How to Choose What to do to Automate Your Test Plan

Boil the ocean

eat the elephant

climb the mountain


and now - Automate the tests for the application!!

All things we must do bit by bit, bite by bite, step by step, and case by case.


The task looks like it is just too huge.  The average test plan for a commercial grade application will have between 2,000 and 10,000 test cases.  You have a team of five.  Let’s see, that works out to a thousand a piece or more... Sure, we will be done by next Thursday!


This is the quandary of an applications development shop and test group, thinking about automation for the first time, or even a few more iterations down the road than that.


Let’s lay out some of the issues:


·         Our team knows the application and can run through it in a few days to see if there are any defects.

·         The automation tools can’t be as smart as my team.

·         The automation tools cannot deal with the complexity of my application

·         We failed at automation before

·         We cannot afford failure.


All of this is about setting expectations.  I will say it - automation cannot do it all.  Heresy, from an automation expert.  Yes I said it and I believe it.  You should not automate everything.  I will also say that humans are smarter than machines (forgive me o robotic overlords).


Let’s set the expectations at a reasonable level.  Oh say 20% automation.  Too small the managers yell!  Well let’s quiet them by describing what 20% means.


20% means 20% of your test cases.  which 20% you may ask?  how about the 20% that are used most often, have the most impact, and that chew up around 70% of the test teams time.  Yeah, that 20%.


These are the cases that you spend hours doing, every day, every release, every build.  these are the cases that you dread, it is like slamming your head into a brick wall, the outcome never seems to change, it is monotonous, it is boring, but, yes, it is necessary.  it is necessary because most of your clients use these cases as paths to get their task done, and therefore they are the tasks that pay the company, and the test team, to exist.  they are boring, but important.


I would like to refine the 20%.  and redefine it.  20% represents what in a 40 hour workweek (who has those anymore)?  it is 8 hours;  8 hours is a full day;  at the average testers salary of $60k, it is $250 per week, or $13,000 per year.  if using an automation tool could save just $13,000 per year, per seat, for a team of 5, that is $65,000.  More that the salary for 1 additional staff.


This doesn't mean we need one less person on staff,  this means that we now have the equivalent of one extra staff member to test deeper, and more often, those things that cannot be tested with automation.


So, even if your application is very complex, even if you have failed before, you cannot fail.  You cannot fail because you set the goal as achievable; it is one bite of the elephant; it is one pail of the ocean. it is a first step up the mountain; it is an achievable goal!


Imagine what happens if you hit 30%.

test automation test plans automated testing

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