Forbes Global 2000 companies are increasingly being plagued by nimble startups looking to disrupt their business. Maintaining a competitive advantage requires accelerating application delivery, but business organizations struggle to stay up.

Testing, in particular a lack of a mature continuous testing methodology that offers near-real-time input on whether the application has an acceptable degree of business risk, is all too often the bottleneck in application delivery. When you’re towing a youngster in a bike trailer, it can feel like you’re competing in the Tour de France.

Nobody can deny the importance of continuous testing. Making it a reality, on the other hand, is a struggle in any development environment, and it’s more painful in businesses for a variety of reasons. Complex application stacks, deeply established procedures created for vastly varied delivery models, and stringent compliance requirements are just a few examples.

Here are three major problems that businesses experience when attempting to develop a successful continuous testing approach, as well as how top companies have overcome them.

1. Introduce and expand test automation where it has been most difficult 

A crucial component of continuous testing is having a core set of automated tests that expose business risks as they emerge. Yet, according to the current World Quality Report, test automation has been stuck at around a dismal 15% for years.

You can’t — and shouldn’t — automate every aspect of your testing. However, increasing automation is necessary if you want quick feedback on whether recent modifications have broken any vital business processes.

The difficulty is that getting started is difficult, and keeping it going is even more difficult. Most major firms have failed at least one or two test automation programs, so quality executives are understandably hesitant to lead another.

Nonetheless, many bold QA leaders are up to the task, and many of them have succeeded. What’s the secret of their success? They are laser-focused on the long-term goal of sustainable test automation and are architecting the deep-seated process and cultural transformation required to achieve it.

Finding a test automation approach that spans the numerous technologies involved in your business processes is the first step (technology-agnostic or broad technology support). You’ll also need a strategy that your existing team members can quickly and generally adopt, regardless of their current skill set.

Maintaining it also necessitates tackling what I refer to as “test automation’s three nightmares”: test maintenance, test data, and test environments.

Here are some pointers from Linde, the world’s largest gas company, on how they implemented test automation across their complex network of highly customized SAP, Salesforce, web, and mobile apps:

  • Consider which use cases will benefit the most from automation, and then focus on developing stable automation for those scenarios. Automating a few high-impact, end-to-end procedures will get you a lot more attention and internal support than automating thousands of ill-conceived tests.
  • Eliminate the “more-tests” mentality. Many organizations have used a number of tests to assess the scope of testing and even to compensate testing providers for years. Additional tests that address the same business risks are ineffective. They are, in fact, painful. They consume both creation and maintenance resources, reducing your test automation ROI.
  • It’s sometimes necessary to cut your losses. If a method or tool isn’t working for your current resources—for example, because it’s too technical or doesn’t fit your ecosystem—understand what’s needed instead, and make a plan to handle it in the future.

2. Assess ‘release readiness’ of new functionality across teams and applications 

Continuous testing’s main purpose is to see if a release candidate is ready for production. As previously said, you must make certain that the modifications in each release do not impair existing functionality. However, you must test the new feature to confirm that it functions well and satisfies your expectations.

When different teams are responsible for different components and layers of the application, such as the browser interface, the mobile experience, the various packaged apps at work behind the scenes, and all the microservices, APIs, and integration platforms that are probably gluing it all together, making the ultimate go/no-go release decision can be a bit of a guessing game.

Teams are likely building new functionality at different rates and testing “their” sections in a variety of ways, employing a variety of testing techniques and tools. The user, on the other hand, does not make these distinctions. They expect everything to run smoothly.

The parent company of luxury brands including Christian Dior, TAG Heuer, and Dom Perignon, Mot Hennessy-Louis Vuitton (LVMH), has chosen to shorten its testing process in order to support ambitious aspirations for e-commerce expansion. The organization developed the skill of efficiently testing new functionality and making release decisions to provide the best possible user experience, in part by:

  • When it comes to testing new functionality, take a methodical approach. Each QA team dug deep into the brand’s DNA and essential customer profiles to better protect both the customer and the brand (personas). The teams then devised new test methodologies for determining how customers react to the brand, which was documented as reusable “rollout kits.”
  • Reuse, repurpose, repurpose the teams created a library of carefully planned test building blocks that may be reused 70% to 90% across several launches. These components correspond to a variety of test automation technologies, which they combine to observe, interact with, and evaluate the site as if it were a human—on a wide range of devices. They can start testing early in each release cycle and get quick feedback as they add and improve new user stories since they have a head start on automation.
  • Make a connection. All web, mobile, Salesforce eCommerce, enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, and other testing data is consolidated into a single pane of glass. This gives you real-time information on release readiness for each persona, feature, and tech layer. Team members can always tell what’s ready to release, what’s holding it up, and who’s in charge of getting it back on track at a glance.

3. Balance collaboration with autonomy

For years, the trend has been toward self-governing development teams that select the best methods and technologies for their culture and projects. This is excellent for team motivation, but not for collaboration. At the same time, a competing trend toward more networked applications has heightened the importance of collaboration.

There’s a lot of chance to share test artifacts at intersections (as well as code and deployment artifacts). However, given how many teams have been accustomed to using their own processes and technologies, this is easier said than done.

It is feasible to foster cross-team continuous testing collaboration without homogenizing all of the varied working styles that different teams have spent significant time and effort building and polishing. Dell has established a successful strategy for leveraging synergies across 30 businesses and over 20 test automation frameworks. This is what the firm did:

  • It’s crucial to keep things simple. Dell looked at the components of DevOps success from a philosophical standpoint before creating an abstract continuous integration/continuous delivery/continuous testing architecture. This stated what activities should be addressed (source control, requirements management, test management, and so on) without specifying low-level implementation specifics on how to execute them.
  • Create a top-level layer. Dell created an overall layer for continuous testing that allows team members to identify and run relevant test materials without having to worry about which test automation framework is being utilized behind the scenes. Everyone may share this way, and no team needs to compromise.
  • Choose a single test framework to use. The company intends to use a test framework that is versatile enough to accommodate its multiple application stacks and delivery cadences for new projects. Existing teams and projects will be allowed to use it, but no one will be compelled to change.

Focus on the right approach for your challenges

Enterprise continuous testing isn’t available in a box. As these examples demonstrate, the most pressing issues and potential solutions differ significantly, and yours will as well.

To achieve this, you must be honest with yourself. Take a long, hard look at what you’re up against and devise a strategy based on that. Long-time manual testers are unlikely to download open-source testing tools and automate processes across packaged apps, custom applications, mainframes, and other systems.

Similarly, don’t expect a high-performing, tech-savvy staff to abandon the homegrown or highly customized approach into which they’ve invested substantial time and resources over time.

The purpose of continuous testing is to analyze the impact of change. Change must also be a part of your continuous testing strategy. To make the move from your current state easier, you’ll need to figure out what you can accomplish in terms of technology, processes, and change management. Your goal is to create an enterprise continuous testing process that meets your company’s quality, speed, and efficiency objectives.

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