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Top test automation challenges and how to solve them

Test automation is an essential part of software testing. As per a report by Market Research, the global automation testing market size is expected to grow from USD 12.6 billion in 2019 to USD 28.8 billion by 2024, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 18.0% during the forecast period. Increasing adoption of agile and DevOps methodology in SDLC are the major factors driving the growth of the automation testing market.

By using automated testing, we can expedite the process of software validation, scale and accelerate tests, reduce errors, and buy back time on software projects. While test automation has clear benefits, in many cases automation efforts fail because they lack proper planning and preparation up front. This topic aims to outline the top challenges that have the highest impact on the overall automation test effort and project success

1. Deciding on the Best Testing Approach

Targeting 100% automation is not achievable. You won’t be able to automate every single test case. Especially in areas like compatibility, user interface, or recovery where most testing needs to be carried out manually. When planning for automation, you need to come up with a set of criteria which your test cases must meet in order to be automated.

Usually, It is important to cover application areas which are prone to risk, of interest to clients, or characterised by complex business logic to achieve the maximum return from automation.

Generally, the best approach is to focus efforts following a bottom-up strategy that applies more effort at the foundation (unit testing), then integration level testing (e.g. API’s) and finally UI testing.

2. Selecting a Right Tool

Nowadays, there are a variety of testing tools, ranging from free and open-source tools like Selenium to commercial tools like TestComplete supporting different testing types and technologies. Each tool tends to meet particular situations therefore identifying a right tool to cover a team requirement is very challenging.

It is very critical that to perform an assessment with clearly outlining a set of tool requirements criteria. These definitions should correspond well with user acceptance criteria for each of your products. If the selected tool doesn’t cover everything you need, you should consider finding a multi-tool solution that cover critical areas for your team. Remember, it’s impossible to test absolutely everything, but you can use the tools that test the most important things.

If the team doesn’t have a sufficient base knowledge in a particular tool then, it is critical that the organisation invest in education for the team, or leverage consultants who can coach them. Additionally, the testing community is extremely helpful so make use of platforms like Stack Exchange. Encourage your testing team to register to attend webinars.

3. Team communication and collaboration

If your team finds it difficult to get genuinely involved in setting automation targets and objectives, then your automation project is in trouble.

It is important to have clear purposes and goals for automation and make sure that the team and management agree on and understand the desired outcome(s) from your automation plan. It’s essential to talk to multiple and diverse people who will be directly or indirectly benefited. For example; Review test cases, scripts and results with stakeholders (Developers, Architects, Business people, Project managers, Product managers, Business analysts, etc.).

Create a collaborative environment where team members can easily communicate to deliver test results on time and with as little risk as possible.

4. High upfront investment costs

In nearly all cases, the initial phase of test automation comes with some costs, since it requires analysis, design, and planning for the implementation. Even if the choice is made to go with free or low-cost open-source automation tools, it will be important to devote some effort for training and maintenance.

For automated testing to work, teams need a solid knowledge of the framework’s design and implementation which requires building your team of testing resources that have strong programming skills and test automation knowledge.

Remember that Test automation can deliver significant gains in quality, accuracy, and productivity in future so it is important to present right ROI of automation to the executive management.

5. Training or Acquiring Skilled Testers

It is a misconception that testing automation can be easily done by manual testers thanks to tools that record test scripts and play them back. Likewise, many falsely believe that any developer can automate tests. Test automation requires teams to design and maintain test automation frameworks, together with test scripts, build solutions, and other critical elements (such as integration of tests into CI/CD pipelines).

For automated testing to work, teams need a solid knowledge of the framework’s design and implementation which requires building team of testing resources that have strong programming skills and test automation knowledge. Cross train resources internally, include a mix of developers, architects, business analysts, testers into the team who will own automation.

That’s not all…

While these challenges are not the only challenges for a new Test Automation project, a failure to have strategies to address these challenges dramatically increases the risk of failure for any Test Automation project.