Most development teams appreciate the value of testing and test automation, but there's always a push-and-pull when it comes to the time and costs associated with it.
It's important to understand the costs and benefits of testing and test automation in order to decide what level of coverage is appropriate for a given project. At the same time, QA teams should constantly assess new technologies that can help make the process more efficient — paving the way for less time and cost as well as greater test coverage.
Let's take a look at the rationale for writing automated tests, how to quantify the costs, determining how much is really necessary, and finally, how to reduce those costs.
QA teams should understand the costs and benefits of testing and test automation in order to decide on what level of coverage is appropriate.
Why Write Automated Tests?
Tests are critical to ensuring that software behaves as users expect without any errors. By automating these tests, development teams can speed up release cycles. They provide a safety net that gives everyone the confidence to rapidly refactor code, add features and fix defects.
The biggest benefits of automated tests include:
- Less Time - Automated tests can be written once and run unlimited times whereas manual tests must be run each time, which takes time away from feature development.
- Better Onboarding - New developers have greater confidence that they won't introduce errors into production when there's an existing test suite in place to ensure it.
- Improved Reliability - Automated tests are run before each production deploy, which ensures that new code doesn't break anything when released into production.
- Faster Cycles - Automated tests increase development speed by improving confidence in changes. There are fewer (or no) late nights fixing bugs in production after a deploy.
These benefits have helped automated tests become an integral part of Agile development and DevOps initiatives, and several studies have found that development teams using test automation experience fewer production defects and greater product quality.
Quantifying Your Testing Costs
There are several costs associated with writing and maintaining automated tests, including costs that aren't immediately obvious. In fact, a Rainforest QA survey found that nearly 60 percent of quality owners reported test automation costs to be significantly more expensive than forecasted.
Three of the most obvious costs include:
- Cost of writing tests. Tester or developer time must be devoted to writing tests. With competitive salaries, the time dedicated to writing tests can add a lot of cost to a project.
- Environment maintenance costs. Test environments have costs associated with them, including license costs, server costs and costs associated with various tools.
- Test maintenance costs. Testers or developers must maintain tests over time, which means spending more time on writing test, which adds to the cost of the project.
There's also the hidden cost of delayed-release timelines. After all, developers must spend time writing tests that they could be spending on features or fixing bugs. A longer time to market could lead to a missed opportunity to competitors achieving greater market share.
Test Coverage vs. Test Costs
Development teams must weigh the costs and benefits when coming up with a testing strategy.
It's tempting to look at test coverage versus cost as a way to assess efficiency, but test coverage is a poor metric on its own. Low test coverage is usually a sign of trouble, but high test coverage doesn't mean much. Complete test coverage could mean writing tests for things that don't matter in order to achieve a vanity metric for a KPI dashboard.
Martin Fowler points to two criteria that govern if you have the right amount of test coverage:
- You rarely see bugs that escape into production.
- You are rarely hesitant to change code for fear that it will cause a production bug.
You should spend time and resources on test coverage that meets these requirements without "overspending" to achieve complete test coverage. Development and QA teams should thoughtfully consider what test coverage is appropriate and minimize tests looking for things that rarely go wrong or assertion free tests.
How TestComplete Can Help
The best way to reduce the cost of automated testing is to make the process faster and more accessible. While unit tests are straightforward, integration (UI) tests can be a lot more challenging since they change over time. And, end-to-end tests and performance tests can add even more complexity to the test automation process.
TestComplete replaces test code with an automated UI testing tool that makes it fast and easy to create, maintain and execute functional tests across desktop, web and mobile applications. These tests integrate with top continuous integration systems, like Jenkins, SCMs and Git, as well as Azure and other DevOps tools. You can also scale your testing efforts by running tests concurrently on remote or virtual machines.
There are several ways that TestComplete makes testing faster and more accessible:
- Record & Replay - Create complex and scalable automated UI tests in seconds with record and replay functionality powered by the most accurate and customizable object repository.
- AI Recognition - TestComplete's hybrid object recognition engine leverages artificial intelligence to detect and test every application by finding dynamic and complex UI elements.
In addition to integration tests, TestComplete provides native support for behavior-driven development, or BDD, and Gherkin's Given-When-Then scenarios to enable technical and business teams to run business requirement specifications as automated tests. You can go from an IDE to reports in one tool!
Sign up for a free trial to learn how TestComplete can accelerate your testing processes and lower costs.
The Bottom Line
Test automation is a cornerstone of high-quality software, but the tests don't come for free. It's important to consider the costs and benefits of test automation before deciding on the appropriate testing strategy and coverage level for a given application. At the same time, you should carefully consider tools that can help reduce testing costs.
TestComplete makes testing and test automation easier and more accessible to cut down on time and cost. With an easy-to-use interface, developers or test engineers can easily create reusable tests that scale and integrate them with automated testing frameworks.
Download a free trial to learn more!