A 10-point Checklist to get started with Test Automation

Test automation came into prominence with the agile development movement, but with CI/CD and DevOps, its importance has only increased. Tools and Frameworks have also matured over time, resulting in the emergence of promising automation tools in multiple languages and platforms.

Having a large set of tools to choose from makes it daunting to identify the best-fit tool for your needs. If you do face the dilemma of selecting the best automation tool fitting your needs, your search stops here. Read on, as we delve into some very important criteria that you can use to select the right test automation tools and frameworks. In the entire article, the word Tool will be used to represent both the actual tool /framework.

1. Platform/technology stack

One of the most important criteria, which is not given much importance is the Platform/technology stack.

If your development team is very familiar with a particular stack, it makes sense to select a tool that is in the same stack. You want your developers to leverage the automation tests and even contribute to it. Maintenance also becomes easier when needing to correct/enhance the automated tests. If you have a Javascript-based Development platform (React/Angular/Nightwatch + Node.js etc.), choose a Javascript framework. On the other hand, if you have a more mature architecture using Java/C# on the server-side, with middleware/ESB, choose that language.

2. System complexity

Evaluate how complex your system is and what layers it has. The more number of moving parts, your system has, the more “complete” your automation tool needs to be. For e.g., if you have a front-end JS layer, plus server-side business logic, API layer, ESB, DB layer, etc., you have to make sure you can extend your tests to all these layers (or at least have a set of tools that play well with each other).

3. Business case

The ROI calculation is key to set up and run a long-term Test Automation initiative. Consider the number of tests you will have when you multiply it with the effort needed to execute manually, not ignoring the frequency of such testing. Get quotes from Test Automation providers for developing and maintaining an Automated Test Suite and do ROI calculation. Sometimes you may be surprised that manual testing may be cheaper and faster!

You need to factor in the cost of Open-source tools vs Commercial tools in terms of faster development, integration with existing tools, reporting and managing capabilities, etc.

4. Product Roadmap

Don’t only look at your current application and tests. Consider your product roadmap – how will it change, what features you will add, and at what frequency. Talk to your developers to understand if the current Dev platform can support all the new features or if you need to migrate to a new/different platform.

Additionally, maintenance of Automated tests significantly increases, if you have an application that is scheduled to have a lot of changes. At the very least, ensure your Automation test framework makes it easy to change the flows in the automation code.

5. Reporting

Discuss and document what kinds of reports and dashboards you need? Most test automation solutions provide you with execution reports but look for a Dashboard with the ability to see trends. Consider integration with Test Management and Defect Management tools.

Include logging of the stack trace during automation execution to ensure that QA and developers can debug if there are repeated failures.

6. Product Development Methodology

Ensure that your Test Automation development fits into the way you develop and release products, fixes, enhancements etc.

If you run your projects using the Agile methodology or have a CI/CD pipeline, Test Automation is considered an important safety net. However, without a shared understanding or a “design contract”, the automation tests are likely to break far more frequently. Keeping the tests in sync with the application needs significant effort. However, this cost can be offset to a large extent by having a robust test suite to provide rapid feedback to the developers.

7. Test Automation Tools

There are many tools for Test Automation today, all promising a “Silver Bullet” experience. From code-oriented tools such as Selenium, HP UFT, Parasoft tools, etc., to Test Automation products, there is a wide variety of choices.

Most of the Test Automation products use either a “Keyword Driven” model or a parametrized “Record-and-Playback Driven” model and assure you that this can be used by non-technical QA teams easily. However, consider doing a detailed feasibility test with respect to complex workflows in your applications. Even with these products, implementation and maintenance can be a significant challenge as the underlying code may not be available for editing.

8. Multiple Codebases for your Tests

Based on your application architecture, you may have UI Tests based on modern Javascript frameworks, web services/APIs, multiple protocols, iOS/Android, etc. Your Automation Suite will have multiple code bases for different parts of your application.

In this scenario, ensure that your framework and tools can coexist and be run from a single control structure.

9. Integrated Testing

Most of the business applications are not stand-alone entities. They have input from and output to other applications. A business flow may not be complete unless data is validated across different applications. This means your tests should run not only on one application but across multiple apps operating on different platforms.

10. Long-term Maintenance Strategy

Tests can quickly become redundant if they don’t keep pace with your applications. Automated tests are more susceptible to such entropy. Have a strategy for maintenance, include time to re-write some of the tests and be prepared to migrate the Automated Tests to a different Tool/platform if need be.

By taking all the above criteria into consideration, you will be well informed and in a position to take the right decision on “THE” Test Automation tool that best fits your need. To make it easier for you, we have prepared a checklist that will enable you to check-off important criteria for your tool selection and help you in your decision-making journey.

-Praveen Lakkimsetti