21 Jan 2020

Work smarter, not harder – automation in software development

Robotics and Automation are at the peak of their hype for a very good reason – they allow us to do the boring and repetitive stuff fast and well. Despite most software houses presenting themselves like a magic black box, where ideas are turned into code, a beastly amount of good software development is precisely boring and repetitive. That’s why experienced veterans should do the creative and complex stuff, while the scripts can handle the dirty work.

As important as it is, that doesn’t cover the full scope of automation benefits. This process, implemented right where it should be, improves the final product and boost the ROI in many ways. And that’s exactly what you’re looking for at the end of the day. So how automating the tests and deployment can help you with that? Keep reading to find out.

Automated Tests

As the tests are run prior to the deployment, we’re going to focus on them first. Are software tests ran only to check if the app is working as it supposed to? To be honest – no. Of course, that’s still a big and important part that must be verified before deploying to production but fortunately, that’s not the end of it. Authors of “World Quality Report 2018-19” found that nowadays the primary reason for testing is to ensure customer satisfaction. Aligning tests with business goals, results in a better match between your final product and customer’s needs – and automation is one of the tools that helps, making this process more effective. However, instead of jumping to conclusion let’s go through some of its benefits.

Repetitiveness and precision

Running the same tests scenarios over and over is a big part of testing processes and shouldn’t ever be omitted. That’s the part when humans can easily fail due to our natural characteristics. At the same time, repeating tasks are what computers are best in. Every run of the test would be identical and any deviation from the expected result would be reported immediately. Setting it up would take only a small amount of time that would be necessary to conduct these tests manually. Automation helps ensuring that the final product given to your customers would meet yours and theirs quality expectations. Apart from the effectiveness of the process itself, you cannot forget about your team’s motivation. We, the people ;), are not feeling the spark of excitement with such tasks. Letting the specialists focus on creative challenges will keep them motivated and allow performing better in areas that even the best scripts cannot handle.

The synergy of test automation and software development

Since we’re talking about the ROI of tests automation, it’s important to mention how these processes affect the development. If now you’re thinking about Test Driven Development – you’re right. Rather than describing the process itself let’s go through some of its perks. Higher quality of the final product, thanks to full test coverage. Lower cost of debugging due to running test from the beginning of the project, not only in its final stages. Simplification of the code to align it with particular tests. Increased productivity as a result of shortening the feedback loop and fixing the bugs “in real-time” are only examples.

Time

This aspect was already mentioned in previous paragraphs but as it’s one of the most valuable assets it deserves its own section. Although the first steps of test automation might take a little bit longer than running a particular test manually, after each following one, you will notice timesaving. It doesn’t matter whether you want to shorten time to market before the first release, be able to run more test in the same amount of time, catch regression errors faster, reduce the time of validation or many other. The automation will help you with that, keeping the quality of the tests at least as high, or even higher, as if it would have been run by experienced manual tester.

Should every test be automated?

After reading previous paragraphs, it may seem like automation is a solution to each testing difficulty. However, it is not. Even though in most situations, automation is a great improvement there are some cases in which you should not replace your manual tester with scripts. What we have in mind now is, for example, test that’s going to be run only once. If you’re sure that you wouldn’t need to test that part of your project again it might be more effective to test it manually rather than write a script. In addition, automated tests provide you higher value only when you can predict reliable and precise result in order to produce fail and pass conditions. If it’s not possible then experienced and skilled tester is irreplaceable. What’s more, manual tester can verify a part that’s incomprehensible for the machine – the UI and UX.

Automated Deployment

In the second part of this article, we’re going to focus on what’s after development and tests – deployment. But before we move to benefits of automating it, let’s start with DevOps practises that combine all of that.
Automation processes have one goal in common – to boost the effectiveness of work and shorten the time to market and so does the DevOps processes. To describe them properly we would need a separate blog article, which might happen in the future, but for now, let’s stick to a very general description that would allow us to come back to the main topic. Continuous integration allows software developers to merge their code changes into a shared repository where they are also automatically tested. Allowing all devs access to code that is up-to-date limits delays, because multiple specialists can work on the same source code simultaneously. Secondly, continuous delivery is a series of practices designed to ensure, that the code can be rapidly and safely deployed to production through rigorous automated testing. Finally – Continuous Deployment – a process in which every change that passes the automated tests, is deployed to production automatically.

Regular and easy deployment

Manual deployment takes time, as moving new code lines into production is not a simple process and needs to be planned carefully and meticulously carried out. Therefore, developers will do as much work as they can before deploying a new version – making you wait even for small changes to your applications. What’s more, manual deployment involves one or more developers engaged at every stage of this process. Properly implemented automated deployment simplifies this process. It allows you to release new features even several times a week and makes the deployment day rather common than stressful. Additionally, each team member, not only the ones that have the knowledge of this process and are responsible for it, might run the deployment process. All of those benefits make not only developers’ lives easier but also the whole business – implementing new features and updating your product daily, undoubtedly boost its value.

Decreased vulnerability for “human error”

Manual deployment is error-prone – as we mentioned before, it needs to be planned carefully and carried out as precisely as possible. Sometimes, an important step in the release process might be missed, incorrect version of the software could be shipped or occurred fault might not be spotted. Of course, when you work with experienced developers you decrease the possibility of the “human error” but it’s not possible to completely eliminate this risk. Automated deployment process is not variable. After configuration, the process would be set and will run exactly the same way each time a release is initiated. If it worked at the first time, you successfully deployed your software, it would work at the following ones too. When it comes to releasing new features/updates to your product, repeatability is what you should be looking for, so you won’t have to deal with any surprises that might delay your project.

More time to develop

Although it’s hard to count how many times we mentioned that automation saves time we’ll do it once again. Setting automated deployment might be time-consuming, but with each release, your team would save a lot of time. When you search for and select the best developers available on the market you want them to do what they are best in – developing software. Obviously, if something were wrong with the released software, they would have to fix the problems but as we said – automation allows minimalizing the risk of failure to be as low as possible and let your specialist focus on developing your product.

 

There are no doubts that automation is a big factor in successful software development, but those processes alone are not enough. We revealed few more tricks from our black magic box in our outsourcing toolbox which consist of the best practises established over more than 20 years in software development outsourcing. However, like every good magician we left some sleights of hand under the table 😉 Wonder how can we impress you? You’re just one mail away from finding out – do not hesitate to fill the form, click that orange button and open the door to software development magic – and rather than what you would see during Houdini show we’re going to be fully transparent and show you exactly how our magic works.

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