What is Automated Testing?
Automated testing is a field within system testing that uses a suite of tools to automate test cases that can output data, reports, and metrics to increase the efficiency and productivity of your company, while giving your personnel more time to perform other critical tasks, which helps to reduce time consumption and to decrease overhead.
The 2013 Trends in Automated Testing (Worksoft research report) noted that over 80 percent of enterprises indicated that their business benefited from automated testing in different areas of their corporate infrastructure, which generally comprised of three to six specific key benefits .
Today, trends show that the utilization of automated testing technologies is increasing. In addition to this, according to the World Quality Report, there has been a 67 percent adoption of the DevOps framework by different companies in 2016 - which, for many, focuses on early developmental testing of software, which is key since DevOps typically uses automation for development, testing, and more .
Manual Testing vs Automated Testing
Manual testing is a process where a professional tester conducts a series of tests using IT tools to determine several factors of a system, generate reports, etc. This is carried out very carefully, step by step. Automated testing differs from manual testing by not requiring direct human involvement with the testing process, but is done via testing suites & scripts. Typically, automated testing does not remove the need for manual tests altogether.
Goals of Automated Testing
Decreasing the number of tests that must be conducted manually is one of the main goals of automated testing, yet perhaps the biggest goal of automated testing is to have the capacity to ensure that every part of a system is tested in an efficient, systematic and complete way, and using a methodology that is easily repeatable. The latter goal aids in consistently ensuring that systems which have been updated, patched or integrated have not regressed or developed bugs (i.e. consistent regression testing).
All of the goals of automated testing help to increase productivity due to the fact that manual testing of all workflows, systems, cases, scenarios, etc. requires a greater amount of time and cost. Since scripts & suites can run automated tests without human intervention, your personnel can perform other tasks that can help to facilitate the growth of other sectors of your company.
What is the Value of Automated Testing?
Automated testing can reduce company overhead, increase business efficiency, decrease the time spent on testing by personnel, increase the overall speed of testing (when parallel tests are carried out on multiple machines), and decrease the margin of error that is often introduced with manual testing by humans.
Automated testing has other advantageous factors, such as:
- Running automated tests during the early stages of the software development lifecycle - during off-work hours, for instance - helps to minimize wasted development time and increases the efficiency of the development process.
- Less human resources are required, as the process doesn't require an entire team to carry out tedious tests that can take up hours of precious time.
- Testing scripts are reusable and can be customized to test different systems and infrastructures.
- The ability to remotely run tests - or to run tests overnight - the latter of which decreases the time spent on testing during work hours.
- More systems & infrastructures can be tested in parallel, and with continuity so that testing engineers can ascertain what has been tested via concise reports.
The Automated Testing Process & Popular Suites
The ROI associated with conducting automated tests in your company is interconnected with understanding when and how to conduct such tests.
Generally speaking, a test case is built first on the mechanisms of a manual test that has been carried out for a particular system.
Test cases where automated testing suites are most favorable include cases that require repetition, cases that are very tedious and/or extensive, cases that take up large amounts of time, and cases that are difficult or complicated to carry out manually.
Carrying out manual testing on repetitive test cases can result in the introduction of human error, while tedious and difficult cases - along with time-consuming cases - can benefit greatly from automated testing by reducing HR requirements and company overhead.
Once a suitable test case is identified, the process of automated testing can be carried out. This process includes determining the test strategy & plan, determining the framework to implement, determining the type of test & the scope of the test, selecting the testing suite, executing the test, and maintenance of the testing suite.
- Determine test strategy & plan: this primary step includes simply determining what needs to be tested, what type of reports and data needs to be generated & how the test should be carried out to meet a clearly defined goal.
- Determine the framework to implement: different frameworks guide how automated suites conduct tests. They help with efficient and consistent use - and re-use - of testing suites. There are a number of popular frameworks, such as the module-driven testing framework, the data driven testing framework, and more.
- Determine the type & scope of the test: maximize efficiency by defining the area or scope of the system that is to be tested, along with the type & methodology for the test.
- Select the testing suite: determine which testing tool should be used based on the test goals.
- Execute the test: carry out the test.
- Maintain the testing suite: review, update & maintain the test suite's code for each cycle as the system changes.
Automated testing can be carried out in a black-box or white-box fashion. There are also different types of automated tests, such as functional tests, web application tests, mobile tests, integration tests, load tests, application tests, configuration tests, security tests, network tests, regression tests, and more.
Among the automated test examples above, there are a few notable mentions:
- Functional tests work to ensure that software functionality is correct & that all features are working correctly. A popular testing suite for these types of tests is QTP.
- Regression tests ensure that software continues to operate correctly after being altered or interfaced with other software. The IBM tool, Rational Robot, is used to conduct this type of test, along with functional & configuration tests.
- Web application tests ensure that web applications are free of bugs and operate correctly. Selenium is a popular tool for performing such tests.
- Integration tests ensure that all components of an end-to-end solution work together and integrate properly, and can greatly aid in revealing whether the custom or off-the-shelf software systems of a company are integrated properly with business processes. This can help to validate - or invalidate - the business infrastructure. Such tests also expose tightly coupled code dependencies before code is released to production, which manual testing often is unable to do. Automating these tests takes less time than manual tests, and can also reveal poorly developed software, e.g. the identification of technical debt, which can aid in the executive decision to either upgrade such software systems or maintain them.
- Load tests ensure that multiple users can access a software system simultaneously by simulating several users interacting with a system. This reveals potential performance & security issues, and helps to determine whether non-functional business requirements are within tolerable standards.
Automated testing is a valuable tool that can greatly aid small and large businesses alike in their pursuit of producing efficient, fast, and cost-effective testing systems that reduce overhead, increase efficiency & productivity, and result in a sizable return on investment (ROI). Many automated testing trends reveal the massive scope of automated tests for the current year and for the near future, illustrating the large investment put into automated testing by major enterprises that seek to increase their productivity & efficiency in order to improve their corporate bottom-line and obtain a return on their investment. The reduction of human-based errors associated with manual testing, along with the ability to remotely test a large group of cases overnight during off-work hours, makes automated testing one of the greatest technological mechanisms today for improving your corporate bottom-line.
1. 2013 Trends in Automated Testing (Worksoft Research Report). Retrieved from: https://www.worksoft.com/2013-trends-in-automated-testing-for-enterprise-systems
2. World Quality Report 2016-17. Retrieved from: https://sites.elasticgrid.com/hpe/application-lifecycle-management-awareness/HPE/assets/pdfs/WQR_2016-17_Final_secure.pdf