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Test Automation: The Reality About ROI

In an earlier Test Automation blog, I touched upon the current state of automation, addressed common myths about test automation, and identified the reasons why people look to test automation as a viable solution.

In this blog post, my colleague Rob Virdee and I tackle an issue that all product owners and QA professionals urgently need to address: how to achieve a return on investment (ROI) from test automation.

According to the most recent international software benchmark testing report, over 90% of organizations see an ROI from automating their testing processes – with 76% of organizations achieving an ROI within one year. That’s encouraging enough to impress even the most sceptical budget-conscious executive. But, to achieve ROI in such a short period requires taking the right steps. Specifically, you must address: 1) What testing should be automated; 2) How to implement test automation; and 3) The measures of success you should use.

Return on Investment: What Tests to Automate

To achieve ROI on your test automation efforts, focus on three areas.

First, you should automate those tests related to the aspects of your software that are absolutely fundamental. This ‘suite’ of tests, referred to as regression tests, must take place whenever any change to functionality or feature is modified. For instance, if your software product has an e-commerce component to it, you want to ensure that the processing of payments is always stable. That means the consumer-facing processes, as well as those related back-end administrative tasks, must work flawlessly. In this example, the tests that come together to validate the e-commerce functionality is an example of a regression suite where test automation should be applied.

Second, you should automate those testing activities that require a high degree of manual effort. Such mundane and repeatable tests are a logical focal point for automation because the cost per test is higher than the cost per test for those that require little manual effort.

Third, your test automation should focus on functional and unit testing – i.e. the testing of individual units of source code, sets of one or more computer program modules together with associated control data, usage procedures, and operating procedures, to determine whether they are fit for use.

Return on Investment: How to Implement Test Automation

Implementing test automation varies because of several factors facing all product owners and QA professionals such as: the skills of those rolling out test automation, the chosen test automation software tool(s), available budgets, the stage of the software development cycle when test automation is implemented, the kinds of test(s) being automated, and the nature of the software being tested. Having said that, to achieve ROI, there are some standard procedures to follow, such as:

* Tap into the power of test planning tools that assist in scoping out the ‘test coverage’ that needs to be conducted.

* Include in your software team the skills of a test automation architect as well as test automation developers.

* Review your current testing procedures and identify time-consuming process bottlenecks

* Whether you build software products under Agile or Waterfall software development methodologies, make sure that whoever ‘owns’ responsibility for the software product has some understanding of software testing/test automation best practices.

Return on Investment: Measures of Success

Every organization measures its return on investment in test automation differently. However, here are the most common measures comparing pre-test automation values with post-test automation values:

  • The cost savings that result in reducing the time required to execute current test volumes
  • The opportunity to re-deploy skilled test professionals to more strategic testing activities
  • The cost savings achieved by repeatedly re-using automation testing frameworks and scripts
  • The increase in confidence knowing that critical software functionalities are operating as they should

In the next Test Automation blog, we will tackle how you can get started with test automation so that you achieve the results that you, your team, senior management, and/or other key stakeholders expect.

Rob and I welcome your insights about how test automation is shaping your priorities and projects. Let us know what you think by reaching out to me via email (HFrance at