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Posted on March 29, 2024 | All

The Role of Automated Testing in Software Product Development

According to a study by Capgemini,
automated testing can reduce testing costs
by up to 50% and time-to-market by 40%.

Automated testing involves using software tools to automate the repeated manual process of reviewing and validating a software product, traditionally done by humans. Nowadays, automated testing is a standard practice in modern agile and DevOps software projects right from the start. Yet, to grasp its true significance, it’s crucial to consider the hurdles encountered in software development prior to its widespread acceptance.

Before Testing was Automated

Back when manual testing was the norm, software companies typically employed a full-time QA team. This team’s primary responsibility was to develop ‘test cases,’ which were detailed checklists designed to ensure that specific features of a software project behaved as expected. After creating these test cases, the QA team would manually execute them whenever a new update or change was applied to the software project. Subsequently, they would report the results back to the engineering team for review and further development to resolve any identified issues.

The Setback in Manual Testing

However, this manual testing process was slow, expensive, and error-prone. The manual execution of test cases demanded substantial time and resources, resulting in delays in the software development timeline and escalated costs. Additionally, human error was always a risk, as manual testing could overlook specific issues or fail to catch bugs effectively.

Post Automated Testing

Automated testing has since revolutionized the efficiency and return on investment (ROI) of quality assurance (QA) teams. By putting ownership responsibilities in the hands of the engineering team, automated testing allows test cases to be developed alongside regular roadmap feature development. These test cases are then executed automatically by software continuous integration tools, significantly reducing the time and resources required for testing.

Furthermore, automated testing promotes leaner QA team sizes, as it streamlines testing processes, reduces manual effort, and increases the efficiency of test execution. This allows the QA team to focus on more sensitive features of the software, ensuring that critical issues are identified and addressed promptly. Automated testing offers the benefits of cross-platform testing, ensuring compatibility across different operating systems, and multi-language testing, ensuring software functionality in diverse linguistic environments.

Overall, automated testing has become essential in modern software development, offering reliable test results, significant gains in team efficiency and boosted ROI for QA teams.

Types of Automated Testing

Unit testing: Unit testing focuses on testing individual units or components of a software application in isolation, ensuring each unit functions correctly per its design.

Example: In a CI/CD pipeline, changes to the shopping cart function prompt the pipeline to run tests to verify the correct calculation of the total price.

Integration testing: Integration testing verifies the interaction between different modules or components of a software system to ensure that they work together seamlessly.

Example: Ensuring that data flows correctly between a web application’s frontend and backend components when a user submits a form.

Functional testing: Functional testing evaluates the functionality of a software application by testing its features against the specified requirements to ensure they meet the desired outcomes.

Example: Verifying that clicking on a “Submit Order” button in an e-commerce application adds the selected items to the user’s shopping cart.

Regression testing: Regression testing is the most commonly automated process. It is performed to ensure that recent code changes have not adversely affected existing functionalities. It helps in maintaining software quality and stability over time.

Example: Checking that a software update to a mobile app does not cause previously working features, such as login or search, to malfunction.

Performance testing: Performance testing evaluates the responsiveness, speed, and overall performance of a software application under various conditions, helping to identify and eliminate performance bottlenecks.

Example: Simulating a large number of users accessing a website simultaneously to measure its response time and identify potential performance issues.

Considerations for Manual Software Testing in an Automated Testing Era

When deciding which software tests to perform manually, it’s essential to consider factors like the nature of the testing required and the ROI of automation.

Tests like exploratory testing, which relies on human creativity to uncover bugs in unscripted ways, can be more efficiently executed manually, as current automated tools for exploratory testing still need to be fully mature.

Similarly, visual regression testing, which detects visual design flaws in a software UI, often benefits from human observation due to the cost and limited adoption of automated tools in this area.

Building a test automation framework can require out-of-the-box thinking, considering factors like release frequency, available tools, and product market fit. Not all projects may benefit from automated testing; in some cases, a manual approach may be more effective, as there are no predefined steps.

Manual testing is necessary for scenarios where testing is required infrequently, such as validating color schemes in a user interface.

The Strategy of the Shift-Left Approach

The shift-left approach in software development refers to the practice of integrating testing earlier in the software development lifecycle, typically starting at the requirements or design phase. This helps in identifying and fixing defects as early as possible rather than waiting until later stages of development or during post-release.

Relevance of the Shift-Left Approach

Early Issue Identification: By testing earlier in the development process, issues and defects can be identified and taken care of before they escalate into more complex and costly issues to resolve.

Cost and Time Savings: Fixing defects early in development is generally less expensive and time-consuming than fixing them later. This can result in significant cost savings and shorter development cycles.

Improved Quality: By catching and fixing issues early, the overall quality of the software is improved, leading to a better user experience and higher customer satisfaction.

Better Collaboration: The shift-left approach encourages collaboration between developers, testers, and other stakeholders early in the development process, leading to a more cohesive and efficient development process.

Continuous Feedback: Testing early and often provides constant feedback to developers, allowing them to make informed decisions and improvements throughout the development lifecycle.

Alignment with Agile and DevOps Practices: The shift-left approach aligns well with agile and DevOps practices, emphasizing iterative development and continuous testing and integration.

The Role of Automated Testing in Software Product Development for Continuous Delivery

Continuous Delivery (CD) stands out as a crucial methodology aimed at swiftly delivering new code releases to customers. At the core of this methodology lies automated testing, a critical component ensuring the delivery process’s efficiency and reliability.

Another Approach: Shift-Right Testing

Shift-right testing is a forward-thinking approach that complements traditional shift-left methodologies. It emphasizes testing in production or after deployment to gather real-world feedback and enhance test coverage. This approach acknowledges the dynamic nature of software development and aims to improve software products’ overall quality and reliability.

Shift-Center Approach

Source: DevOps

Development teams prioritize time to market, while application security (AppSec) teams focus on ensuring secure software. This creates a balancing act, as security testing (AST) can only delay deployment, risking prioritizing time over security. The concept of “shift left” emerged as a response to organizations waiting to perform security testing until the end of development, causing delays. However, in the iterative and continuous nature of DevOps, which is more like a figure-8 infinity loop, there is no clear “left” or “right.” Instead, embedding software security solutions throughout DevOps, or “shifting center,” is a more practical approach to ensure security without sacrificing speed.

Integration of Continuous Delivery and Automated Testing

The CD is not a standalone process but rather part of a broader deployment pipeline. It is closely intertwined with Continuous Integration (CI), which precedes it. CI’s primary responsibility is to execute automated tests against any new code changes, ensuring that these changes do not disrupt existing features or introduce new bugs. Once CI successfully completes the automated test case, the CD process is triggered.

Benefits of Automated Testing in Continuous Delivery

Embracing automated testing has revolutionized the development process, enabling rapid, reliable, and scalable testing. Implementing automated testing frameworks has significantly reduced manual efforts, improved test coverage, and accelerated release cycles. The relationship between automated testing, CI, and CD yields numerous benefits for high-velocity software teams. Automated testing thus plays a pivotal role in maintaining quality throughout the development cycle. It ensures that new commits do not introduce any bugs, therefore keeping the software deployment-ready at all times.

Embracing the Future: Trends and Technologies in Automated Testing with CI Global

The future of automated testing is exciting, with advancements like AI, shift-right testing, containerization, low-code/no-code tools, and API testing reshaping the journey. Implementing Docker has transformed deployment practices, ensuring uniformity across various stages like development, testing, and production. Through containerization, improved resource utilization, scalability, and adaptability have been achieved, simplifying infrastructure management. Embracing Kubernetes for orchestration has optimized the management of containerized applications, enhancing scalability and resilience.

To stay ahead, connect with us to understand the complete testing cycle and determine which parts to automate, ensuring your testing practices align with changing market requirements and technological trends.