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Hidden Cost of Test Automation


All of us acknowledge the benefits of automation in software testing. Test automation enables us to run the checks faster, as many times as we want.

While test automation saves your time and money, there are few hidden costs that not all of us are aware of.

Learning Costs

Most of the tools look easy to operate, like a simple login and some basic data entry. Tools are being demonstrated very simply and in the easiest use cases. So that you think you can learn and operate it quickly. But as soon as you try it on your real project, you come to know that this is not as easy as it seems to be. Dependencies of all third party plugins, libraries, specific versions are also there.
After all the hard work, once you configure the tool, now you cannot test it just for the use cases built in the tool itself. You need to test it with the use cases and requirements of your real projects. The operation will be required on multiple machines and networks also. Observe if you need somebody to help you with it or you can learn it on your own. The best approach will be to pick up a few real automation scenarios for your automation suite and give these to the team members to develop using the tool, who will work on this project.

There have been multiple cases across multiple teams where the tool looked simple to learn but performed poorly when deployed to integration cases. It is good to do your due diligence before applying any tool. You can check forums, reviews, and the resource section on the tool website to know what type of problems have already been solved and what are the challenges still up.

This should be remembered that learning cost is not a one time cost, it is a recurring cost every time when a new feature is released and a new resource added to the project.

Adoption Costs

Change is always hard and people resist any new change because they are comfortable with ongoing things and uncomfortable with any new change regardless of its merits. The transition from old tools to a new tool is not straight forward. The team has to let go of all the efforts already put in the project and on the current tool.
Any orders imposed in a top-down manner have rarely worked in a long term period. If the team working on the ground takes it as a burden and does not embrace the change, the road ahead to successful test automation will be difficult.

This kind of mismatch happens in many teams, a team is forced to use a new tool that they are not familiar with and they have to learn the new tool from scratch because the client or the company already spent a lot of money on that particular tool. This kind of issue arises when the automation team is not involved in purchasing decisions.

As a best practice, talk to the people and gather their honest opinions on the transition cost. A little proof of concept on the actual project use cases is worth the investment. You will likewise get a thought for the support for the tool from the individuals who will really be utilizing it.

Maintenance Costs

If you are thinking that you can waive off the tool cost by opting for an open-source tool or a free tool, please keep in mind there are maintenance costs as well. You should opt for tools that are up to date with changes like browser versions and other latest technologies.

Automation projects are like a long walk, you should be able to work continuously for a long time. The majority of the time, any technological change requires a lot of rework, so the tool should be capable of accommodating that. There is almost no chance where the automation team writes a project automation script and that script is never required again.

To save this rework effort, sometimes teams do not go for newer version upgrades as new updates require a lot of rework in the framework and effort to handle compatibility issues. But in this case, you will have to sacrifice a lot of new features and capabilities.

There have been projects where every line of code written as expected and even a simple change in it like a new version of any resource used or a little flow change, destroyed the entire script. Lack of testability and flexibility can delay the progress. These types of costs should be acknowledged.

Maturity Costs

Trying to implement automation forcefully into your software testing has become a routine for many teams. All this is driven by the fear of lagging behind. There is no certain rule on the need for test automation, the maturity of the existing processes, or how the automation would add extra benefits to the overall project.

A proof of concept is beneficial only to evaluate the ease of learning and the current problems. The final cost of a tool is the determining factor for a team’s decision for their pick or going for a different tool.

Lack of planning and no long term vision hurts any team more rather than the choice of a tool. Some teams are not mature enough for introducing automation, no matter they practice agile development methodology.
So how will you come to know if your team is mature enough to go for automation? The way out is to find other teams already practicing automation. Find out their good practices and see if you can adapt what they do.

Few Questions to Ask before Starting Automation

Before you go and start your test automation, you should get answers to a few questions below:

  • Is the tool capable enough for the real world challenges?
  • Is there enough help and resources available for the team to take on any upcoming challenges?
  • Was there a proof of concept done already with real use cases?
  • Are the teams ready to adopt the changes?
  • Have the team chosen the tool analyzing it or the tool is imposed on them?
  • Is there a skill set matching with the tool?
  • Is there enough planning done for this project? Is it one-time planning or long-term?
  • Is automation really required at the moment for current projects?
  • Has anyone else in the company tried anything similar before? Can we learn from them?
  • Do we really need to purchase the automation tool or any open-source or free tools we can use?

By going through these questions teams can reveal some of the hidden costs in the automation process.

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