Test Automation as an Effective Means of Accelerating Digital Transformation Journeys

24 May 2024

Digital transformation (DT) has completely reshaped the way businesses operate today. Just have a look at some breathtaking, motivational success stories. Sonnen Group completed digital transformation by 2021, introduced Agile workflows, and enhanced sales software to better cater to clients’ needs. Another success story is Coursera, with smart implementation of digital technologies and the development of mobile solutions, they attracted more than 100 million students to their platform.

So, it’s not surprising that 64% of McKinsey’s survey respondents stated that they need to create novel digital businesses to outmaneuver the competition, while global expenditure on technologies related to DT rise continuously and is tipped to comprise $3.9 trillion by 2027.

However, DT journeys are challenging due to the intricacy of modern technologies and may even take years, especially if the business is large. How can companies ease and speed up this initiative? Among other things, they can rely on automated testing as it accelerates time to benefits and raises confidence in the quality of applied software solutions.

Therefore, in this article, I’ll focus on the test automation role within DT, benefits, and tips for successful adoption.

Digital Transformation at a Glance: Why Is It So Vital for Business?

DT can be defined as a set of strategic actions aimed at rearranging a company’s key processes and upgrading the leveraged tech stack (the introduction of AI/ML, IoT, cloud, big data, robotics, digital twins, blockchain, etc.) to take business to the next level. This significant modification can contribute to multiple benefits, including but not limited to:

  • Superior customer experience. With state-of-the-art, intuitive digital solutions, it can be much easier for the brand to share data about its products or services, provide high personalization and better understanding of customer needs, support end users 24/7 with chatbots, and ensure a presence across multiple channels.

  • Decreased financial expenses. A switch to modern digital solutions can contribute to economizing. For instance, company-wide cloud adoption neutralizes the necessity for maintaining expensive hardware and can even allow for work-from-home options, removing the need to rent facilities. World-renowned tech organizations, such as Lyft, have already cut costs by embracing remote work.

  • Boosted productivity. Digitalization is closely related to automating processes within an organization, enabling many activities to be performed faster and with fewer resources.

  • Innovation and product upgrade. Bolt is a good example of IT solution improvement. Originally a ride-hailing service, the company expanded its list of services over time to include food delivery, car sharing, and micro-mobility services.

Test Automation Role Within a Digital Transformation Journey

The introduction of cutting-edge DT technologies, such as AI/ML, AR/VR, robotics, big data, RPA, or cloud, is fraught with challenges due to their high intricacy, newness, and probable lack of data about the tiniest nuances of their operation. How can companies make sure that solutions based on these technologies work correctly and without disruptions? How to confirm that end users won’t face any problems, especially those affecting data security?

I’d say introduce software testing. When done from the earliest development stages of the project driven by Agile methodologies, quality assurance helps detect defects of diverse severity and fix them in a cost-effective manner before they turn into a real problem after software launch, contributing to end-user churn.

However, often, software development projects deal with large functionality upgrades or the introduction of new features, which entails a considerable amount of work. In this case, relying on manual testing alone isn’t a good idea, that’s why project teams make use of test automation, which can bring in the following perks:

  • Accelerated testing time. This is a huge advantage that contributes to reaching set milestones on time even when the team is overburdened with tasks. For instance, test automation of regression verifications can reduce manual QA engineers’ efforts by 40%.

  • Increased number of test runs. Although complete test coverage is rarely possible, automated testing allows project teams to cover more functionality with tests, including end-to-end verifications, thus ensuring compliance with software specifications and achieving high quality overall.

  • Improved testing accuracy. As all verifications are done using automated scripts, there are fewer chances of human errors that can occur due to the monotony of performing repetitive tasks over a long period.

  • Decreased operational costs. Despite some initial investments in test automation, it enables more activities to be performed without expanding the QA team, positively impacting the project budget and helping to prevent overruns.

  • Ground for ongoing execution of tests. When automated testing is put in place, QA teams can set up continuous testing and run scripts uninterrupted while obtaining knowledge about software operation earlier and faster.

Tips for Embedding Automated QA Workflows on the Project

To improve software testing capabilities, consistently meet goals on time, and support a DT project, companies can follow a few useful tips that will simplify the introduction of automated testing:

  1. Always consider the blueprint first.

Preparation is essential to success within any sphere. To direct efforts intelligently, first, it’s necessary to have a clear vision of what verifications should be automated. I’d suggest that teams initially focus on functionality that plays a key role for the organization (e.g., payment or delivery modules, product catalogs, making orders). Also, remember that the candidates for automation are the tests that are run often, are stable (for instance, logging into an application or accessing a database will rarely be modified over time), and deal with large data amounts. In addition, I think it’s a good idea to automate manual tests that require a lot of input from QA engineers and thus mitigate human error.

  1. Decide on an appropriate framework.

Choosing the tool that will make your automation possible is the next step. The choice should depend on a variety of important factors. Among them, first, I’d define a budget as it determines whether you have a commercial, no-cost, or customized test automation framework.

I’d also suggest considering your QA team’s ability to master the chosen solution, otherwise, there’s a need to establish a tailored training course for them. Therefore, to avoid mistakes when choosing the right tool, it’s necessary to research available options and compare them to make a well-thought-out decision.

  1. Make sure the test data used is valid.

Before writing and executing tests, it’s important that QA automation engineers get the right amount of relevant test data that is used in the QA process. It can be created in several ways. QA specialists can either build synthetic data or copy the information from the production environment. To ensure the information fully suits your testing purposes, it’s vital to check that the data in general is similar to real-world conditions and also comprises exceptional cases (e.g., using a gift card).

  1. Do not forget to have a solid test plan.

A detailed description of further testing activities is a crucial step that cannot be omitted. Why? A comprehensive test plan ensures that all project specialists are always informed about the current situation and progress, making sure everything proceeds as planned. In addition, it provides project newcomers with an opportunity to quickly delve into the project’s testing process and bring value to the QA team earlier.

What to include in the plan? I’d focus on the overview of testing goals, strategy, scope, resources, deadlines, environment, deliverables, liabilities, and probable concerns. The more relevant data is outlined, the better for all involved.

  1. Perform automated verifications.

After the preparation process is over, it’s time to write automated tests and run them to verify software quality, detect issues, and accelerate the overall QA process. I’d suggest creating small tests that verify only one aspect at a time to avoid unexpected failures and ensure easier maintenance. Make sure you run tests simultaneously to get the desired results faster. In addition, do not forget to establish the practice of generating detailed software testing reports that display the major findings — objectives, scope, IT product’s quality status, statistics on passes/failed tests, description of detected defects (severity, density, etc.), and more.

  1. Pay attention to post-testing activities.

As the IT product evolves over time, the addition of new functionality is inevitable. This means that some automated scripts may become irrelevant. Therefore, timely updates are important to make sure that test coverage grows in parallel with the features. Also, it’s important to monitor test automation progress in real time, which is possible to do with relevant metrics.

I’d recommend considering those describing coverage, the volume of passed/failed tests and identified issues, the number of defects in the production environment, the stability of tests, and some others.

Finding the Right Balance

Test automation is a true assistant for ensuring high software quality and accelerating testing velocity within a DT project. To ensure its successful implementation and high efficiency, QA teams can think of the scope, testing tools, data, plan, scripts, maintenance, and KPIs. In addition, they should remember that test automation shouldn’t completely replace manual testing but become a valuable supplement, contributing to reaching better testing outcomes.