Do You Need an Automation Test Plan? The Benefits of Early Planning

Timothy Joseph
Timothy Joseph | July 9, 2019

Do You Need an Automation Test Plan? The Benefits of Early Planning

Automation requires a lot of manual effort. Before you push a single test case through the precision rigors of an automation test suite, you have to account for and describe every potential.

Machines are tools. They are not thinkers. They do not recognize the genius in your coding or the end-user experience at the market edge of your product.

In fact, no matter how strong your code is, if you do not have the right test automation framework in place, your test will be brittle and it will break.

That is why it is crucial you have an automation test plan in place from the earliest stages of your development process. This plan is the foundation of the project ahead of you. When executed properly, it captures the insights of all relevant stakeholders and keeps you focused on overall ROI.

Planning is preparing solutions in advance of problems.

Overcome Challenges with an Automation Test Plan

Despite the fact that it introduces time and cost benefits that can make a big difference toward a project’s success or failure, test automation is not a magic solution. Many challenges arise in the absence of a comprehensive automation test plan.

You may recognize some of the following:

  • Disconnection between developers and testing
  • Early-stage time and resources
  • Limitations of automation
  • Lack of automation experience
  • Decentralized goals and strategies
  • Test framework and tool uncertainty
  • The need for manual testing
  • Lack of understanding on the scope of automation and its timeline
  • Lack of prioritization of the right tests to automate

The solution to each of the above lies in the test plan process. As with automated test execution itself, each overall project is only as successful as the preparation that precedes it.

Here is a quick look at how you can address some of these common automation challenges.

Disconnection between developers and testing

QA should not cause an us-and-them divide between your development and test automation teams. Gone are the days when the developer worked on a product until it was “finished” and then threw it over the proverbial fence to undergo testing. The Agile method, which is favored by many of the world’s leading software companies, instead forges a continuous integration between the two sides of your product development, with staged coding followed by short test sprints. This model of iteration, evolution and evaluation promotes cross-functional communication and a team-wide responsibility for every aspect of your final application.

Early-stage time and resources

There is no substitute for quality test case development, but that development takes up precious time within your release cycle. That is why you must factor your test automation requirements into your initial test plan. Make reasonable estimates on the preparation required, and adjust your schedule accordingly. Bear in mind that you will also have to dedicate time and resources to reviewing your test schedule and parameters as the QA process evolves.

Limitations of automation

Automated tests check only what they have been programmed to check. You need to build comprehensive test cases to ensure the build strength of core code-level functionality. AI is gathering momentum as an automation test force, but despite our technical wizardry, we still live in an age of “garbage-in, garbage out.”

If your team does not have automation testing as a core asset, outsource this vital function to a QA expert that does. Otherwise, you risk undermining your entire test phase.

Lack of automation experience

As with the point above, it is important that you understand the limitations of your team. Coding and testing are two very different elements of the overall product delivery process. Less-than-comprehensive test cases will give the illusion of application stability, which can lead to end-user failure.

Be honest when evaluating your test automation resources at the planning stage, and bring in external expertise where needed. There is far greater risk involved in pressing under-qualified staff into QA roles than there is in onboarding an external partner.

Decentralized goals and strategies

Here is that development vs testing divide again. Failing to adopt an Agile, cross-functional approach to QA lowers the vision and limits the responsibility of your team’s actions. Developers removed from the test phase can see it as an attack on their work while testers excluded from planning and innovation may have a limited investment in the overall product.

Plan to embrace an inclusive, Agile approach to your test phase from the very inception of your production schedule.

Test framework and tool uncertainty

The rapid uptake of automation as a method of replacing and improving upon the efforts of human testers has given rise to a slew of automation test tools. There are dozens of licensed and open-source tools currently available, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Similarly, there are a range of different test automation frameworks available to guide the implementation of those tools. The best approach to selecting both key elements is to begin with your own project requirements. Choose a mix that emphasizes your team’s strengths and expertise and that works within your development environment.

If in doubt, seek the support of an external QA team with an agnostic approach to test automation. Remember, the tools are there to service the product, not the other way around. Use our list of Questions to Ask Your QA Tester to make sure you find a partner that will mold their methods to suit your product.

The need for manual testing

There are foundational limitations to what automated testing can achieve. Some elements of product testing require the insight of human engineers, especially those concerned with the end-user experience. Comprehensive 100% test coverage is only possible when automation is supplemented with manual testing.

While each product development process and environment is unique, you can generally expect a level of manual testing to be required across all the following standards:

  • User interface testing
  • User acceptance testing
  • Usability testing
  • Error handling testing
  • Installation testing
  • Security testing

Manual testing is also an opportunity to involve stakeholders outside your test team in the QA process. Their product and domain knowledge can unlock key innovations.

Lack of understanding on the scope of automation and its timeline

Automation may be one of the most important advantages for your testing needs, but do not overestimate the scope of the automated potential. A comprehensive automated test plan can help you better understand all the necessary steps before, during and after an automated test case. It can also help you to adequately budget your time and resources.

Lack of prioritization of the right tests to automate

There is time to be gained through automation, but there is also time to be lost if not done strategically. As with any specialized industry, it takes a depth of QA experience to design smart and efficient automation test plans. It can be easy to misinterpret which tests should come first, which deserve the bulk of your QA resources and exactly how to report, analyze and act on test results. Whereas an expert can immediately determine which test cases can and should be automated and which should be reserved for manual attention, you might waste time and resources figuring out that ideal balance in the first place.

As a suitable answer to any of the above challenges, you can also turn to the expertise of an external QA provider to help you strike the right balance between manual and automation testing.

Prioritize Automation Solutions

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, as the old saying goes. That is certainly true of test automation. The truth is that for all its speed, reliability and repeatability, the success of test automation is entirely dependent on the preparation that comes before implementation.

Test automation is a powerful asset in your software development arsenal, but you have to know how to load it before it can provide any benefit.

If you are not an expert in test automation, find a partner who is. Otherwise, you are wasting one of the prime methods of building better products faster.

QASource engineers are test automation experts. They have automated more than one million test cases across $11 billion in successful customer exits, covering every major digital domain. If you want to share in the automation advantages enjoyed by global leaders such as Ford, IBM and Oracle, reach out and lean on a QA leader. Contact us today for a free quote, or call +1.925.271.5555 to get started.


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