Test Automation and DevOps: What You Need to Know

Alice NjengaMon, 05/06/2019 - 08:37

Recently there has been a lot of emphasis on DevOps test automation in a bid to push code down the system quickly and confidently. Testing is crucial in the software development process, and failure to carry out software testing efficiently can greatly hinder the process. To make sure that the team in charge of testing doesn’t lag behind, test automation must be implemented. Let’s talk about what you need to know.

What Is Test Automation?

Test automation decreases the amount of human intervention in the testing process. It requires the use of automation frameworks and tools to write test scripts that verify the functionality of an application. Using test automation, DevOps can:

  • Use test cases to detect bugs and save time. Unlike manual testing, automatic test cases make testing faster, which means you can deploy products to market more quickly.
  • Use software programs to test applications and minimize the chance of human error.
  • Simplify the process in cases where you need to execute test cases several times.
  • Automate any process and automatically increase reliability.

Test Automation and DevOps

DevOps supports continuous development as a product is built, deployed, tested, and released for consumption by the end user. Its introduction has changed the role of the quality assurance (QA) team. Traditionally, QA would commence on functional and regression testing after the deployment of a product, which meant that a product would sit with the QA team until they found it fit for release.

A DevOps approach integrates the development and operations functions within the same cycle. This approach requires a high level of coordination among all stakeholders in the software development process (i.e., development, QA, and operations).

To achieve speed and agility, the DevOps approach emphasizes automation of all processes in software development. This includes automating the testing process and configuring it to run automatically.

It’s crucial for DevOps to build a mature automation testing framework that will assist in scripting test cases. Fortunately, there are many tools that make test automation easy.

Choose the Right Tools

Choosing the right tools is crucial to test automation. Clearly, automation testing is the most effective way of enhancing software application efficiency and effectiveness, but working with the wrong tools can adversely affect the overall process. The choices you make will determine your organization’s ability to deliver applications and services at high speed.

There are many tools available on the market, each with different weaknesses and strengths, but there is no one tool that can fit all automated testing needs. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind when choosing tools.

  • The type of testing tools: This could either be open source or commercial, the intended platform, the language such as Java or C#, and whether the tools are for testers or developers.
  • Licensing and support cost: Costs determine what tools one can afford to buy depending on the budget. There are many available open source tools, such as Selenium; however, most open source tools require technical skills (i.e., programming skills and experience).
  • Whether the tool supports continuous integration (CI) and DevOps tool integration: A tool that doesn’t support CI or DevOps may not be effective, especially in agile projects where speed is the main concern.
  • The availability of training, tutorials, and documentation that will guide the users.
  • Good test reports: An insightful and informative test report will help analyze defects and root causes as well as test effectiveness among analyses.
  • Customer support, systems you are already using, and how you will maintain tests.
  • A deep understanding of your project requirements: This includes the project scope, project type (whether desktop, mobile, or web-based), and the skills of your existing team.

Don’t Bank on the Tools; Test Automation Skills Are Necessary

Implementing test automation without the necessary skills is a major danger for many DevOps projects.

A test automation engineer should be knowledgeable in various areas, including application functionality, the underlying technical landscape, test automation tools, and how to create scripts in parallel with development. Your team of test automation engineers should also collaborate with the development and operations teams. This collaboration will play an important role in the development of test scripts and in maximizing test coverage.

Remember that tools come and go, and focusing on one tool may limit the value you can provide to your client. Focus on skills instead, because many tools are built on similar underlying patterns or principles. For instance, the programming languages used in test automation are object-oriented, which means they share the same concepts.

Don’t Over-Automate

Although the success of DevOps depends on automation, too much automation may not be a good idea.

Test automation promises even more benefits with the automation of development processes, but it would be a mistake to link too many tools. Such over-automation will lead to unwanted outcomes, and your investment in DevOps will be a loss. At the same time, you don’t want to under-automate. So how do you find a balance?

The key to striking a balance is to first understand your requirements in terms of development, testing, and deployment. Armed with this information, you can select the right test automation tools and processes. Of course, your developers and administrators must undergo necessary training on the proper use of these tools.

I have already mentioned that knowing your requirements is important, but I want to reiterate this because it’s so critical. DevOps tool vendors can get you excited about what their tools can do for you. And while automation tools may have done wonders for Netflix and Facebook, don’t make the mistake of replicating automation solutions if your organization has different needs.

Before selecting from available tools, break down your processes to determine those that fit into automation. This will keep you from focusing on the tools and ending up with too many, resulting in over-automation.

Test Automation Doesn’t Entirely Eliminate Manual Testing

When I talk about needing manual testing, I don’t mean the old-school way of using a script to execute steps. I’m referring instead to exploratory testers, those that use thoughtful scenarios to examine a system’s behavior. There are some scenarios that don’t lend themselves well to automated testing. In the case of user registration, for example, manual testing can point out issues that an automated test script may fail to identify. Other examples include user acceptance and usability tests.

Avoid Misguided Decisions

How do you make sure that your test automation efforts bear fruit? You’ll need to do a few things.

First, I suggest you avoid using the wrong tools. Find the ones that are best for you. You’ll want to choose a tool that suits the layer you want to automate.

Don’t automate useless tests, either. Using tests for the sake of testing will be a waste of time. Instead, think of scenarios relevant to the application you are building.

While you’re at it, think of all possible scenarios. If a scenario is not included, bugs will go unnoticed. You’ll be tempted to focus on making the tests work, but try to be aware of the tendency and avoid it. Instead, focus on proper testing.

Do all of this, and you’ll be in good shape to move forward with automating your testing!