Main Reasons of the Failed Test Automation Projects
It is a fact: Software Test Automation accelerates the software development lifecycle and testing process. Automation improves software quality, speeds up regression testing, and reduces costs. That's why companies or teams often want to incorporate the word "automation" into their projects when they hear it. However, some time after the automation project starts, team focus shifts to other tools, new project priorities or feature improvements. In these cases, automation fails to meet expectations, forcing teams to revert to manual testing. This turns the test automation effort into waste…
As Kloia, we have worked in various fields and identified many reasons that can cause a software test automation project to fail. In this blog post, I will point at five reasons for failure and discuss the measures that can be taken to address these issues.
1 - LACK OF KNOWLEDGE FROM DECISION MAKERS
Modern organizations are embracing automation to streamline processes and enhance efficiency. However, many organizations suffer from lack of adequate support from decision makers. This is caused by the lack of knowledge about automation. Moreover, some decision makers do not see this disconnect as a problem, and they show little interest in familiarizing themselves with the intricate workings of this pivotal aspect of their business.
For instance, the decision maker may have a misconception that test automation will solely provide cost savings. This may cause them to allocate inadequate budget for the project. When this happens, the project team does not have sufficient resources to meet the requirements. Therefore, the decision maker’s misconception leads to an inevitable failure.
Decision makers need to understand the potential of test automation and the basic prerequisites for successful test automation projects. These informed decision makers can make the right decisions, providing the necessary resources and support for projects. This, in turn, enables the successful implementation of test automation projects and helps organizations enhance software quality under a systematic, sustainable leadership.
2 - UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
There is no way to put this softly: Test automation adds incredible strength to your development process but it takes time and it won’t solve all of your problems.
Many teams assume that switching to automation is an easy, one-off task, but it is an ongoing effort. Once you start automating with the simplest scenarios, you will then need to move to more complex scenarios to reap the benefits of test automation. However, it's impossible to automate every function. Even if all tests were to be automated (they won't be), testers are needed to manage these automated tests. Your application will be constantly changing and growing. As a result, tests will need to be updated and new tests will be added as the application grows. None of these happen magically, they all need effort and time.
Teams that treat test automation as a one-off task underestimate the true effort needed for automation and end up creating unrealistic timelines for themselves. They often stem from misconceptions about the capabilities and limitations of test automation tools, as well as the time and effort required for successful implementation. Decision makers and stakeholders may have exaggerated expectations regarding the speed, coverage, and effectiveness of automated tests. These unrealistic time expectations can arise at different stages of a test automation and they negatively impact project goals, quality, and resource allocation.
Some teams expect automation to fix everything. These teams mistakenly believe that once they implement automation, all their testing problems will be solved, including eliminating human errors, detecting all bugs, and achieving 100% test coverage. This expectation can lead to disappointment when automation falls short of meeting these lofty, impossible goals.
Companies who expect everything from test automation overlook the fact that test automation has its limitations and cannot replace human intuition, creativity, and domain expertise. As a result, critical issues go undetected, and the project fails to deliver the desired outcomes.
Automation may not solve everything if the project is struggling to keep up with the quality concern and releases faster than usual. Can it help? Certainly. It helps shorten some cycles in manual testing, it can help the team to get to the market faster. Therefore, test automation should be viewed as an important ingredient, but not a magic wand that can fix all issues.
It is essential to establish realistic goals and timelines, taking into account the inherent challenges and limitations of test automation. By setting achievable objectives, allocating sufficient resources, and understanding the iterative, ongoing nature of test automation, organizations can improve the chances of success in their test automation endeavors. Managing expectations realistically is crucial for the long-term viability and effectiveness of test automation projects. Emphasizing the collaborative effort between automation and human testers can lead to a more effective and sustainable approach to software testing. Finally, educating decision makers and stakeholders about the benefits and limitations of test automation can help manage expectations effectively.
3 - LACKING A CLEAR ROADMAP
Having a plan is critical if you are looking for sustainable success across your projects. It is not possible to know whether you are successful when you are not completely sure of what you want to achieve. It is easy to fail if you don’t know what you are aiming for. This applies to automation projects too, especially if this is your first one.
Let me walk you through a common example. An excited team wants to start test automation. They pick the first feature in their spec document - login with two-factor authentication (2FA). This feature, unfortunately, is quite complex to automate reliably. With each release, automation gets more complex and potentially less secure due to the additional layer it introduces. The team ends up spending considerable effort in developing and maintaining the test automation for 2FA, but gets very low returns from the investment into test automation.
To avoid problems like this, it is very important to plan automation projects at the beginning. You can start planning by asking the following key questions about test automation:
- Which test cases are suitable for automation, which ones will be automated?
- Which test scenarios will still require human intervention?
- Who will be responsible for maintaining cases and scenarios?
- Which technology stacks and applications will be affected?
- Which test processes will take priority?
- Which tests will run on certain pipelines?
- What is the review procedure for test results?
- Who is responsible for fixing failed scenarios?
- How will new scenarios be added to the existing jobs?
- Do we need any PoCs to establish clarity in any areas, before we start working on them?
- What is the desired level of stability before we scale solutions?
Answering these fundamental questions before starting the project helps to gain the maximum benefit in a short time and increases the chances that your efforts will not go to waste after the initial round of automation.
4 - INSUFFICIENT TEAM SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE
A successful automation project requires specific skills to take off and keep going. From analysts to automation specialists, the team must have all the skills needed to run end-to-end automation. However, it can be difficult to find people with enough technical knowledge to add these skills to the team. For example, small companies and startups may not be able to afford to hire dedicated automation engineers, as finding successful, experienced, or interested individuals can be difficult and time-consuming. Thus, the team's lack of expertise and knowledge to complete all their tasks and activities will result in automated processes that are not up to expectations.
It is important to create a balanced team for an effective test automation project. If the team does not have these skills, it is important to invest in training to gain these skills or to hire the right talent with the right skills. Teams can accelerate their learning pace by inviting everyone to take part in automation projects. Test automation can be introduced to new hires as a part of the onboarding process.
5 - AUTOMATING A BROKEN TEST PROCESS
Automation, when done right, speeds up everything at a fraction of the cost. That is why it is important to choose a healthy testing process to automate. When a broken process is automated, all that is achieved is a faster broken process.
You can maximize automation output by first evaluating the existing processes and obtaining answers to the questions below:
- Do we need improvements before we automate?
- Are there bottlenecks or inefficiencies in the existing process?
- Are there similar processes that can be merged before automation?
- What are the clear steps in the lifecycle of a story?
- What are the responsibilities of each team member at each step?
- What is the process for iterative improvement?
There is no perfect process for performing automation tasks, but improvements are always possible. Some basic improvements are removing tasks that do not add value, such as rework, unnecessary approvals. Once you remove these bottlenecks and implement the improvements, you can build a test automation process that speeds up the new, lean process.
Software test automation projects can fail for various reasons. Failure is often associated with a lack of or incorrect approach, planning, implementation, or management process. The main reasons for project failure include inadequate resources, ineffective test strategies, faulty test scenarios, incorrect prioritization, poor communication, lack of collaboration, technical issues, and misunderstanding of requirements. Additionally, factors such as the wrong selection of test automation tools, inexperience or lack of training in tool usage can also negatively impact project success.
To ensure a successful software test automation project, it is important to have the right strategy and planning, select appropriate tools, execute a good training and communication process, create effective test scenarios, and adopt a continuous improvement approach.
Software Test Automation Engineer @kloia