The Role Of Automation In Functional Testing

Testing has to be an integral part of developing software and not a separate phase. When this approach is taken, product quality is owned by everyone on the team.James Sivak

A few years ago, Knight Capital Group, trading on an average 3.3 billion shares a day, incurred a trading loss of $440 million because of an incorrect software update. In today’s digital economy, the importance of thorough testing of the software before it goes live cannot be ruled out. Any failure on this part can not only result in losses it can also severely damage a company's reputation, brand and business. Such negative image can also cause user migration. It has therefore become  more important to strictly follow the approach of "test early, test often".

What is Functional testing?

According to a research report titled ‘Set Your Sights On the Six Software Testing Targets’ by Info-Tech Research Group, to ensure the quality of the end product, six types of testing can be used. Functional testing is a form of testing, which tests the functionality of the Application. It tests how the Application executes various functions vis-a-vis the functional requirements and user expectations. These functions include various user actions, searches, user screens, data operations, business processes and integrations. Functional testing is done, which is based on the requirements, user stories and acceptance criteria.

Automated Functional testing– benefits and ensuring success

In simple terms, Automation testing is a technique, which automates the testing process, using scripts and suitable software. Once the scripts are ready, those are used to execute the test cases automatically to improve the overall test coverage and efficiency.

Businesses looking to expand their test coverage, save time and costs and retain the knowledgebase option for Automation testing. While Automated testing is not a magic wand, which can completely replace the manual testing efforts, it can dramatically improve the turnaround time, quality and stability of the Application.

To ensure that test automation initiatives are successful, businesses need to ensure the following –

  • Understanding of the Application
    Organizations need to ensure that the automation experts and the product experts or Manual testing experts work very closely while automating the test cases. This is important in order to be able to create a robust test automation suite, the automation team needs to have a deep knowledge of the Application functionality and understanding of its testing. In an ideal scenario, the manual testers or the product experts should be able to automate the test cases.

  • Know what to automate
    100% automation is practically impossible to achieve. It is important to choose the right test cases for the automation with an aim to automate the critical functionality.

  • Test automation during the development
    To get the true Roi from automation, businesses should ensure that the test automation is done while the Application is being developed and it is not an afterthought after the Application release. Having a strong test automation strategy early in the project lifecycle ensures faster time to market, better Application stability and more test coverage.

The building blocks of Functional testing automation strategy

The important building blocks of a successful test automation strategy,

  • Right mix of skills in the team
    To ensure the success of your test automation strategy, you need the right expertise in the team including the people who understand test automation, have an in-depth understanding of testing, the product experts, and the stakeholders who can drive the strategy to align with the business goals.

  • Selection of the test automation tool
    Since no tool will ensure the success of your test automation strategy on its own, selection of the right tool is one of the key decisions to make in the overall process. The next section describes more on how to select the right test automation tool.

  • Selection of the right test cases
    As mentioned earlier, one cannot aim for 100% test automation. The key lies in selecting the right test cases for an automation. The ideal ones for automation are the business critical test cases and hence should pass in every build, the test cases, which are executed repeatedly, the test cases, which are too tedious to execute manually and the ones, which are time-consuming.

  • Setting up of the test environment
    Ensure that you set up the test environment, which is a close replica of the production environment as possible including the hardware and software configuration.

  • Execution of test cases
    The strategy should define the execution process of the test cases. After the execution, each test case should be assigned; a status of ‘Pass or Fail or Not Executed’, which defines the success criteria for the test case.

  • Maintenance of test suite
    As new functionalities are added to the Application; the automation test scripts needs to be modified or the new scripts needs to be added. With each release, the test suite also needs to be upgraded. In order to improve the effectiveness of the automation, it should be easy to maintain the test suite.

Criteria for selecting the right Functional test automation tools

While selecting the right test automation tool, businesses should consider the critical aspects given below.

  • Availability of the Skillset
    Test automation is a specialist job and most of the test automation tools requires programming expertise. If your testing team has a majority of manual testing experts with no programming knowledge, you need to select scriptless test automation platforms.

  • Ease of Use
    User-friendliness should be one of the key criteria to consider during the evaluation of the test automation tool. It should be easy to create test scripts, test data and re-usable components.

  • Automation Speed
    The test automation tool should facilitate rapid test script development and allow the automation of test cases with complex Workflows. It should also facilitate speedy execution of test suite. Accurate reporting and logging of the test execution play an important role in ensuring the success.

  • Technology Support
    The automation testing tool should be able to support all the technologies used in the Application under test – whether those include thick client Applications, Web-based user interface, Web Services, mobile Applications, databases, file handling (like word, PDF, XLS, Text, XML) etc.

  • DevOps
    If you are moving towards continuous delivery and hence towards continuous testing, then you need to ensure that the test automation tool, which you select is able to seamlessly integrate with your continuous integration tools and infrastructure.

  • Reusability and Maintainability
    The automation tool should support modularity and easy traceability of changes, which in turn, ensures high maintainability of the test suite.

  • Collaboration
    In today’s age of multi-location teams, it is important to ensure that your test automation tool supports real-time collaboration and helps in productivity improvement in testing.

  • Cross-platform Support
    The automation tool which you select should be able to execute the test suit across the multiple platforms, operating systems, Browsers and localization environments.

  • Tight Integration with Development Ecosystem
    To be able to really make an impact, the test automation tool should be completely integrated with the management, test management, defect management, continuous integration etc.

  • Powerful Reporting
    The tool which you select should provide robust reporting. It should be able to provide the reports for every execution cycle for every suite and every test case, across multiple execution cycles and across multiple builds. The reports should capture exact state of the software under test, during every stage of the execution. The right and clear reports helps the stakeholders in making the right decisions.

The key to the success of Functional test automation lies in selecting and implementing the right test automation solution, honing the skill-sets of the testers, defining the scope accurately and continuously enhancing the test suite.