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Automating Functional Testing – Why and How Should You Do It?


Shobhit Sethi

October 23, 2017

There is no place for error-prone software in today’s digital economy. The role of software testing has assumed great importance in the development lifecycle of a software product as slow or buggy software can jeopardize the future of any company. The role of testing has also become more prominent because the rising complexity of software applications that must go-to-market faster so that they can be positioned as winning business solutions.

Given the pressing demands of software development and testing, test automation emerges as a winning solution that enables organizations to release high-quality software to the market faster and also get the maximum ROI.

What is Functional Testing?

Functional testing is the testing of the functionality of the application. These quality assurance tests deal with how the application functions when it interacts with its users and the rest of the system and how the application executes different functions in comparison with the functional requirements of the application. Unlike unit tests, functional tests are primarily focused only on the functionality of the application and not its inner components. Functional testing is done on the basis of the application requirement by testing functions such as user screen, business processes, integrations, user actions, searches etc.

Why Automate Functional Testing?

While manual testing still remains relevant in today’s software testing landscape, given the fact that development cycles are increasingly getting shorter, manual testing can not only be tedious and time-consuming but also inefficient when it comes to catching bugs. With test automation, testing teams can create new efficiencies that accelerate the testing process, improve software quality, and free up testing and QA experts to expand their quality initiatives.

Functional testing can be resource intensive and time-consuming when done manually considering the sheer number of tests that need to be conducted to test different functionalities of an application. These tests also lend themselves well to automation since the tests are run against a specific set of requirements and hence do not need human intervention.

Automation also helps the QA run and rerun a test with utmost consistency and helps testing teams verify that all pre-existing functionalities work as desired when a new functionality is added and ensure the quality and stability of an application.

How to automate functional testing?

Testing teams have to take an organized and methodical approach for test automation of functional testing to be effective and successful. Here are some of the steps that help businesses achieve this.

Understanding application demands

In order to design a robust test automation suite for functional testing, the test automation experts, manual testers, and product experts have to work closely. This approach helps in understanding and outlining the expectations from the application, gain knowledge regarding the application, understand how the application will be used and design test cases on the basis of this information.

Selecting the candidates for automation

Targeting 100% automation is a recipe for disaster. Even in the case of automating functional tests, it becomes essential to choose the right test cases for automating critical functionalities. Identifying functionalities that are most likely to evolve in the future, will demand expansion or be impacted by changed functionalities are the best candidates for test automation.

Deciding the testing approach

The testing team also should pay close attention to the testing approach as there are several methodologies for creating functional tests. Whether it is keyword driven testing, data-driven testing, test modularity, or test library architecture framework, etc. the focus should be on selecting an approach that enables maintainability, scalability, reusability, and modularity of the testing suite.

Defining the application test plan

When automating functional tests, it also becomes essential to define the application test plan. This includes describing the scope, approach, resources, test coverage and the test schedule of all automated and manual testing activities. This plan has to also define the features that are to be tested, the entry and exit criteria, the testing tasks, the individuals responsible for each activity, the test design approach, the platforms and environments and the associated test metrics for result reporting.

As a best practice, the test environment setup should be a close replica of the production environment to increase the efficiency of the functional tests and improve the productivity of testing teams.

Test automation tool selection

Selecting the right test automation tool is a critical enabler of functional test automation success. When selecting the test automation tool, testing teams should pay close attention to:

  • The skills at their disposal

  • Ease of use of the testing tool

  • Ability of the tool to automate complex workflows and enable speedy test suite execution

  • The spectrum of technology support provided to ensure that the tool supports the technologies used in the application

  • Ability to seamlessly integrate with the Continuous Integration tools and infrastructure as organizations move towards the DevOps world

  • Enable easy modularity and traceability of changes to allow high maintainability of the test suite

  • Allow real-time collaboration for geographically dispersed teams

  • Provide cross-platform support and allow test suite execution across multiple operating systems, platforms, localization environments and browsers

  • Enable tight integration with the complete development ecosystem including test management, defect management, continuous integration etc.

  • Have robust reporting capabilities to capture the exact state of the software during every stage of the test execution for informed decision-making.

Selenium is one of the most preferred open source testing framework used in test automation. Testing experts use it with programming languages such as Java and Python to build their test automation suits.

Testing teams should ideally look at the test automation project as a development effort…one that has to carefully designed, documented and reviewed regularly. By doing so, test automation will deliver on its promise of helping testing teams avoid the burden of performing repeatable tests, reducing the feedback loop, and saving a lot of time that would be otherwise spent on repeatedly executing tests. With the right test automation approach, organizations can adopt a quality-driven software development process that helps in optimizing the software quality and helps them deliver high-quality software applications.

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