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What Makes Agile And Test Automation The Match Made In Heaven


Ashish Jain

January 11, 2018

With the digitization of business, organizations across the globe are looking at opportunities to stay technologically ahead of their competitors. This change has caused software development methodologies to evolve over a period of time. Today, the Agile development methodology has taken precedence over the Waterfall development methodology of the past years. As organizations look for faster ways to stay ahead of the curve and stay in step with market demands, they need a development methodology that helps them not only develop software products faster but also enable faster product iterations, modifications, updates and improvements. The Agile development methodology helps them achieve this and also ensures that software development companies can deliver high-quality, functional software in a short time frame.

However, when the speed of development increases, testing speed has to increase as well. Unless that is achieved, the purpose of agile development is defeated. So test automation becomes essential for the success of agile. With test automation, the teams can ensure that the changed code is adequately tested, the frequent builds do not break the code, the defects are caught early in the cycle, and the performance bottlenecks are handled in a timely manner without compromising on the release cycle timelines.

Here are few reasons how it makes sense to leverage test automation in agile development –

Test fast and test often

Agile is characterized by shorter sprints and faster development and deployment cycles. In order to enable this, increasing the speed of testing to test fast and test often becomes an absolute essential. The sooner the bugs are detected, the faster they can be fixed and a working error-free product can be released into the market. Also, the cost of bug detection increases when it is discovered further down the development cycle and can be even harder to mitigate if it slips out to the customer. A great case in this point could be the Toyota case where the automobile manufacturer had to recall over four thousand vehicles owing to a bug discovered in the brake control system.

Fail fast and fail often

The objective of testing in agile development is to test each and every piece of code, assuming it is error-prone. In order to develop high-quality software products, development and testing teams today have to ensure maximum code coverage and test for failure. Since there is no room for inaccuracy and errors in today’s business scenario, testers need to write code to test the functionality of a piece of software with an understanding of how it is supposed to perform. Only when a piece of code fails can the development team work towards discovering why the code failed and what they can do to make it work. Much like a startup, the ‘fail fast and fail often’ approach becomes very relevant in the agile way of development. Since the volume of tests keeps increasing for greater code coverage, test automation becomes imperative to increase the speed of testing.

Agile means more testing

Agile development demands a large number of tests to be conducted over several iterative versions to ensure that the pieces of code are all working as designed independently and together with the other moving parts of the software. Depending on manual testing to test all the pieces of code would not only be time-consuming and effort-intensive but also ineffective since covering huge volumes of code within a limited period of time with absolute accuracy is humanly not possible. For example, unit tests need to be run after every build. Acceptance tests, integration tests, functional tests, stress tests, component testing, etc. have to be done frequently and comprehensively to ensure that all moving parts are working harmoniously with one another.

For software products today, testers have to also check that the business logic is intact and have to avoid technical debt owing to missed bug detection or code breaks in previous versions of the software. This also increases the number of tests that need to be conducted. Automated testing, thus, becomes essential to enable the same.

Software being developed today is focused on delivering enhanced experiences. And as the software gets more complex so does the code. Complex code, if not optimized and tested, could lead to performance bottlenecks or more frequent code breaks. In order to achieve the purpose of the software under production, increasing test coverage and comprehensiveness becomes imperative. Developing a strong testing suite that can work in conjunction with the agile development process to enable repetitive execution, faster turnarounds, and assured quality becomes a necessity. However, if there is no automation involved then the purpose of agile is defeated – that of creating error-free, high-quality software, faster.

John Ruskin states that “Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.” In the agile development landscape that intelligent effort comes in the form of test automation.

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