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DevOps and Agile teams that aim to provide value to clients at a faster rate continuously struggle with a high degree of test automation coverage, receiving feedback quickly, and test maintenance.
DevOps challenges are valid throughout the lifecycle as well as with functional and non-functional tests, however, the biggest challenge is around the regression test suite. The simple reason for that pain is the size of the suite.
Regression suites are constantly growing, which allows them to cover more functionalities. Yet as the regression suite grows, the more the challenge of testing it effectively increases.
In this post, I will outline the top challenges of regression testing and how to strategically manage them. This list is not prioritized in any particular order. These are all valid and recurring challenges that team managers need to address continuously.
The main point behind running regression test cycles is to ensure no “new” defects are being introduced into “old” working code areas after new features or other code changes have been integrated. To meet this objective, the scoping of the regression suite needs to be as relevant as possible, as well as keep up with the latest software iteration.
With that in mind, teams are struggling to properly scope the suite based on platform coverage, scenario coverage, and how relevant it is to the build. As software iterations evolve with the market, the suite also needs to keep up, along with the test environment.
To ensure that the regression suite covers the most important scenarios and platforms, the team managers must review the suite in between software releases as well as in the test environment. While reviewing, they can update or add platforms they might have missed. During the review, if a test scenario or any platform is questionable, for various reasons, the test(s) must be excluded until the issues are resolved. As this review happens, the considerations for what to include and cover in the triggered regression cycle also needs to include test value – which of the tests historically and per product area were able to reveal a defect?
Among the strategies that successful teams use to scope regression testing suite include selective test automation vs. re-testing of everything in the suite. In this method, there is a smart and data-driven decision that is made to focus only on the high-value test cases. This can be a valuable but also risky method if the decision is not relying on accurate and up to date test data.
As revealed in the recent survey by Perfecto, over 46% of top enterprises selected the software regression testing cycle duration as their top priority from an investment perspective over the next 6-12 months. This makes sense, since this is one of the largest test automation suites, plus it gets executed multiple times per software iteration.
To address the time challenge in the regression suite, team managers and practitioners must focus on the following aspects:
The three considerations might not be the only ways to reduce the overall execution time, but they are a great starting point.
By ensuring that the suite is constantly stable, teams reduce the risk of test flakiness that typically translates to delays in cycles due to debugging, looking for root cause analysis, and more.
Through the previous tip, by ensuring that the suite brings value by the prioritization of tests, selecting the tests diligently and per functional area, teams can increase the chances of productive test cycles and reduce the rate of escape defects. In addition, and as the aforementioned survey shows, reducing the cost of regression cycles is also a challenge and a priority for teams. To succeed in this, the tests must be of high value, always up to date, lacking brittleness, etc.
Lastly, ensuring that the test environment is not flaky, and that it can scale and cover the right and most relevant platforms (mobile devices, desktop browsers, etc.) is essential for teams and can help achieve multiple wins. With regards to test environment maintenance and updates, it’s also important to mention the rest of the tool stack fitness in the regression cycle objectives. In that context, teams should select the right test automation framework that can scale up to the maximum amount needed so the execution time gets reduced. Bursting and executing tests in parallel is part of the tooling and test environment segment. Hence, teams should request access based on the coverage needs and other considerations (data-driven!) to such environments.
We have now covered critical points including test coverage, test value, and test scalability. However, the asset within the regression cycle that is the most challenging is the test suite visibility. Products and markets change, and so do test scenarios. Such test cases require continuous maintenance, versioning, and analysis to ensure that they are still valid from a testing objective and stability perspective.
The top reasons for regression suite issues are contributed to:
To address the above, teams should leverage some level of test reporting and dashboards that serves as a “single pane of glass” to leaders in the agile/DevOps teams. Such dashboards can uncover testing “wastes,” testing flakiness, environment-related issues, and other pipeline bottlenecks. Quality visibility is great and imperative for success, however, without communication and discipline across teams, the outcome of such visibility will not be achieved.
Teams need to get used to reviewing dashboards, such as the one above, and communicate the product owners (POs) in order to identify product requirements and risky code changes within the iteration so that they can determine if it is necessary to scope or re-scope the regression cycles.
Dashboards, like the one above, also show platform-specific issues. Here, teams need to adhere to the reports and if there are outdated or flaky platforms that constantly disconnect from the internet or cause test failures, disconnect them from the lab and replace them.
Regression cycles should be a no brainer for DevOps teams. As a test suite that is being executed in the highest cadence within the software iteration, the suites should also be stable and of high-value.
In this post, I have highlighted a few tips and recommended practices around continuous test maintenance, environment maintenance, quality dashboards and visibility, tooling, and skillset. DevOps management needs to prioritize the ongoing value and maintenance of the regression suite, and allocate the needed resources in order to make sure such that the suite fulfills its objectives – continuously!
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