Test Automation: Benefits and Drawbacks

Like many processes, test automation is a coin with two sides to it. When done correctly, test automation can significantly increase your development team’s performance and test coverage. On the other hand, test automation can also be difficult to implement, maintain, and stay on budget. This is especially the case with an inexperienced team and over-ambitious, but poorly-informed project managers. 

If you aren’t exactly sure what test automation is or you don’t have much experience with test automation, you should read our post about the difference between test automation and manual testing. Once you have a greater understanding of test automation (hopefully after reading this and our other articles), it might be helpful for you to know how spriteCloud offers its test automation services to clients

We write about automation quite often so have a look at our automation page for more interesting articles.

The benefits of test automation

Benefits of test automation

Test automation can have a ton of benefits for your team and organisation. After all, these reasons are why test automation is a very popular and ubiquitous part of modern software development and software testing. 

Saves time and money 

Automated tests can be run during off-peak hours (overnight) across multiple servers and take only a fraction of the time needed for manual testing. This means that developer’s and tester’s time is used in the most cost-effective method and that the team receives faster feedback on the quality of the code. This, among many other reasons, is why test automation saves time and money. 

Increases test coverage

Automating test scenarios and tweaking scripts allows the running of the hundreds of test cases required to exercise all use scenarios, edge cases, and browser and device cross-compatibility tests with much more ease. Test automation frees up testers time to focus on exploratory tests which typically end up finding more bugs that any automated test can.

Improves accuracy

It is usually the mundane, repetitive and difficult tests that are the best candidates for automation. Due to the nature of these tests, accuracy can be a big issue during manual testing. Test automation removes the human, error-prone component from the equation.

Allows increased scale of testing 

Test automation allows for testing on a scale that manual testing can not compete with. Automated tests can simulate hundreds or thousands of users across multiple browsers and devices in several languages. Imagine the number of manual testers needed to do that.

Helps both developers and testers

Once a test script is written it can be run by anyone. This allows developers to independently test certain functions while under development and testers can focus on the maintenance of these scripts.

Improves morale

Manual testing can be boring and repetitive, thereby making it error-prone (as already mentioned). We know this from experience here at spriteCloud, as functional/manual testing is one of our specialities. Test automation frees up testers from frustratingly repetitive, low-level testing while allowing them to focus on more rewarding and challenging tests such as exploratory testing.

The drawbacks of test automation

Drawbacks of test automation

Test automation can have a lot of benefits for your organisation but there are also some drawbacks or areas that your organisation would need to extra pay attention to.

Misunderstanding the role of TA

Some people misunderstand the role that test automation can play in their organisation and assume that once they have the tools to automate their tests, QA engineers and manual testers are no longer needed. Test automation is simply a method of automatically executing tests. Human intelligence in the form of manual testers and QA engineers is always needed to properly test an application and develop and maintain test scripts. One is not a replacement for the other, test automation supplements manual and exploratory testing to create efficiencies when done correctly. 

Let’s also not forget that as the code base of the project grows, so to must the coverage and number of automated tests. With the current “release early, and release often” mindest, code will continue to change fast and there must be a team of test (automation) engineers maintaining and refactoring broken test cases. 

Quality issues

An automated test can only test what it is programmed to check. Therefore, a “passed” test could mask a failure simply because the automated test was not supposed to look for those failures. Also, some automated tests can fail due to issues other than real bugs or defects. Small UI changes or things like network issues could also sound false alarms. For these reasons, manual/exploratory testing and test automation should never be divorced from each other.

Maintenance costs

Test automation can create an efficient testing process, but these test scripts are highly susceptible to changes in the application.  A simple UI change could mean that all previous test scripts need to be refactored (i.e. re-scripted) to account for this change. Due to this, the maintenance of these tests can cost a lot of time and money. 

Mitigating this issue requires forward-thinking by understanding that test automation is an ongoing process. This can also be helped by doing things like separating tests from the frameworks used, using reusable modules while scripting tests, and using good design principles that require less change. 

Proficiency in script writing 

An automated test is only as good as the test script written for it. While it is becoming more common that software testers are becoming proficient with test automation and the writing of test scripts, not all testers are created equal. Script writing can be a tedious and slow process. Scripting languages also change with the project and tool.  

This may change in the future as test automation tools begin offering more “recording” features. The problem with these “recording” tools, however, is the potential to be locked into a particular platform or tooling becomes much greater when testers don’t have the flexibility that comes with being able to script.

Test Automation is still worth it!

The benefits of Test Automation stated above are the reasons why most organisation want to undertake automated testing in the first place. This enthusiasm though can quickly disappear for some organisations that aren’t able to overcome the drawbacks that can be associated with test automation. The greatest way to ensure that your organisation is able to receive the benefits and avoid the drawbacks of test automation is the seek out someone with the knowledge.

Whether it be a test automation engineer who is hired directly into your organisation or a contracted test automation engineer or architect, a knowledgable and experienced engineer will help ensure success. Have a read about the differences between hiring a contractor or full-time employee in the tech world for more information. Also, have a look at what hiring our test automation experts can do for your organisation. 

Test automation is now becoming the standard for software testing in our modern Agile, DevOps, CI/CD, continuous testing world. It is wise to adopt test automation, but be sure you do your due diligence and set yourself up for success.

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