Agile automation techniques answer the need for development speed

vege - Fotolia

This article is part of our Essential Guide: What you need to know about software testing automation

The secret weapon in the war on software testing automation

Software testing automation has long been the goal, but the challenges are real. A new generation of scriptless tools promises to make it easy and within everyone's reach.

The year 2017 may well be when automated software testing grabs more than a foothold in the market.

A just released survey from Sauce Labs shows 32% of respondents are mostly or entirely automated, up from 25% last year. Driving that move to testing automation is DevOps, which makes automation a requirement for rapid deployment.

But there's a reason it's taking a while for software testing automation to kick in. It's just not easy to do. "The biggest problem is you're essentially writing code to test code so when things break the first thing that happens is the argument of is it the software that's broken or the test code?" said Tricentis CEO Sandeep Johri.

The answer to that is new and better tools, specifically scriptless tools that don't require coding to automate a test. According to the Sauce Labs survey, 87% of companies report using some kind of testing tools for automation, said Diane Hagglund, principal researcher at Dimensional Research, which conducted the survey. But a rather sobering 42% admit most of their testing efforts remain manual.

Johri would go further than that. "We haven't met an enterprise that's claimed it's more than 20% automated," he said flatly. The Tricentis answer to that is a tool, Tosca, that requires no scripting at all. "You can build it out like a Lego block," Johri said. "You don't need to have tech skills to build out your test cases any more. Now manual testers can become automation experts without becoming coders."

Robert Stroud, principal analyst serving infrastructure and operations professionals at Forrester Research, said this idea of streamlined automation is vital for companies looking to achieve DevOps, and certainly the next step, BizDevOps. "It all depends on a totally automated tool chain," he said. "We need to be devising a new solution that will let you hit a button and it just happens."

Now manual testers can become automation experts without becoming coders.
Sandeep JohriCEO, Tricentis

That's the goal with scriptless software testing automation, Johri said. "There are manual testers you can't train to become developers, but you can get them certified on how to automate building test cases. In the past year we've gone from about 3,000 certified to 11,800. We're hoping to get to 25,000 certifications."

Without new tools, "manual testers are really starting to wonder where they're going to fit in this DevOps world," said Ajay Kaul, managing partner at AgreeYa Solutions, a scriptless software testing automation provider based in Folsom, Calif. AgreeYa's sweet spot is small and medium-sized businesses, Kaul said, and the company is definitely seeing tension between developers and testers. "In some cases developers are being pushed into being very involved with testing and in others testers are being eliminated altogether," Kaul said. It's part of the overall "shift left" to DevOps and it's been a frustrating situation for everyone involved.

The answer, he said, is to put power back in the hands of the manual tester. "We want to simplify the test automation process," Kaul said. "We've removed the complexity of scripting from automation. We're trying to make it not time-consuming to enable manual testers."

And despite the frustrations, Kaul does not see manual testing disappearing completely. "For the foreseeable future, we don't see a situation where manual testing is going to become obsolete."

Next Steps

Can you really fully automate your testing strategy?

Take the first steps toward BizDevOps

Take a look at the 2016 Sauce Labs survey

Dig Deeper on Automated and autonomous testing