By Executive Order – Get The Best Test Automation Solution

Test automation is an investment.

Like any investment, you expect a future return.

As stated in “Test Automation – Building Your Business Case” the following are some of the benefits typically expected from investing in software test automation:

  • Discover defects earlier
  • Increase test speed, accuracy, repeatability
  • Increase test availability (rapid and unattended)
  • Extend test capability and coverage
  • Increase test accumulation
  • Increase tester effectiveness
  • Formalize testing and enable measurement

In turn, these benefits lead to returns around improved productivity, reduced costs, improved product quality and, ultimately, increased customer satisfaction.

As a decision-maker, you “get” this Return on Investment (ROI) for test automation.

But, there are many competing choices where to invest your money.  You have many demands on your time, people and budget.  And, every department or group has their own ideas for how help make the company more successful.

You know, responsibly, you can’t simply say “Let’s automate!”

Top Priority!

Although it might seem to be a “no-brainer”, or even a requirement, that you should have some level of test automation as part of your development effort, you know investing in automation requires a significant commitment in the short term and the long term for there to be success.  There is no “silver bullet”.

“Automated testing requires a higher initial investment but can yield a higher ROI” When to Automate Your Testing (and When Not To), Joe Fernandes, Oracle

Test automation, therefore, should be treated just as seriously as any comparable investment in the company.

How do you make sure your next investment in test automation is making your solution the best it can be?  How do you know it is the best place to invest your scarce resources?

Help your team help you make the decision.

What are Your Options?

Sure it would be nice if all the tests could run auto-magically on-demand by waving a wand.  But, every real solution requires effort and infrastructure, typically at the expense of some other possibility.  The development of a sound, thorough business case covering each option is essential for objective comparison.

Requiring a business case helps set expectations about what a proposal for test automation next steps should cover.  And, by making visible what the evaluation criteria are, it can communicate what values the company is prioritizing at this time.

Completing a business case also forces thought to go beyond the technical part of the solution to also encompass the business aspects and cost justification.

“Executives want their direct reports to do a better job at presenting proposals…They simply send in a list of what they want without presenting any real justification or argument for it.”Selling Your Proposal to Senior Executives, W. Palmer

A key part of the business case is defining the opportunity. This is where the team must communicate that they understand the scope and implications of the opportunity and that they are qualified and capable to propose the solution.

Another important component of the business case is the call to action.  As the decision-maker, you need to know what decision you are being asked to make.

As adapted from “How to Structure Your Business Proposal Presentations” look for an overview that gets right to the point by:

  • Defining the vision, goals and objectives
  • Describing how the current state is not aligned with the vision, goals and objectives
  • Listing possible solutions with pros and cons for each (including any major / significant risks, challenges and obstacles)
  • Identifying the best solution, highlighting its key benefits over the alternatives
  • Calling for action and / or agreement to the recommended next steps

The overview should be followed by appendices so as to keep the core message clear and concise.  When you are at the point of detailed review, the appendices will be ready to provide:

  • A detailed implementation plan of the recommended option along with resourcing requirements, milestones, approach to minimizing / removing the highlighted risks, challenges and obstacles and any impact on organizational structure
  • Detailed information / background / data on all the options and their calculations
  • Results from any R&D or pilots conducted
  • Relevant case studies and industry benchmarks
  • Applicable studies and references

Caveat – Case Studies and Benchmarks: The more similar the organization studied is to your organization, the more likely you are to experience similar results.

Make the Call

When will your investment start paying dividends?  When will the first benefits be felt?  When will the initiative start paying for itself?

Core to the business case is the ability to compare the relative ROI of the proposed options and identify the best solution.

For ease of comparison, have the options summarized in one or more tables that compare their key aspects.  For example, the following table provides one such comparison on the money side of things:

Test Automation Cost-Benefits Summary TableIn addition to meeting your base criteria, expect that the best solution will be a substantial step forward that provides tangible / measurable benefits in a relatively short period of time, while also:

  • Providing the capability to easily grow the scope of automated tests
  • Providing a well-architected framework / foundation for future enhancements and adaptation to changes to the system under test
  • Being able to be self-funding (eg: benefits funding maintenance and incremental continuous improvement)

Note: As part of the evaluation process, consider giving the team a second chance to make their pitch.  Following the initial presentation, the agreed next steps might be to incorporate feedback, create a new blended option, do a pilot or conduct further research into how other teams have approached this sort of project.  After which, the proposal for the larger undertaking can be updated and be all the stronger upon revisiting.

Conclusion

Investing in test automation is an attractive idea and, if implemented successfully, it can deliver on many of its promises.  A well-described business case increases your ability, as the decision-maker, to confidently assess the viability of a given solution against competing alternatives.

Requiring a thorough business case can also help assess the understanding and capability of the organization / team to deliver the expected benefits given the full accounting of the costs involved.

Will the next test automation proposal to come to your desk be the best it can be?

Demand to be convinced that it is.

About Trevor Atkins

Trevor Atkins (@thinktesting) has been involved in 100’s of software projects over the last 20+ years and has a demonstrated track record of achieving rapid ROI for his customers and their business. Experienced in all project roles, Trevor’s primary focus has been on planning and execution of projects and improvement of the same, so as to optimize quality versus constraints for the business. LinkedIn Profile
This entry was posted in  All, Automation & Tools, Business of Testing, Planning for Quality and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply