is executed, it’s time to structure the results and present them in a logical document that will help to improve the product. Although there are plenty of test reporting tools, there are some tips that will increase the efficiency of test reporting:
- Analyze the results in connection. Comparing the data of different test sessions, you will be able to track progress, identify repeated issues and tests that need to be improved.
- Get detailed test logs. Analyze screenshots, system logs, and other data received during testing. Don’t rely on passed\failed logs, study the step-by-step description of the test execution
- Improve data visualization. Test results will be more meaningful if you present them as a diagram or graph. This will also help you to compare different parts of the application and present the report as a status update to the client
Step 8. Maintain the scripts
The less maintenance the script requires, the easier it will be to reuse them in different situations. Here are some tips to improve script maintainability.
- Eliminate rarely used browsers and OS. This will reduce the number of possible combinations and save you both time and money
- Avoid complicated scenarios. Simple test suits are easier to maintain. Try to avoid if-patterns, complex user glows — they are harder and more expensive to debug and read
- Study system’s asynchronous actions. Keep an eye on client-side asynchronous actions. Although callbacks can be challenging for the testers, cooperation with developers will help to understand the page flow and to create helper features.
Having an automation strategy will make the testing process smooth and logical. With a common framework, maintenance of different projects will become easier and save the company a good amount of resources.
If you are willing to create a strategy for your project, please contact our team. We will study your needs and build a testing framework for you.