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Test Automation Framework – Challenges in the Ever Changing Technology Scenario

Ramesh Krish
Sunday, October 3, 2010
 Ramesh Krish
The Background

Test automation has matured over a period of time; from the crude form of automated tests that were set up just to run specific or stop gap runs, we today have much refined and well defined automation tests. According to a study, in the year 2004 the number of automated tests that were conducted globally as against manual tests were a mere 5 percent. However, by 2006 this increased to 20 percent. Going by this rate, we may be around 50 percent today. According to a study conducted by the US NIST, software producers lose 21.2 billion dollars annually because of inadequate testing. Based on market estimates, software companies worldwide invested 931 million dollars in automated software testing tools in 1999, with an estimate of at least 2.6 billion dollars in 2004. This certainly tells us one thing: Customers are seeing the real benefits of test automation. The last 5-6 years has seen a considerable run in commercial testing tools and we now are seeing the trend of customers requesting for ‘opensource’ tools, thanks to changing economic situations.

One of the key factors in choosing a test automation tool is the technology that is used to build the application. Not all tools support all technologies and that throws up the challenge of maximizing test automation returns with limited capabilities of tools. For example, an application developed in .NET or Java may require test automation tools to support such technology. Some of the tools come with specific plugins to address such challenges. So, choosing the right tool goes a long way in getting the expected RoI.

Technology, a Show-Stopper?

One would certainly run out of business if technology becomes a show-stopper. While that could be a very generic statement specific to test automation, technology has been one of the biggest challenges. With every new patch or release of an OS, browser, languages, or for that matter even test automation tools, the challenges to maintain automation scripts are undeniably compounded. By the time you start a test automation project and complete it, you may find changes in the environment it is set to work. The script that you have developed, while the customer agreed for a specific version, will not be of any use to him if the customer is going to upgrade their systems to the new version of the browser, for instance. Here is when a robust framework and good coding practice facilitate a smooth transition.
Develop framework that is independent of test automation tools. Since every tool has some limitation, it is best to use a combination of tools to take the maximum returns out of test automation investment. A combination of commercial and opensource tools is a good mix. Having a framework that best supports such a mix will give the best advantage over other frameworks.

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