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Test automation

Enterprises today are highly focused on digital transformation to increase speed, agility, and innovation while also reducing costs. Because software is integral to every level of business operation, digital transformation requires faster delivery of innovative applications. Agile and DevOps have dramatically accelerated software development, but traditional software testing hasn’t been able to keep pace – and has thus become a critical barrier to innovation and digital transformation.

To enable faster software delivery, many organizations have turned to technology for continuous testing and test automation. Continuous testing involves testing software in small pieces throughout the software development lifecycle (SDLC) rather than one large test just prior to a software release. However, continuous testing creates a logistical challenge, requiring developers to keep track of which environments have deployed new code, when each piece needs testing, and how those requirements integrate back into the task of continuously delivering software.

Test automation simplifies this process by automatically tracking and managing all the moving parts of continuous testing. By minimizing the complexity of software testing logistics, test automation solutions allow testers to stop worrying about the minutia of testing, and enable them to spend more time creating effective test cases to ensure the quality of software.

test automation

What is test automation?

Test automation is the process of organizing, tracking, and managing the variety of different tests used to validate software. It’s essential to ensuring that development teams maintain a high standard of quality at all points along the software pipeline. It also allows teams to focus more time and effort on creating effective test cases rather than organizing and tracking the details of testing.

Test automation solutions must be able to:

  • Facilitate communication between stakeholders to keep track of where new code is being used
  • Track which environments have deployed new code, when each piece needs testing, and how those requirements integrate back into the moving process of continuously delivering software
  • Determine the extent of existing testing coverage and what other kinds of tests might be needed to expand that coverage
  • Automatically trigger code testing at each stage of development
  • Generate test cases and track the progress of each test case from start to completion
  • Manage both manual and automated testing
  • Ensure that rapidly evolving applications don’t result in overwhelming false positives and burdensome test maintenance
test automation vs automated testing

Is test automation the same as automated testing?

The terms “test automation” and “automated testing” are often used interchangeably, but they actually mean fairly different things.

Automated testing is the act of conducting specific tests using automation, rather than conducting them manually. Automated testing can speed the testing process by removing the need for human intervention. Automated testing tools also tend to be more accurate, as manual testing can be monotonous and is therefore more prone to human error.

Automated testing falls into two categories: functional testing which evaluates the business functionality of a software solution, and non-functional testing which tests other requirements of the software such as security, speed, and ability to access databases.

There are a broad range of automated tests that are integral to the SDLC.

  • Unit testing examines individual components of an application before the software is compiled.
  • Smoke tests ensure the essential features of the software work well enough that the application can continue to be tested without “catching fire.”
  • Integration tests determine whether all the modules of the application are integrated and functioning.
  • API tests validate the business layer of software by examining the request – response combinations for APIs on which the software is built.
  • UI tests target the functionality and elements of the user interface.
  • Regression testing is conducted with each new iteration of the software to ensure that existing modules are not adversely affected by new modules.
  • Security tests screen applications for vulnerabilities and weaknesses that could be exploited by attackers.
  • Performance tests evaluate responsiveness, speed, and stability of the application under different levels of stress.

Continuous testing requires test automation

In traditional software development environments, testing is performed at the end of the development cycle. However, as companies move toward an Agile or continuous delivery model for software, software is constantly in development and must always be ready for deployment. In this scenario, leaving testing until the end of the process is no longer viable.

Continuous testing happens throughout the software delivery pipeline rather than one fell swoop at the end of the cycle. By executing automated tests throughout the process, development teams can obtain feedback on the business risks associated with each release as quickly as possible. Continuous testing may encompass the complete range of manual and automated testing. Ultimately, continuous testing focuses on business risk and provides insight on whether software can be released.

There are several barriers to implementing test automation. Considerable time and resources are required to get test automation up and running. And test automation can result in a large number of false positives that need to be reviewed and addressed, as well as a large amount of feedback that must be prioritized.

The benefits of test automation

The benefits of test automation include:

  • Faster releases. Test automation enables testing processes to keep up with the accelerated pace of Agile and DevOps.
  • Lower testing costs. Automating the management of testing reduces the cost and time required of development and testing staff.
  • Improved software quality. By enabling and supporting continuous testing, test automation ensures that teams are producing higher-quality software with each new release and helps maintain the highest quality standards throughout the software development pipeline.
solutioning

Test automation solutions from Tricentis

Tricentis Tosca is a market-leading, model-based test automation solution that allows teams to develop resilient automated tests without coding. With the industry’s most innovative functional testing technologies, Tricentis Tosca overcomes the barriers of conventional testing tools. Enterprise teams using Tosca can achieve unprecedented 90%+ test automation rates, enabling their organizations to deliver the fast and continuous feedback required for Agile and DevOps testing. Tosca delivers clear insight into business risk while reducing regression testing time to minutes and maximizing reuse and maintainability.

Key features of Tricentis Tosca include:

  • Next-generation technology that “sees” like a human does, enabling it to easily automate testing for applications that were previously difficult or impossible to automate
  • Codeless, resilient automated tests that separates the technical information of an application with the automation model, allowing automation rates of 90% or more
  • Risk-based approach to testing that reduces risk in software releases while cutting the overall number of tests in the automation suite
  • Automatically create and provision on-demand stateful data for even the most complex scenarios

FAQs

What is test automation?

Test automation is focused on automating the validation of applications and services against requirements. Test automation solutions include tools for unit, API/service, and user interface functional testing, as well as load and performance testing.

Why is test automation important to continuous testing?

Continuous testing – the practice of testing software throughout the software delivery pipeline rather than at the end of the process – is an essential component of Agile and DevOps software development. Test automation is essential for continuous testing, but it’s not sufficient. Test automation is designed to produce a set of pass/fail data points correlated to user stories or application requirements. Continuous testing, on the other hand, focuses on business risk and providing insight on whether the software can be released. Beyond test automation, continuous testing also involves practices such as aligning testing with your business risk, applying service virtualization and stateful test data management to stabilize testing for continuous integration, and performing exploratory testing to expose “big block” issues early in each iteration. It’s not simply a matter of more tools, or different tools. It requires a deeper transformation across people and processes as well as technologies.

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