Automated Test Management – Planning

September 20, 2010

When implemented well, automated testing can save a significant amount of time and money. The key is to start your planning with something small, and with tests that offer a high return on investment. A good example of this is the smoke tests run by the team to check that the latest build meets a minimum standard. Assuming these automated smoke tests pass then the release can be accepted by the QA team. Since these types of tests need to be run frequently they make good candidates for automation and should be factored into your planning efforts.

Building up a breadth of these smokes tests can then help you develop up a very effective regression suite. Planning the development of this regression suite from the start will save significantly over the whole test automation planning process.

Make sure, during the planning phase, that you asses tests based on the frequency that they are run and how much time they take to setup. Tests that require a long time to setup and require high degrees of accuracy are well worth automating. If your team spends a significant amount of time setting up tests then this isn’t effort well spent. Automate the setup and then the execution. Automation tools are great at getting the setup and configuration implemented quickly and reliably. This ultimately leads to avoiding the usual errors associated with human errors.

With the tests to automate identified you’ll need to start structuring your testing. Depending on the size of your team you may want to orgainse your tests based on the type of test (e.g. smoke test) or the functional areas of the application under test. Either way it’s important to get the structure right at the start as it makes future test maintenance much easier.

If you value the effort you put into your test scripts then it’s well worth tying your automation tool into a source code control application. Source code control allows you to step back a version when things go wrong and gives you the ability to see where changes have been made over the life time of the scripts. Developers wouldn’t be without a source code control tool so neither should the QA team.

With any automation tool you’ll want to develop your tests in logical sets. Again this makes the management of the automation tests easier over the long run. It also helps when it comes to managing the log files and results generated from the tests (as these artifacts will be produced with the same structure). This structure will also be replicated in any run histories and dashboards you setup so it’s essential to get this right from the start.

The planning of the automated test management process clearly improves efficiency and accuracy. It’s also key to the subsequent dashboards and test reports that you create. Planning the project need not be difficult or time consuming. In fact the more effort spent planning usually means more time saved when it comes to managing the test automation execution.