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Test automation makes a company agile

by Anne van den Berg

Test automation, based on a solid strategy, keeps the company agile and guarantees quality. By automating repetitive bulk tests, human testers get more room to increase the quality even more. Even though processes run faster, companies shouldn’t have the illusion that they are saving money per se. Rather, they will get more value for their money.

 Before we discuss the benefits and challenges of test automation, first a definition: what is it? And what is the difference with automated testing or automation in testing? Where René van Veldhuijzen, Business Unit Manager and Enterprise Automation Specialist at Squerist, prefers automation in testing, Sjoerd van der Maaden, general director at Specialisterren, prefers automated testing. Still, both use the term ‘test automation’ in their services.

More time for exploratory testing

‘Test automation is the most commonly used term’, says Van Veldhuijzen. ‘That’s why I use it as well, but test automation is quite broad. It literally means automation of testing, so everyone that uses a tool for testing, does test automation. Automation in testing, however, is more strategic. You take the bulk work away from the people, so they will have more time for exploratory testing, for example.’

Van der Maaden makes the same distinction as Van Veldhuijzen: ‘The classic view on test automation is that you use automation for testing. These are simple tools, record-and-playback, for example. That’s not something we do. We do automated testing, for which we build up the test processes from the ground up. In terms of automation, you will be thinking, for example, to realize a very short feedback loop on your quality.’

Automated testing on an industrial level

Ernst Kolvenbag, commercial director at Specialisterren, adds: ‘Test automation is often localized, it runs on the machine; while automated testing is an industrialized process.’ Van der Maaden adds: ‘If you do automated testing on an industrial level, you are viable because you will always know if you can go live, what you have to improve, and if you are delivering quality.’

By automating processes based on a strategy, you actually set up a virtual workforce next to your human workforce, says Kolvenbag. ‘Robots perform processes faster, more accurately and more reliably, but people increase the quality and also have more time to do so. Robots will take on the repetitive tasks, while people will manage more and offer flexibility towards the customers. This way, you get the best of both worlds.’

Not saving money, but creating more value

Additionally: even though processes run faster, companies shouldn’t have the illusion they will save money per se. Van Veldhuijzen: ‘We dispel that illusion. It’s about making better use of your employees, creating more value for your money. Thanks to the uniformity, you will reduce the time needed for your test work, so that employees will have more time for the work that needs to be done manually.’

Van Veldhuijzen offers an example: ‘A customer said that the testers had too little time at the end of the sprints they were working on. If a new functionality was rolled out, the regression tests, for which all the parts on which the new feature has influence is tested, took up way too much time. The reason they would want to apply test automation was very clear.’

Next, the software was reviewed. ‘We suggested three tools, and after some research they made their choice. Then, the test process was automated and set up in a sandbox environment for the customer. The isolated environment made it possible to test in a safe way. The moment the process works as it should, you can implement it directly into the live environment.’

Virtual or human: set the same requirements

The virtual workforce that will run the automated tests has to get the same amount of attention as the human colleagues, says Kolvenbag. ‘You want to ask the robots the same questions about their functioning as you would a human. A robot is equally involved in the operation, so you will want to set the same requirements when it comes to reports and feedback. So: build, maintain and repair to keep the virtual workforce healthy.’

By the way, Kolvenbag doesn’t talk about robots casually. Even though robots aren’t mentioned often in automated testing, the strategy and technology are comparable to that of Robotic Process Automation: automating processes with the help of robots. Van Veldhuijzen says: ‘In end-to-end chain tests, you will see that RPA in production will have the same results: viability.’

RPA same development as test automation

According to Kolvenbag, test automation is ahead of RPA when it comes to maturity, but both are developing in a similar manner: ‘RPA was also used project-based to automate tasks, but now, more and more organizations are thinking more strategically about RPA.’ Van der Maaden: ‘We’ve now come to a point where test automation was a few years ago. This means that right now we experience, make mistakes and learn.’

Whatever you apply to make your organization more viable: you really have to make an effort, according to Van der Maaden. ‘Set up a dedicated environment for your tests. Make a team responsible and involve other teams that need to be committed. If you are in software development: make sure your entire software is testable. For example, we have a customer that tests their solution every three seconds to make sure they deliver the right quality.’

Strategy before tools

Additionally, the software will only be chosen after determining the strategy and the goals, says Van Veldhuijzen: ‘You can only buy the tool if you know why you want to use it. If you have just a box to transport, you won’t buy a truck combination as well. But also think about the maintenance of the tool: open source isn’t practical if you don’t have any trained ICT staff inhouse.’

For complex test chains, it is advisable to choose a vendor that supports test automation as well as RPA, according to Van der Maaden. ‘There are more and more vendors that do so, including UiPath. The combination of RPA and test automation is useful, for example, when you’re testing a complex digital transformation, if you want to track your customers from a front-end to legacy systems, so you can validate the entire chain.’

Role of test specialist is a keeper

Software for test automation will become more low code, expects Van Veldhuijzen. ‘The human tester will work on the front-end, the tooling will become more intuitive. Also, artificial intelligence and machine learning will be part of the future.’ That means, perhaps, that the role of the tester will change, but you’ll always need the natural suspicion of the tester to keep your teams, virtual and human, on their toes.

For more information on Test Automation, view the webinar recording  Improving Software Robots and Application Resilience
And if you are wondering how to get more out of your SAP investment with the UiPath Automation Platform and Test Suite, then register to the webinar “Maximize SAP Investments with UiPath Automation and Testing” on January 21st.



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