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The Significance of Automation in Agile testing
Srikanth Godisela
September 10, 2019

Agile methodology focuses on building a high-quality product or customized software reducing the risk associated with development. Since Agile projects involve frequent changes in very little time, having the entire QA cycle done manually is no longer affordable. On the other hand, the focus of automation is to minimize the overall cost and efforts of testing, keeping confidence in code as high as possible. Automated tools not only help in speeding up QA tasks but also put an end to human-errors. Here, we will see why Automation is important in Agile projects and how it helps in simplifying QA processes.

In Agile, testing is done in the same cycle as the development. And not to mention, it is always advisable to perform at least one round of regression testing in each sprint. Since there is mostly less or very limited time for testing, QA teams usually do not have enough time for complete regression. This is where automation helps. A huge amount of regression testing time is saved by running automated test cases.

To understand this further, we must look at some of the common manual testing challenges which can be overcome by adopting automation wherever possible.

Challenges of Agile Manual QA and how Automation helps:

How Automation helps: When regression testing is completely taken care of by Automation scripts, it saves a lot of manual QA time. Imagine hundreds of regression test cases required to be run in every sprint! This can be done in a few hours through automation, and manual testers can focus completely on functional testing of the stories in that sprint.

  • Test Coverage: Where Agile is all about incorporating frequent changes, it is somewhat difficult for the manual QA team to ensure complete coverage of test cases as well as testing. In this situation, regression testing is sometimes given less importance or is neglected which results in worse outcomes.

    How Automation helps:When regression testing is completely taken care of by Automation scripts, it saves a lot of manual QA time. Imagine hundreds of regression test cases required to be run in every sprint! This can be done in a few hours through automation, and manual testers can focus completely on functional testing of the stories in that sprint.

  • Code Broken due to Frequent Builds: Frequently changing code in Agile, may result in broken builds. Builds are created almost daily, and this introduces the risk of breaking existing code.

    How Automation helps: Build automation is a part of continuous integration. It eliminates a lot of defects that could arise through manual-creation of the build. Using automated tools will not only save the time to create the build but they are also meant for compiling and running automated test cases. It also reduces resourcing, which is another critical factor in Agile.

  • Finding defects early in the cycle: It is known to all that finding defects early in the sprint saves a lot of effort and money, but it is still difficult to find all relevant/critical defects early considering the stringent timelines of sprints!

    How Automation helps: Although it is difficult to create automation scripts early in the sprint until the code is stable, it helps if you have high-level scenarios covered in the automation. Your scripts will run in no time finding all critical defects/blockers and then manual efforts can be put in detailed functional testing after those critical defects are fixed. Moreover, if regression tests are run automatically, the tool will find all defects in the existing code and manual testers can only focus on the new enhancements.

  • Performance issues: Performance testing is considered one of the most technical and complex types of software testing. There is no fool-proof way to do performance testing manually, especially on bigger web-based projects. Manually, it could be possible to determine the number of active sessions, the number of database connections, and the number of threads running. Also, the amount of CPU time and memory being used can be obtained manually. But still, performance testing can be done manually only to a limited extent and for limited cases.

    How Automation helps: Automation tools for Performance Testing help in creating a realistic environment and pressure under which the application is expected to perform which can hardly be achieved through manual efforts.

  • Loss of Interest: In Agile sprints, manual testers have to go through the same process repeatedly - discussing with BAs on current sprint stories as well as backlog, write test cases, set up test environment and prepare test data, test case walkthrough and review for Functional/Integration/Regression suites, prepare test cases for production testing, etc. This process is the same in every sprint and slowly it becomes tedious and lengthy. This sometimes causes the manual testers to lose interest in the process as well as testing.

How Automation helps: If automation is implemented in the entire process, wherever possible, half or more of this effort can be reduced. Developers can use code analyzer tools to eradicate defects from their code and QA can create automated regression scripts to reduce the regression testing effort. Performance tools, API testing tools, test management tools, Security testing tools and many more, if used effectively, can reduce a lot of repeated-QA-effort. This, in turn, helps the QA focus on more important issues and matters in the testing cycle and also utilize the time for self-development. All this makes the overall work experience better!

To conclude, the benefits of Agile are well-known to all – it is customer-focused, transparent, fast and enjoyable. But when automation is taken into practice it brings even more benefits to the entire Software Development Life Cycle. Automation tools and Frameworks help improve and expedite the testing procedure, save costs, identify errors that can occur due to human negligence which, in the end, results in healthy software.

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