Automation Can’t Work without a Proper Testing Strategy

(This content originally appeared on TechWell Insights)

If you’re not taking advantage of test automation in your modern software team, you’re well behind the curve. With agility taking center stage and the mobile market bearing new demands for testing, the need for automation alongside manual testing has become crystal clear.

However, simply saying, “Hey, make sure we have automated testing because that will fix everything” isn’t nearly enough. If you don’t fully understand what needs to be automated, why it needs to be automated, and what tests should remain manual, then you’re simply following fresh trends for the sake of looking relevant.

The automation mandate often comes down from management, where they tell testing teams to restructure how the tests are done without actually giving them a solid blueprint. So automation machines are being established on random PCs, unsystematic tests are being automated, and no one really understands the status of the tests, what’s breaking, or what the results even mean.

Mary Thorn, the director of software test engineering and agile practices at Ipreo, recently spoke to StickyMinds about how you need to optimize your automation strategy if you hope to get anything out of your investment. She outlined the best methods for getting your automation strategy back on track after a rocky start.

“The first thing I do is talk to the business and say, ‘We’re going to have to stop automation right now, because what we have automated isn’t passing. It’s providing us no value,’” she explained. “Then, if I get them to the idea that ‘Yes, we’re going to stop,’ then we have to analyze what’s wrong with these tests.”

The simple act of convincing someone — especially someone in a leadership role who’s more focused on the numbers than how the tests are run — isn’t easy. But it’s critical to note that if you fail to establish a sound automation strategy and tests begin to fail, you’re losing both money and credibility.

“We had a set of tests that we ignored, and we ignored it for a while, and then all of a sudden the issue started happening in production,” Thorn said. “It ended up being a performance problem that we were hitting in our automation stuff that nobody would look into.”

It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating: Automation isn’t automatic. Sure, the need for automated testing is greater than it’s ever been, but if you don’t establish a smart strategy early on, you’re only going to see more failed tests and more buggy pieces of software.