Help Against the IT Skills Shortage: Test Automation
Automation of test processes in software development can partially replace manual testing, says guest author Andreas Grau of Testup.io.
Putting a product through its paces before launch: This step is also part of the daily process in the development of IT applications. To ensure that end users get a bug-free product right from the start, it must be tested continuously. However, due to the shortage of IT specialists and the associated lack of resources, testing all functions is a challenge for many German companies. Urgently needed digitalisation projects are thus increasingly falling by the wayside and the digitalisation momentum of the Corona pandemic continues to stagnate.
Intelligent solutions that support IT teams in the development of applications and create more free space for further development and other value-adding activities are therefore quickly emerging as an economic necessity. The automation of test processes in software development is crystallising as one of these possible solutions. At the same time, the switch to automated testing opens up new opportunities for IT and project managers as well as product owners.
High personnel costs for manual testing
Regular testing of software in the development process is integral: It shows whether a software runs properly, is displayed correctly and it helps to detect errors, missing (system) requirements and unexpected results in time. Usually, testing is done manually, by dedicated experts and without any automation. Accurate and error-free execution requires an experienced approach to the application under test.
Due to the constant repetitive execution of tests, manual testing is therefore associated with a high expenditure of personnel and time – resources that are no longer available to companies without restrictions. This is why many companies decide to outsource these activities to third-party providers abroad. However, outsourcing also entails high investments and is often problematic due to long training periods, language barriers and a lack of IT security.
Automation is not a panacea for skills shortages
With the use of test automation, it is possible to reintegrate these processes into the company. However, some technologies still require specialised personnel or IT developers for implementation, which is why automation is not a panacea for the skills shortage. In order to reduce the need for IT experts with the help of test automation software, the corresponding product should be selected on the basis of certain criteria.
Manual testing cannot be completely replaced at present, but repetitive tests such as regression tests save time and are more effective when they are automated. Nevertheless, not all efficiency is the same. For example, specialised automation software makes the process costly and complicated, which is why it can only be carried out by qualified developers. This means that these solutions create more free space for other activities only to a limited extent.
Test automation software with a black-box approach
In order to sustainably reduce the involvement of IT specialists for continuous testing, the use of test automation software with a black-box approach is recommended. This allows tests to be developed based on specific requirements, which is why this method does not require knowledge of the inner workings of the system under test. Visual and no-code tools in particular lower the barriers to entry and enable even employees with little or no programming knowledge to perform the activities successfully. In addition, they cushion a possible fluctuation in the team, since automation is not linked to special skills of individual employees.
In order to test as efficiently as possible, solutions are also available that can be called up in the cloud at any time via virtual machines. After all, locally executable automations with “capture and replay” procedures are usually not able to handle several tests at the same time. Moreover, they tie up local computers, which prevents their use during the entire test process. Here, visual-based tools offer the advantage of technology-independent automation, as they base their actions on the user interface. This framework creates the best conditions for driving development processes forward and completing them within the planned time window.
Visual applications as communication tools for project teams
Visual tools that are based on images rather than codes benefit project managers and product owners with little technical know-how in particular. These solutions make results understandable for all actors in the development process and enable their intuitive evaluation. Errors and unexpected results can thus be reported directly and comprehensibly. Therefore, visual test automation software opens up new ways of communication and makes collaboration with developers more transparent and efficient. Another advantage is the improved expectation management: possible problems and progress in the development process can be communicated in an understandable way to other departments, the management and customers.
Studies clearly show that the shortage of IT specialists will continue to worsen in the future. In order to remain competitive and fit for the future, German companies must rely on intelligent solutions such as test automation in the future. However, test automation software should be tailored to the individual needs of an IT department or project team. Only with the right solution are project managers able to free IT specialists from repetitive tasks and use them specifically for value-added activities in the development process.