Why test automation for an enterprise product – and how to start?

Web and mobile apps are all around us and they get so much of the press but there is so much more complexity in building the software products, platforms, and systems that businesses run on.

Enterprise products are just different. They are component-based, complex, scalable, distributed, and mission-critical. Enterprise products are developed using architecture specific to the needs of the enterprise. They are typically designed to interface or integrate with different enterprise applications which are used within the organization. They are also designed keeping in mind that they will be deployed across a variety of networks (Internet, Intranet, and corporate networks) while meeting stringent requirements for security and administration management.

Enterprise Product Testing

Now let us talk about testing these products. The criticality and importance of testing Enterprise products is extreme as the standards of reliability demanded by them are also extreme! These products run as the backbone of the business and hence they must be tested comprehensively. However, over the years, enterprise product testing has become tougher to execute. This is not because of the lack of tools, but due to the growing complexities of processes and transaction data density.

Back in the day, notable releases for enterprise products would take anywhere between 18 to 24 months. However, in today’s technology-oriented environment, that’s completely unacceptable. Speed is everything, what is considered breakthrough technology today will be outdated or even redundant a few months down the line. Customers today, expect frequent updates, feature-additions, and releases regularly. The increasing pace of software development has made test automation a must-have for enterprise products. That and automation also supports modern application delivery methodologies such as Agile and DevOps.

Advantages of Adopting Test Automation for an Enterprise Product

The first and most obvious benefit would be a high-quality enterprise product, which delivers exactly what is expected. With crashed testing time, the time-to-market is also significantly reduced by using test automation. Better testing carried out faster can drive a host of benefits for the users of the end-product including faster installation, high load tolerance, consistent performance, faster fail over during interruptions, compatibility with different hardware/software configurations, reliable integrity and authentication, and a higher assurance of security.

The Testing Approach for Enterprise Products

When it comes to testing an enterprise product, it could be divided into the major functional modules, and each of them should be tested as a sub-system. In the case of test automation, a system test generally confirms that these subsystems work fine when integrated. Regression, Integration, and System testing will also have to be conducted for each sub-system as in the case of a full enterprise product. These products also require Usability Testing, Performance Testing, Functionality Testing, Business Logic testing, and Database Interaction tests.

A test automation strategy for an enterprise product must also include the testing of the inter-dependencies between various business layers and relational mapping, mainly to test that if the different layers are properly interacting with each other and that the data flow between these layers is stable and smooth.

Even testing for UI, usability, and data-flow is a must. Compatibility (on various h/w, s/w configurations) should be tested as well. Installation and Deployment are required to be tested as well.

Deployment testing can be conducted by simulating user environment and then performing the installation on similar platforms as used by the end user. And lastly, reliability, load tolerance, recovery, and fail-over testing are highly important aspects of enterprise product testing. Fail-over testing and recovery tests ensure that the system recovers to the last stable state after a fail-over or crash.

As you can imagine, with the possible exception of the tests for usability and UI, most of the other test categories lend themselves to varying degrees to automated testing. As with all automated testing -the objective should be to identify those high-priority tests that are repetitive and time-consuming and create the scripts to automate the execution of those test cases.  

So, How to Start Test Automation?

Plan Strategically

Automation requires more than the adoption of an automation tool or scripting language. It requires a robust strategy. To start with test automation for an enterprise product, you first need to allocate adequate resources and treat automation as a critical line of development, complete with priorities and clear backlog and release cycles. This will likely require close interface with the business and the product owners -the earlier in the product’s life-cycle the planning can start for test automation, the more likely it is to be successful.

Treat Pain Points

Identify the pain points in your testing organization. Make sure they are clearly defined, and well scoped. Then consider -what is it that you would want to achieve through test automation? Is replacing manual efforts the concern you would like to treat? Or would you want quick feedback on new builds? Or is your focus on better platform coverage? First, identify the specific pain point and then choose a test automation approach to address your key concern. And lastly, ensure that you can demonstrate the value of your efforts with quantifiable results.

It is vital to remember that the benefits of test automation can only be reaped if it is made an integral part of the product development organization’s structure. Test automation, when adopted for enterprise products, reduces both the time and effort spent on QA, provides quick feedback and thereby promotes fast fixes. This leads to an increase in test coverage and ultimately results in a better enterprise product. As we have seen, the effort can drive so much real value to the enterprise product development strategy.

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