The Dos and Don’ts of Test Automation: A Practical Guide

sam-syzov
Sam Syzov
TEST AUTOMATION LEAD

The emergence of new approaches, rising complexities, and the demand for increased speed to market change the way companies deliver and test products. While production failures are no longer deemed acceptable or expense-worthy, forward-thinking leaders strengthen their manual controls with automated testing.

Test automation became a game changer for many companies, enabling rapid validation, faster release cycles, and enhanced product quality. Yet, as with any automation, it involves critical aspects that should be considered and carefully planned at the outset.

Here, we review the most common misconceptions and share expert advice and best practices to help you avoid pitfalls and drive maximum value from test automation.

Identifying your Test Automation Goals

Before jumping on the automation bandwagon, companies need to first understand and identify their primary need for test automation. Whether it’s about improved accuracy, reduced QA team load, faster execution across CI/CD pipelines, or increased test coverage — each goal should be tied to a specific context.

In some cases, automated testing should target specific use cases to provide fast, easily digestible results. For instance, for applications with sensitive content and pixel-perfect design, businesses run automated UI tests to reveal inconsistencies (previously undiscovered during manual testing).

Whereas for scenarios involving critical infrastructure and multiple dependencies, test automation is often launched with maximum coverage (e.g., during the night). This way, it reduces the manual load for regression testing and helps businesses avoid costly failures or unscheduled downtime.

Having a clear vision of the goals you’d like to pursue is foundational to ensuring your test automation strategy targets the right issues and brings desirable outcomes.

Breaking Misconceptions to Reinforce your Teams

Many company leaders think of automated testing as a universal solution to all their software testing challenges or even a replacement for traditional quality assurance. However, manual QA and test automation target different goals and therefore should work in sync — complementing and reinforcing one another.

Automated testing liberates the manual QA team’s time by mimicking repetitive tasks and shifting their focus to higher-value activities. It follows specific algorithms and allows for higher availability, reusability, and accuracy. For instance, running tests around the clock and simultaneously. This helps increase coverage, reduce tester fatigue, and empower the QA and development teams to reveal defects earlier.

The most comprehensive understanding of an application’s health comes from utilizing both techniques and thus enabling:

  • Increased cost-efficiency
  • Manual error reduction
  • Faster turnaround times
  • Enhanced testing coverage, at a better scale

Choosing the Right Technology Foundation

Implementing test automation is a long-term strategic choice and should be approached as such. Setting the right technology foundation can help you minimize reworks and future-proof your apps in the long run.

When evaluating automation tools, identify critical areas and technologies that could be potential targets for automation. Review your team’s capabilities and market availability of experts with matching skill sets.

Choosing rare or emerging tools that don’t match your current environment and team‘s knowledge can perplex new technology adoption. While staffing, onboarding, and training the right people can turn out a challenge, making your automation budgets less controllable. Or even put your application's success at risk, as emerging frameworks might not hit the expected KPIs.

The result? Your delivery timelines and expenses grow exponentially as new flags arise.

Companies can relieve this pain by selecting a reputable automation library (e.g., Playwright from Microsoft or Facebook’s Jest) that:

  • Has matching capabilities and supports your platforms and tech
  • Is flexible and easy to use for all the parties involved
  • Creates tests that are maintainable and resistant to UI changes
  • Integrates well with your CI/CD pipeline and current ecosystem

Connecting Silos to Maximize Impact

Running autotests locally, without setting them up in development environments, leads to a lack of synchronization between the teams and longer turnaround times.

To break down silos, companies need to ensure a proper connection between development and testing. Whether in a form of providing access to the test environments for the right people to run tests and check the solution's quality when needed. Or integrating autotests in CI/CD pipeline to send alerts and automated reports to the development team, making test results more visible. Creating a shared understanding between these teams will help you reduce failure demand and overhead expenses.

Depending on the project’s context, you need to identify people responsible for the results and creation of action items (based on test results). A clear definition of responsibilities and complete process transparency will accelerate the time-to-resolution for defects and streamline release cycles.

Targeting the Right Automation Candidates

Automated tests are fast, effective, and reliable when they are targeting specific areas instead of huge test flows. Therefore, automating manual test cases (instead of functionality) is a quality engineering anti-pattern that inevitably leads to bloated and hard-to-maintain test suites — providing little to no value.

To ensure autotests are designed properly and bring value, businesses need to shape the acceptance criteria and identify areas that require additional coverage. Usually, these areas include:

  • Critical functionality (with multiple dependencies)
  • Most in-use functionality
  • Aspects that are draining for your manual QA team

Additionally, your quality assurance team should prioritize critical features for automation and present functional requirements so that automation experts could better design and develop their autotests. Such a holistic approach to automation and workflow scenario design is critical to maximizing test coverage and maintainability.

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Test automation should be considered a critical part of the software development lifecycle and drive software design and architecture just as any other design requirement. By having clearly defined goals, strategy, connected processes, and a solid technology foundation, companies can ensure their test automation efforts bring the desired ROI.

Let’s chat about how Trinetix experts can help you implement the right test automation strategy to boost delivery velocity and unlock long-term growth.

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