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Automation tools

Extract from Computer Business Review In Search of Quality

Of course, you could outsource the whole testing process, but that does not solve the problem of testing. You will still hit the same bottlenecks and time constraints if you have not allowed sufficient time for testing. Although it will not speed up development, Allcock says: "It kind of helps and there's an independence about it: and you do need to separate your development and your testing."

One way of improving the quality – and taking the grunt-work out of testing – is using automation tools. "What we're trying to do is make it easier for people to do testing as a natural part of their day-to-day work," says Borland's Harrison. "One thing is to integrate the ability to do testing. If you're a developer, your job is to develop code, but if you have to stop and run tests it makes it more difficult. But if you can integrate that and a single mouse-click makes it happen, then you're much more likely to do it."

There are many different testing tools available to help all stages of the development cycle, from code audits that help analyse the complexity of code, to unit tests, where the code is evaluated to see if it does what it is supposed to do. One area where automated tools can really help is with the weekly peer reviews, when developers check over each other's code. "It's boring and laborious and it can be neglected, so automation can really help there," says Harrison.

But as ThoughtWorks' Mitchell points out, although there are tools out there to tackle every stage of development, you still have to build time into the development time to actually use them. "Pretty much every organisation I've been into has invested in automation tools, but they just aren't using them," she says. "It's a big corporate IT phenomenon. We buy packages because it makes us feel we've done something about a problem."

Barry Varley, chief executive of independent testing consultancy Acutest, believes that companies need to invest in training people, and creating effective testing processes, as well as aligning the testing activities with the business needs. "What surprises us most, however, is not poor tool usage. It's the number of development shops that would benefit from spending less time and resources on testing," Varley points out. "Time and money is wasted testing application behaviour that would have little impact on business if it did fail. In one large software developer, we found three quarters of the testing effort on one product was being spent on testing low to medium-impact behaviour, where the likelihood of failure was similarly low to medium. And do the business managers want to delay launch while this goes on? Of course not.

"If you really want to integrate testing into the development lifecycle effectively, start with its governance: take a long look at how aligned the testing is with the business objectives and risks, and provide business managers with more control over testing."

So without the management and organisational impetus to use them, as well as the time in the development process to use them, tools alone cannot solve your testing needs. For, as Hopkins says: "Automation is just a third of the equation of people, process and technology."

The impetus for change must come from the top. A respondent in the Mercury survey, for example, indicated that testing software applications against performance criteria before they went live was regularly ignored by senior management, who instructed them to 'fix it when it goes live'. What is needed is strong project management to prevent this kind of attitude and to ensure that testers and developers communicate throughout the project.

Here again tools can help. Instead of the QA team coming up with a text description to point out problem areas to developers, automated tools can pinpoint the problem. "The QA people are always able to effectively communicate back to developers: the developers are technical, but the QA people don't necessarily have the same level of technical ability, therefore we offer a product where you can capture a snapshot of what's happening when something occurs. That means the QA team can analyse the information and pass it to the development team," says Borland's Harrison.

11 Responses to 'Automation tools'

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  1. kristin martell said,

    To whom this may concern,
    Hope you’re doing well. I recently stumbled across this blog. I thought you may be interested in Aberro’s recent news. Please let me know if you have any questions and/or need additional information. You can download a free trial of AberroTest at: http://www.aberrosoftware.com/downloads.php

    ABERRO INTRODUCES ABERROTEST, INDUSTRY’S FIRST AUTOMATED TESTING TOOL FOR NEW SOFTWARE
    Combines the Flexibility of Manual Test Techniques and the Fast, Unattended Test Execution of Traditional Automation to Bring Robust Testing Earlier in the Software Development Cycle

    ROCKVILLE, MD — May 8, 2006 — Responding to the industry need to improve software quality, Aberro today announced general availability of AberroTest. AberroTest is an automated functional testing tool for developers and quality assurance (QA) teams who want to get an early jump on testing Windows and Web-based applications. AberroTest utilizes Adaptive Automated Testing, a radical new approach to functional testing that enables automation far earlier in the development cycle than any other technique. AberroTest allows defects to be found sooner and repaired quicker, improving overall software quality.

    Today, development organizations build software faster than they can adequately test it. Alternative solutions to AberroTest — traditional automation tools — require time-consuming test development and programming skills that most testers don’t possess. Additionally, changes to the application being tested significantly drive up test maintenance costs. These solutions can’t test early in the development cycle — a time when defects can be corrected quickly and inexpensively. Due to the limitations in current automated test products, over 80 percent of functional test is performed manually, and for new software, this percentage is even greater.

    Bocada®, the leading provider of data protection management software, selected AberroTest to automate the functional testing process. “We had over 3800 manual test sequences to go through. This was an extremely painful process, and due to the complexity of our application, other test automation products couldn’t support us,” said Cherish Adams, Bocada’s QA manager, who guided the evaluation process. “AberroTest allows us to automate our testing much earlier. We are able to obtain what we thought was unobtainable – cost-effective automation from the very first integration test all the way through to the product release.”

    UNIQUE, PATENT-PENDING APPROACH PROVIDES UNPRECEDENTED TESTING CAPABILITIES

    AberroTest leverages Adaptive Automated Testing, Aberro’s patent-pending approach to software test automation. The result of a multi-year research effort, Adaptive Automated Testing generates tests on the fly in reaction to the behavior of the application. Adaptive Automated Testing does not require complex test authoring and is highly resilient to application change.

    AberroTest observes the state of and adapts to the behavior of the application. Powerful verification rules and proprietary algorithms allow AberroTest to verify application behavior from the User Interface through to the application data layer. The combination of configurable data input and variations in test execution enable a single test configuration to generate thousands of tests. Each test run exercises a different path through the application, providing the highest test coverage possible. AberroTest requires no programming, scripting or test authoring of any kind.

    “Considering the complexity of today’s software, it’s amazing how much is tested by hand. The gap between the ability of developers to produce code and testers to test that code is widening,” said Aberro CEO Doug Smith. “AberroTest provides the best of both worlds. It delivers the unattended operation and speedy test execution of automation tools coupled with the advantages of code-free, flexible and high-coverage manual test methods.”

    Key AberroTest benefits include:

    · Shorter Product Development Cycles – AberroTest enables rapid test
    configuration, and combined with automatic test generation, reduces the time it takes to complete functional testing.
    · Cost Savings – By moving defect detection to the front end of the testing cycle, the fix cost is significantly reduced.
    · Increased Software Reliability and Quality –The more paths through the
    application tested, the greater the code coverage and the more defects
    discovered. AberroTest provides the highest coverage possible of an
    application, allowing companies to improve overall software quality.
    · Ease of Use and Dramatic Simplicity – There is no complex test-writing in either code or a scripting language, making it easy for non-programmers to use.
    · Increased Productivity – AberroTest completely eliminates the drudgery of maintaining scripts. This enables QA professionals to spend time verifying the application works, not repairing a broken test script.

    PRICING AND AVAILABILITY
    AberroTest is generally available today and costs approximately $4000 per seat.

    ABOUT ABERRO
    Founded in August 2005, Aberro provides innovative and unique solutions that enable customers to increase the overall reliability of their software while reducing both time to market and development costs. Privately held, Aberro is headquartered in Rockville, Maryland and has development and support offices in Austin, Texas. For more information, please visit http://www.aberrosoftware.com.

  2. Alex said,

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  8. David Smith said,

    Hi there, Very interesting blog. We have recently started using this automated STB / HD PVR test system for testing our HD STB and it has offered us tremendous savings in terms of time and costs. Well recommended

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  10. RFID Reader said,

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  11. Neil Hudson said,

    There are lots of ways that test automation goes wrong with two main categories of issues. These two are:
    (1) Not having something coherent and of value to automate in the first place.
    (2) Automation that is not fit for purpose given the thing that is being automated and the environment the automation has to succeed in.

    Effective use of test automation is like effective automation of any other business activity. Firstly the process to be carried out has to be designed and then secondly some or all of that process is automated. It is correctly operating the process that provides the value and the automation of this that provides the efficiency, speed and, hopefully, consistency.

    When automating testing the process needs to be a well defined pattern of activities and checks that provide a diverse configurable basis for testing. Compare this approach of designing patterns and then building automated delivery of these patterns with typical approaches used to exploiting test automation tools. Practices that would be deemed essential in any other system development are simply ignored.

    Now think of the quality of the test automation itself. Compare your experiences with what you see in the automation of other business processes. For example think about automation of a call centre. Here processes dealing with customer enquiries and orders are automated. What a difference you will see in the amount of attention given to handling with variation and anomalies. Resilience is recognised as essential to successfully automating the call centre but is rarely considered when automating tests.

    Ultimately when you get down to it the bottom line is that it really matters how much, or how little, intellectual effort is invested into both the concepts and realisation of automation. Low levels of intellectual investment lead to test automation projects failing to deliver expected returns and to tools falling into disuse.


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