Back to Blog

A Comprehensive Guide to Automation Testing in Agile Teams

A Comprehensive Guide to Automation Testing in Agile Teams

Data from Valuates Report projects that the market size for automation testing will reach USD 21870 million by 2028. The report primarily associates this trend with the fast-paced developments in modern technology and the increased demand for machine learning, IoT, and artificial intelligence. Besides these, automation sits at the very center of the agile methodology – the most efficient and widely-used method to develop software today. 

But how exactly does it work, and what can agile teams benefit from it? Do you need to use automation testing all the time? What are the pros and cons? Learn everything about automation in agile testing in our comprehensive guide below. 

Automation Testing in Agile Methodology

Regardless of the field or niche, automation can bring numerous benefits ranging from reduced costs to increased efficiency. That’s why it’s not surprising why it has become an integral component of agile software development. Here’s a closer look at the leading reasons agile testing and automation are almost inseparable:

Frequency of updates 

Agile projects often do not have a complete set of requirements. Instead, teams have to constantly make changes to satisfy the demands of end-users, the client, and the current market trends. Thankfully, automation provides testers and developers enough room to respond to changes by freeing up the time used to complete routine and repetitive tests. 

Exhaustive and continuous testing 

Continuous testing is among the key aspects of DevOps culture and the agile methodology. It provides several benefits to both businesses and IT teams such as: 

  • Shortened release cycles
  • Immediate feedback for crucial stakeholder concerns 
  • Lowered operational costs
  • Early and efficient removal of defects that might impact the product’s performance and quality
  • Remove or resolve conflicts between newly added app functionalities and the pre-existing ones.

Notably, continuous and exhaustive testing can put immense pressure on a tester. By automating some of the usual tests, engineers or analysts can have more time to discover, investigate and learn about the app’s features.

Better visibility of test scripts

Test automation can provide testers and developers a quick view of the test scripts used. This can give the teams a long time to resolve issues and improve the code. 

The shorter software development cycle

Unlike the waterfall methodology, agile uses shorter development cycles. Most of the time, teams only have a couple of weeks to understand the project's requirements, implement code changes, and run tests. If teams have to run manual tests for everything, the development cycle might exceed the expected timeframe. Alternatively, if testers speed up the testing process, this could compromise the app’s performance and quality. 

A Closer Look at the Benefits of Automation Testing

With the increasing pressure to automate, we highly encourage tester and development teams to look into its benefits. After all, these might help you convince your leaders to tap into automation testing for your agile development projects: 

  • Cost-effective approach 
  • Improved accuracy, especially for repetitive tests
  • Increased testing efficiency
  • More extensive test coverage
  • Increased reusability of scripts
  • Better performance of QA and Dev team 
  • Faster time to release and market a new product
  • Shorten feedback time between the groups involved in developing an application
  • Timely resolution of bugs and other issues 
  • Hassle-free regression testing
  • Clear and easy to track reports and documentations
  • Increased cross-browser compatibility 
  • Better utilization of talent and workforce 
  • Comprehensive batch testing
  • More chances to scale tests

Challenges of Test Automation

Besides knowing about the main benefits of automation testing, we believe it’s also helpful to learn about the critical challenges that development teams struggle with. Some examples of these include:   

  • Unstable user interface 
  • Customizing controls 
  • Software and environment configuration
  • Automation tool selection 

Specific Applications of Automation Testing

Now that we have established the role of automation testing in agile software development let’s look into its specific applications. For starters, does every agile testing require automation? 

Agile developers can agree that automating every possible QA test for software is impractical and unnecessary. That’s because test automation comes with a few disadvantages. Learning about these can help you find ways to work around them and manage your expectations, especially when automating tests for the first time. 

  • Requires highly skilled testing engineers to create the scripts
  • High upfront costs compared to manual testing
  • Requires attention to test scripts – one flaw can ruin things and lead to disastrous consequences.
  • Requires a lot of time and effort to set up during the initial phase
  • Doesn’t work for some aspects of an application, such as the UI and UX
  • Sometimes, testing tools might come with flaws that might affect the results of the tests you run
  • Some test tools only work in a limited environment (specific browsers, operating systems, etc.)

Understanding these pitfalls of automation testing can also help you sort through the different test cases and discern whether to use automation or manual testing. Below are some of the essential criteria that testing engineers refer to when making a decision: 

  • Repeatability (e.g., benchmark, performance tests, sanity, and regression tests)
  • Potential to save time and resources 
  • Variability of the test, requirements, or tasks 
  • High risk for human error 
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Length of time you need to run tests (the longer you need to repeat tests, the higher the ROI)
  • The complexity of the test, especially when done manually by engineers

Test Automation Frameworks: Your Key to Maximizing the Benefits of Test Automation

A framework is among the popular technical terms used in programming. Essentially, it refers to a combination of tools and guidelines needed to develop reliable and valuable applications or systems. It also comes in handy in helping enterprises and IT teams make the best out of their invested effort and money. 

The automation test framework operates in the same manner. It helps testers and developers facilitate tests and produce comprehensive reports. Here’s a quick overview of the different test automation frameworks: 

Linear automation test framework 

Testing engineers refer to it as the most straightforward test automation infrastructure. Some fondly refer to it as “Record & Playback” because it records and validates steps, then playback the recorded information.  

Advantages:

  • Fastest option available in generating script
  • It doesn’t require automation expertise 

Disadvantages:

  • Requires hardcoding the test data into the script
  • Challenging to maintain 

Modular-based test framework

This framework consists of smaller modules obtained after breaking down the application. It also uses separate and independent scripts for easier maintenance and scaling. 

Advantages: 

  • Allows compartmentalized updating of an application
  • Reusable test scripts can help testers save time and energy 

Disadvantages:

  • It doesn’t allow the use of multiple data sets
  • Requires advanced programming knowledge

Library architecture test framework

The Library architecture framework for test automation shares similarities with the modular type. But, instead of breaking apart the app using the different tests, this involves grouping tasks into distinct functions. So, in a way, it breaks down an application based on the shared objectives. 

Advantages: 

  • It offers a high level of modularization, allowing testers to scale tests without worrying about maintenance and cost issues
  • Higher script reusability thanks to the extensive library of common functions

Disadvantages:

  • Similar to other frameworks, changing the test data also requires making changes to the script 
  • Requires advanced technical experience to prepare and analyze common functions found within test scripts
  • It takes a longer time to develop due to the increased complexity of the test scripts 

Keyword-driven test framework

Some testers refer to this infrastructure as table-driven testing. Testing engineers mostly use this for small projects and applications. Essentially, the script comes from keywords specified in the project’s Microsoft Excel sheet.  

Advantages:

  • Reusable scripts because you can include a keyword in multiple test scripts
  • It doesn’t require advanced scripting or programming knowledge

Disadvantages:

  • Comes with high upfront costs
  • Can be time-consuming to set up at first
  • Requires having a staff with basic automation testing skills
  • Keyword tracking can be demanding as you scale a test operation

Data-driven test framework

This specific automation testing framework reads test data from a file or database like ODBC sources, CSV files, or ADO objects. Unlike most test designs listed above, the data-driven test framework doesn’t require hard-coding data into the test scripts. 

Advantages:

  • Reduces costs of adding or changing tests when you decide to change the rules of the business
  • Helps identify which data matters most for tested behavior 

Disadvantages:

  • Requires a seasoned tester proficient in using different languages 
  • Requires a significantly long time to set up everything needed

Hybrid Test Framework

The hybrid test automation framework combines the key benefits of any of the test designs discussed above. Its main goal is to leverage the perks and work around some of the disadvantages of the chosen test designs.  

Advantages:

  • Provides testers the opportunity to maximize the benefits of their chosen framework

Disadvantages:

  • Increases automation effort because tests need to be fully scripted 

Main Components of Test Automation Infrastructure

The automation test framework consists of two major components. These factors work hand in hand in ensuring that a test automation infrastructure delivers results. Here is a closer look at them:

Test data management

Techopedia defines test data management as the process of planning, creating, storing, and managing QA tests and methodologies. The main objective of this test automaton component is to optimize the testing data size and centralize the documentation and resources (libraries, plugins, etc.) used.

Testing libraries

Testing libraries are the repository of all the test cases used and developed for the software development project. It can include integration, unit, and end-to-end testing and behavioral-driven development (BDD). Here are the differences between them:

  • Unit testing – Testing engineers refer to it as the fastest testing method. They are also the easiest and the cheapest to debug. Notably, testers use unit testing to define methods and run simplified tests. 
  • Integration testing – Integration testing focuses on the modules or interfaces. Instead of testing individual units, this involves checking components that form groups. These help testers and developers expose problems between integrated units.
  • End-to-end testing – E2E testing checks the app’s workflow from start to finish (hence its name, end-to-end). It replicates real-life user scenarios to help the system validate data integrity and integration. 
  • Behavioral Driven Development (BDD) – Libraries solely dedicated to recording BDD help convert features and scenarios of an expected behavior into a readable code. Some examples of BDD libraries include Jasmine, Cucumber, and SpecFlow. 

The Thee Agile Testing Techniques

Besides familiarizing yourself with the different test designs enumerated above, you might also find it helpful to look into the three agile testing techniques. These methods are crucial to improving product quality and enabling developers to release software updates within a shorter timeframe. Let’s take a quick look at the three: 

Test-Driven Development (TDD)

True to its name, this testing technique requires agile testers to discuss what they want to test. Then, testing engineers can develop the user story and write the code until the unit test gets a green light. Essentially, this technique aims to maintain the functionalities of an app. 

Behavior Driven Development (BDD)

The behavior-driven development often gets confused for TDD and ATDD. However, unlike the two, this one is tied to a specific business outcome. So, essentially, BDD requires creating a user story that satisfies business-related goals. 

Acceptance Testing Driven Development (ATDD)

The ATDD follows a customer-centric approach, requiring the development and testing team to work with customers and run acceptance tests. Unlike TDD and BDD, it focuses on checking if a product’s functionality meets the expectations of the end-users. It also detects defects promptly with the help of the Test Pyramid or an Agile Testing Quadrant

Best Practices in Automating Tests for Agile Teams

Indeed, test automation has proven its worth in software development. 

If your team hasn’t tried tapping into automation testing before, now might be a good time to rethink your approach to software development. Hopefully, our guide above has shed light on some of your questions or concerns.  

Now, if you are already considering automation, we strongly recommend reading through our list of proven practices in automating agile software tests:

Run regular maintenance tests 

Regular maintenance of automated tests makes it easier to add modifications and ensure the smooth flow of an app. Additionally, when scheduling maintenance, we suggest looking into the costs and resources involved. Also, we recommend remembering that every test case will continue to run until you decide to modify or remove it.  

Define your automation testing strategy

Some testers forget that having a test automation strategy can make a significant difference. With it in place, a DevOps team can take advantage of various benefits, including: 

  • Providing a more comprehensive QA testing
  • Lowering maintenance costs 
  • Eliminating confusion and miscommunication by creating a standard for your team or organization
  • Providing desirable results that will help you earn the trust of key stakeholders

If you don’t have an automation testing strategy yet, you can start creating one by defining your test environment, resting approach, and tools to use. 

Find the best automation testing tool 

The tool you work with can largely influence the results of the tests you will run. That’s why it’s imperative to learn which tools would best serve your needs and demands. Katalon shares a few questions that you should ask yourself when browsing through available automation testing tool options: 

  • What are the features you need?
  • Who will use the testing tool – the QA or Dev team? 
  • How much is your current budget for automated testing? 
  • Do you have a tech support team available in case of technical concerns?
  • What are the maintenance requirements for the scripts?
  • Are your test assets reusable?
  • Can you integrate the tool with your CD/CI pipeline?
  • What is the level of the tool’s learning curve? 
  • What specific testing types does the tool support? 
  • Does the tool come with a robust reporting function? 

Besides these guide questions, it might also come in handy to try the tool yourself. This will help you understand how it works and how your team might use it for your testing projects. We also suggest looking into the tool vendor refund policy and existing customer reviews. 

Check your data and resources

It’s virtually impossible to automate your way out of issues caused by poor data and other resources. Your test data will serve as the output – a mandatory value needed to run a test. Furthermore, the test data confirms that the app satisfies technical demands and customer expectations. Here are some ways you can control the quality of your test data and resources: 

  • Refresh your test data regularly
  • Mask personally identifiable information 
  • Check the validity of your data
  • Limit and manage data access

Outline your team’s work approach

Having a clear outline of your team’s goals for QA testing can significantly affect everyone’s performance and productivity. So, it would help develop a goal-centric work approach before executing agile testing processes. 

Take note of the top test automation mistakes

Sometimes, the extreme desire of QA teams to maximize their automated testings leads to disastrous mistakes. These blunders can set a team back by a few weeks or months and cause significant software development problems. Are you familiar with the most common test automation mistakes? Learn more about them and their respective solutions below: 

  • You automated the wrong tasks – This can lead to wasted effort, time, and resources. It can also cause delays and budget problems. To work around this issue, we recommend focusing on deterministic and repeatable tests.  
  • You chose inefficient tools – As we mentioned above, your choice of automation testing tools can affect the outcome of your project. So, it would help to go over our list of questions above when choosing a product. Additionally, we strongly recommend defining the specific issues you want to solve before browsing for a tool.  
  • The tools you bought aren’t a good fit for your team – Several companies and organizations end up purchasing products that don’t meet the team's technical skills. Sadly, this mismatch affects how well a team can navigate through the software and use it to complete their tasks. If you share a similar dilemma, we suggest doing a brief software trial to check skill gaps and help your testers become familiar with the tool. 
  • The team struggles to embrace automation – Introducing automation testing can sometimes lead to confusion because many think it will completely replace manual testing. However, in truth, this isn’t the case. It’s crucial to remind testers and QA engineers that both testing methods are needed in software testing. Each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses to help teams move forward in their projects. 

Adopt an agile software testing mindset

Agile development primarily focuses on the people involved instead of the process itself. So, it would help to adopt the same mindset when working on a project. This means becoming an active listener who constantly checks articles, books, blogs, and other resources to gain new skills and ideas. 

Make sure you automate regression testing

Automating regression testing provides a lot of value to testers. For one, it helps minimize tech debt caused by bugs that go unnoticed after a code update. Secondly, it provides teams with valuable insights useful in problem-solving and app maintenance. If you haven’t tried regression test, here are some steps you can follow:

  • Analyze software changes
  • Run software change analysis
  • Develop your regression testing strategy
  • Create a regression test suite
  • Execute regressions test
  • Create a report for stakeholders

Provide continuous feedback

Testing engineers shouldn’t just focus on testing the app constantly. Instead, testers also need to relay customer feedback to the development team. This step is crucial to creating a robust and excellent product. 

Create collaboration opportunities with customers

Agile testing is highly collaborative, so it pays to create opportunities where customers can interact with the technology. Some examples of these events include offline and online events like wikis, instant messages, webinars, and teleconferences. 

Bottomline

The demand for agile applications and automation testing will likely continue to rise in the next decade. That’s why companies and organizations might find it helpful to start exploring both things and maximizing the benefits that they offer. 

Again, we hope our comprehensive guide on automation testing has provided you with helpful insights. For more information on agile software development, automation testing, and other topics, you may reach out to our team!

Subscribe to our newsletter

Receive tips on how to build an efficient and effective technical organisation leading you to become a recognised executive leader.

Thanks for joining our newsletter.
Oops! Something went wrong.