Automation can help to offset the limitations of manual software test, including poor scalability, long time-to-execute, and the intensive requirement for human resources.
However, building test automation solutions that are cost effective remains a challenge for many organizations.
Here are three areas to consider when it comes to managing the cost of moving to a software test automation framework:
1. Variations in costs
The cost of automation frameworks can vary a great deal. There are multiple factors:
- Buying and implementing the automation tool
- Developing a body of automations to achieve specific purposes
- Maintaining the tool over time
If you use low-cost or open source tools, the cost of entry can be relatively low. You simply must choose the right targets for automation, and approach it the right way.
At SQA, we always start with our clients by producing a small prototype. This proof-of-concept verifies that the tool or approach you are using will work with the technology you’re targeting. It also helps you understand the total cost of ownership to develop the automation, extend it, and maintain it.
It’s also important to keep the business value in mind. The cost associated with automation should be treated as an investment because the automation should be offsetting other costs from manual toil. Those other costs can be dollars, time/efficiency, and quality.
2. The cost versus benefit of automation tools
Code-based automation solutions are often the most extensible, adaptable, and maintainable over time. However, they can come with a higher technical “cost to entry”.
New low-code and no-code test tools on the market today are easier to maintain and adapt than previous-generation tools, and can temporarily increase the efficiency and value of manual testers. So, as a bridge to a more technical testing future, they can be an attractive option — as long as their limitations are understood.
Here are some points to consider with low-code and no-code test tools:
- Pros — They require minimal to moderate technical knowledge (nothing that cannot be addressed with a little training or experience) to get started. In addition, many new tools have powerful features out of the box, which can be a plus if they work with your technical stack and code base.
- Pro/Con — They do not remove test automation complexity, but rather abstract it away from the tester. Some technical resources still must be available to the automation team. Also, their underlying code base can be accessed to extend capabilities; however, doing so defeats the low-code/no-code value proposition, as it re-introduces complexity.
- Cons — They are not as reliable as code-based tools or the best human test analysts. In addition, they ultimately may do little to develop your testers’ basic automation skills.
3. Reducing the cost of updating and maintaining a test automation framework
To minimize the ongoing cost of a test automation framework, it’s important to apply good application development engineering practices in the design. While an automation framework is a specialized type of application, it should be developed with the same level of rigor as, say, a commercial application, to make it more maintainable.
Also, be sure that you have a good alignment between the applications you’re going to test and the problems you aim to solve. For example, if you have an application that is written in micro-services, it will probably lend itself well to API-level testing. For an old legacy application, you’ll probably need to use UI testing.
Another example: If you have a very simple toolset with small amounts of code and minimal changes down the road, and you’re trying to plug in significant automation when you really don’t need to or it’s not the right tool — that will be costly. So, to reduce the cost, think about what, why, and when you need which tool.
While manual software testing continues to be essential, introducing automation to QA and testing can help to ensure that manual efforts are optimized as much as possible. As you build test automation, it’s important to ensure they are both operationally and cost effective.
For more information about introducing automation while optimizing the benefits of manual testing, read the guide, Software Testing in IT: How to Bridge the Gap Between Manual Testing and Automation.