Solving the top 3 automated regression testing issues

  January 17, 2017

The beauty of test automation is that it reliably performs the tedious and repetitive, albeit necessary, tasks associated with certain workflows.

When it comes to software development, QA management can be particularly bogged down with redundancies. Granted, much of this repetition is vital to ensuring optimal functionality of the deliverable, which is why test automation has become such a vital QA tool.

When software goes bad, it creates a domino effect that isn’t pretty. From exploding phones to defunct washing machines, defects and deficiencies in devices and products that run on software technology can be devastating to a company, causing substantial reduction in ROI, suspended production, system crashes, loss of customer confidence, and loss of enterprise reputation.

The frequency of releases in today’s software market mean that certain tests must be run over and over again to ensure that changes to software applications have in no way impacted the integrity of software functions. These testing types fall under the category of regression testing.  Regression testing verifies that existing software performs correctly after it has been updated or interfaced with other software products.

Regression testing searches out new software bugs, or regressions, to best ensure that they are eradicated. During development, an automated software change impact analysis is often

performed to determine which interface and performance attributes and components are most likely to be affected by software interactions. This impact analysis is a prime QA resource for design of regression testing suites.

The rise of agile has significantly impacted QA testing. Once viewed as somewhat of a "last step" before the release of a massive software build, regression testing has now become deeply embedded in the development process, reducing time between iterations. Each iteration is tested and repeated until reliable functionality is verified. Regression testing that occurs subsequent to development requires a QA review of the workable development strategies indicated in the developers’ impact analysis.

Given its redundancy, regression testing is a prime candidate for automation. Testers can more easily remain current with development strategies, as defects are immediately caught and addressed. Not to mention the fact that test automation frees up time to focus on manual test cases and test innovations.

Nevertheless, automating regression tests is not without its challenges. Let's take a look at three of the most common setbacks, and how to overcome them.

1. An incomplete regression test plan

One of the important things to understand about regression testing is that it works best when run early and often during each sprint. This is because running them later in the development cycle may yield unfavorable test results. For the sake of decreased deadlines, automated incremental regression testing uncovers many more defects than were initially anticipated. Regression test automation also discovers new bugs that may have arisen from new fixes.

Software Testing Help noted that it's therefore vital for QA teams to outline a comprehensive regression test plan, and preferably one in which regression tests are run on a daily basis.

"This plan should outline the regression testing strategy and exit criteria," Software Testing Help wrote. "Performance testing is also the part of this test to make sure system performance is not affected due to the changes made in the system components."

The good news here is that this pitfall is easily avoided, as long as you have a clear direction, and you don't procrastinate.

Ever-increasing in volume and complexity, the Quality Assurance testing process strains resources and impacts new project schedules. Consequently, project teams at times mistakenly move to forgo certain regression testing specifications, and instead focus on completing new features within a project schedule. Overlooking test strategy completion allows possible defects to be introduced into existing software and system functionalities by new code development. Utilizing Best Practices in regression testing, QA teams can:

  • Document of the application development workflow
  • Transform the workflow into test scripts
  • Maintain test scripts and document software attributes
  • Version control test scripts and software attributes
  • Perform automated metrics against test scripts based on changes to the application

Automated test scripts can be repurposed for reduced strain on QA resources and deployment timelines. The user-facing nature of software testing and development demands that thorough regression testing be stringently conducted on all releases and re-releases. Customer satisfaction is everything.

2. Communication breakdowns

Communication breakdowns are the quicksand of the software development world, especially when it comes to regression testing and managing defect trends. Defects must be addressed promptly, which means they'll need be brought to developers' attention the moment they're discovered, and explained in a clear manner. Developers and testers need to be on the same page regarding automated test results. A breakdown in communication can bog down development with snafus resulting from misunderstandings of roles and processes.

According to TechTarget contributor John Scarpino, poor planning and communication are intrinsic to one another.

"Insufficient planning may lead to poor communication, thereby creating confusion as to who, specifically, is supposed to monitor the defect," Scarpino wrote.

To prevent failures that result from bad communication processes, Scarpino noted that it's important to have a strong resolution plan in place, and equally as important, a leveraged, centrally managed defect tracking tool that can send notifications to certain personnel. Frequent conversations among team members, teams, and with stakeholders goes far in eliminating communication breakdowns that could arise as a result of performing frequent automated regression tests.

3. Lack of responsiveness

Frequent testing is crucial to successful deployment. Continuous automated testing goes even further to provide precision metrics that cover the inevitable complexities of development, versioning, and updates in today’s software projects. However, with looming deadlines and management pressure important testing at times is postponed or incomplete.

It's important to note that regression tests are more than a static set of repetitive tests. Regression tests must be performed each time there’s an update to existing software or to the systems with which the software interfaces. The beauty of automated regression tests is that test cases can be created and run again later. Organizational success in releasing quality and customer-engaging software emanates from regression testing regimens that include:

  • Defined roles and responsibilities
  • ‘Walking-through’ application components and functionality
  • Defined testing requirements
  • Defined testing tools, such as workflow, use cases, test data
  • Review of artifacts
  • Review of infrastructure requirements
  • Identifying next steps

Especially for large projects, to successfully integrate the testing applications, components, interfaces, and systems, regression test planning requires the development of the:

  • Test Plan –The overall test schematic
  • Methodology Plan – Setting up schedules, assigning roles, developing timelines
  • Proof of Concept (POC) Plan – Demonstrated feasibility of test and development innovation
  • Architectural Assessment – Evaluation and recommendations on the software build
  • Roadmap – Match testing goals with tools to meet them
  • Project Plan – Integrate specified considerations into the Project Plan
  • Timeline Assessment – Development of the testing timeline

Automated regression tests undoubtedly have the ability to enhance the quality of software, especially with the help of an agile testing solution that makes tests easy to create, execute and monitor.

QA teams that step around these three pitfalls are in the best position to verify and validate software quality and functionality. 

Advancing the Test Plan Pattern

As with software development, the thoroughness of QA testing rests upon the exacting precision of the test plan pattern. The composite pattern must conform to the application’s component design. This is easier to do with incremental testing, as testing is integrated into iterative development. Regression testing that evaluates upon completion must alternatively rely upon QA researching the completed application, its specs and documentation, to logically setup and execute the test plan.

The development pattern emerges out of the product design concept, or the solution each product provides to customers, the competitive advantage of company design, and the outreach to customer engagement. Patterned test planning that is advanced through the enduring process of QA/developer communication produces a timely release that is integrated in design and workability.

Disciplined prioritization of regression testing

Oft times the primary solution to the challenges of regression testing can simply be prioritizing the testing sequence, and sticking to the testing schedule.

Understand the business and commercial needs QA supports. Work associates, business partners, and stakeholders require equal consideration and communication relating to their needs and functional requirements. Utilizing developers as subject matter experts (SMEs) can significantly advance the testing models.

Emphasize communication and collaboration. Consistently review the significance and broad results of test runs and metrics tracking among team members, teams, management, and stakeholders.

Create and maintain validated artifacts. Update artifacts for research, repurposing, and documenting testing continuum. The retention reports and records on new releases, changes, additions, and updates to software applications is essential to maintaining the software lifecycle.
Begin testing early. Begin regression testing as soon as there is a completed software component ready to test. Preplan test cases, study lessons learned, validate with stakeholders that test cases are mapped to requirements and expected results.

Use test automation wherever applicable. Regression testing flourishes in the midst of automated testing. QA can quickly and efficiently retrieve regression test results from automated metrics, while also producing reports and records for review and retention.

More essential functions often support other functionalities, making establishing a prioritized testing sequence critical to testing efficiency.

The need for regression testing is continually increasing. Regression testing is essential to the quality performance of any and all software applications. Changing user needs and application growth with successive releases create an irreversible and undeniable requirement for repeatedly conducting regression tests.

The purpose of regression testing is to discover new bugs that could inadvertently have been added to changes, updates, or re-releases. Unless the project is small, automated testing is a must to evaluate the entire software product or product suite. Regression tests evaluate whether a development change in one part of the software affects the functionality of the application. The automated regression test procedure also detects new bugs that may arise after a bug fix.

Regression testing can be trusted to consistently accomplish the testing purpose when the top 3 automated regression testing issues – 1) an incomplete regression test plan, 2) communication breakdowns 3) lack of responsiveness – are effectively addressed.

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