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Some of the common hurdles testers face when trying to automate the testing life cycle, and ways around them

Test automation is arguably the most important innovation to the process of QA testing in software development. The ability to automate regression testing and other repetitive test cases can significantly reduce the overall production time for even the most complex solutions. As software continues to be developed for new platforms - including mobile devices and the diverse array of endpoints that will be created during the rise of the Internet of Things - automation integration will have a huge hand to play delivering reliable, multifunctional products that end users want and need.

Of course, test automation is not without its challenges. Let's take a look at some of the common hurdles testers face when trying to automate the testing life cycle, and ways around them.

Interoperability
One of the biggest challenges facing software vendors across the board is interoperability. The diverse array of devices, operating systems and software development kits often result in integration issues that can negatively impact the final product. The same can be said for automation integration. If a testing management tool is incompatible with a software development tool, or has clunky integration, developers and testers alike with struggle through each phase of the process. Unfortunately, this is a challenge that too many software vendors have written off as something that comes with the territory.

In truth, interoperability issues are not inevitable. There are a variety test management tools on the market that provide seamless integration with the most commonly used software development tools - for example, JIRA test management tools. As more development teams transition to DevOps, many will also shift from traditional SDKs to agile software development tools such as JIRA. The best way to accommodate fluid collaboration between DevOps teams and testers is to seek out an automation testing tool that is truly integrated with the best software development technology on the market. This will preemptively solve any problems that may arise as a result of interoperability, while enabling agile testing methodologies.

A blank drawing board is never a good thing when it comes to test management strategies.

Strategy and organization
Even with the adoption of DevOps culture, there is some still some dissonance among test management teams regarding the best way to organize and execute certain tests. While no two solutions are identical - warranting variation in the specific approach to the testing life cycle - testers and developers within a team must agree on test management strategies that ultimately serves the software. This means, for instance, knowing at what point to begin regression testing, and whether or not certain tests should be run manually first.

One way to abate these issues is to focus on what the solution truly needs, rather than be overly rigid in terms of traditional methodology. Test managers must use all the tools available to them, and not necessarily rely too heavily on one method of testing. For example, simple black-and-white tests should always be automated. Exploratory tests, on the other hand, should be manual, as they require a level of creativity and human foresight that a machine simply cannot supply - at least not yet. As for regression testing, it's always a good idea to ensure that any automated tests that directly impact the user experience are very carefully integrated. Simpler unit tests that focus more on whether or not the solution is executing properly can typically be automated from the get-go. But regression tests that ensure deep functionality for the user experience - typically through the use of key test metrics - should be manually stepped through.

Some degree of manual testing will almost always be needed to complement automation integration when it comes to creating a rich user experience. Machines are smart, but they're not necessarily apt at determining what is intuitive. This requires a more human touch.

Similarly, according to TechTarget contributor Gerie Owen, manual testing is heavily relied upon in the making of very young software that is still trying to pin down its value proposition. This can lead to instability between phases of development, demanding a level of variation in test cases and test metrics that automation integration cannot provide.

Challenges to test automation will always arise. But as long development and QA teams are flexible - one might say agile - throughout the testing life cycle, they will be able to get the most out of automation integration time and again.

More Stories By Sanjay Zalavadia

As the VP of Client Service for Zephyr, Sanjay Zalavadia brings over 15 years of leadership experience in IT and Technical Support Services. Throughout his career, Sanjay has successfully established and grown premier IT and Support Services teams across multiple geographies for both large and small companies.

Most recently, he was Associate Vice President at Patni Computers (NYSE: PTI) responsible for the Telecoms IT Managed Services Practice where he established IT Operations teams supporting Virgin Mobile, ESPN Mobile, Disney Mobile and Carphone Warehouse. Prior to this Sanjay was responsible for Global Technical Support at Bay Networks, a leading routing and switching vendor, which was acquired by Nortel. He has also held management positions in Support Service organizations at start-up Silicon Valley Networks, a vendor of Test Management software, and SynOptics.

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