Different test automation team structures and their levels of autonomy
71% of businesses are using an agile development methodology. Agile emphasizes continuous integrations to produce incremental value often. Although this strategy is fancy in theory, it involves a lot of regression testing for the testers. Maintaining all the application features and offering continuous testing assistance becomes a headache for testing teams, particularly when the application is moving toward perpetual expansion.
The majority of teams use the shift-left methodology, where rapid checks are made at the integration point using automated tests. Operations may automatically start a series of tests when the implemented code is pushed for merging with the master branch. Moving away from unicorns and rainbows, we get to see the ground reality of most development teams where the challenge is not just about the number of people, but also about available skill sets, supportive tools, technology, non-supportive processes, etc.
Having worked across different regions, I have been associated with teams of varied organizational structures. In each of those teams, the value proposition of test automation has been driven in a unique way. Why do I say that? test automation turns out to become time intensive activity if it’s not planned well. It is not something that can be done once and forgotten. Test automation requires ongoing attention and upkeep.
The only focus of test automation autonomy is on who is responsible for writing test scripts, running them on a regular basis, making decisions about test environments, maintaining the tests, and scaling these tests. I have seen numerous forms of autonomy and their benefits and drawbacks while working with diverse teams with varying demands.
Let’s examine a few commonly used test automation team structures.
1. Developer-led test automation team
Organizations with 1-2 scrum teams usually suffer from the non-availability of dedicated resources. Team members play multiple roles to get things done. These are usually energetic and self-driven environments, no formal processes are set up and team members just carry out the tasks according to what they see as right. It is hard to find uniform practices in such teams.
In these cases, developers take ownership of writing a few automated tests along with their unit tests. Most UI developers also take care of front-end and End-to-End testing.
Self-managed and driven
Test code is written along with the development
Good test code principles in action
Failing tests can be fixed along/during the development timeline
Miss out on various End-to-End testing scenarios
Tries to programmatically get things done by calling DB or log in directly escaping actual checks
The tests added are of limited support
Regular maintenance of failing scripts needs constant followup
Neglected and forgotten after a period of time
2. Split responsibility test automation team
In most small-scale organizations with 2-3 scrum teams, an individual tester is assigned to each scrum team. In such scenarios, the test colleague must take care of new features testing, perform regression, support non-functional tests and be available for any hot fixes/upgrades/migrations planned for the ongoing sprint. A split approach was taken, where developers would write the automated tests for all the new features and hand over the test code to the test colleague for execution, managing, and maintenance.
Development and test code go hand in hand within sprint
Good code practices are implemented
Shared effort, reduces the burden on single person
Compromises in test coverage
Added responsibility for developers along with Unit tests
Pressing priorities take away the attention from developers
Maintenance onus leads to more work for test engineers
Technical skills should be sharpened for test engineers to manage and maintain the code
3. Tester-led automation team
Each scrum team would be given at least two test engineers in organizations where resource fulfilment was not a problem. where the workload on one person is reduced by dividing the testing jobs among the test engineers. Test engineers were solely responsible for writing, running, maintaining, and upgrading the test scripts. In scrum teams, this kind of test autonomy is typically favored. However, the process becomes more difficult because there are so many integration points in large agile teams. if the test cases are not carefully identified and mapped out. Failures start to multiply at the integration points.
Clearly defined accountability of test automation
Analysis of automation requirements and scenario coverage are taken care Enough time and care is dedicated to the tools and tech.
The hygiene of test code is dependent on test engineers’ tech skills Scaled agile can get overwhelming if there are no guardrails put in place
This can be resource intensive, as the application grows there will be a need for more hands on deck.
4. Outsourced (Qaas) test automation team
Organizations are choosing external testing services more frequently these days simply because they have more time to concentrate on innovation and be flexible while developing their expansion strategies. Since delivery times are getting shorter due to intense competition, firms cannot afford to spend their time investing in internal talent development because it is an expensive and resource-intensive activity. By contracting out test activities, a significant amount of responsibility is transferred to the test service provider. Having said that, outsourcing test activities comes with its own framework of challenges.
Required skills are readily available
Testing and test automation are taken care by the service provider
Test coverage through test automation is achieved. Teams may just have to overlook the ongoing deliverables
Someone within the team/organisation should lead the discussions with regard to testing
The Leading person should have a good understanding of what should be expected from the service provider
Regular audits of the tests prepared and executed should be carried out
Test code and other artifacts to be handed over should be clearly discussed while drawing the SLAs
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It goes without saying that test automation is the key to maximizing regression testing in agile teams. It is a significant test activity that cannot be disregarded. Teams should evaluate their current circumstances before deciding on a specific strategy for test automation.
There is only the likelihood and availability game; there is no foolproof technique to move things around. Although large organizations may hire additional people as needed, they occasionally run into trouble finding technically proficient testers in time for a project. However, because they must maintain lower operating expenses, small businesses cannot truly invest in tools, up-skilling, or other areas where outsourcing may be appropriate.