Intelligent Test Automation: A Quality Engineer's Best Friend

Two current challenges in software testing

1. Unchecked risk scenarios

Thanks to Agile and DevOps with automation testing tools like Appium and Selenium, Quality Engineering teams can run a huge volume of tests to get software and other digital products to market efficiently and reliably. But don't be fooled into thinking QE and testing processes have been thoroughly optimized; a lot of effort is necessary, and at the end of the day, there are still unchecked risk scenarios. 

When certain risk scenarios go unchecked, the potential for defects is elevated upon product release. Part of this challenge revolves around knowing the right things to test. If a small change is made to an application, do we have to run the entire test suite again? Are we running useful tests? What's the minimum number of tests we could run to determine the impact of the adjustment to the application? 

2. Stiffened competition

We already mentioned how tools can be used to automate testing scenarios. Combine that with Agile and DevOps methods, and you're left with a pretty powerful system in place to release solid digital products. This is because Agile and DevOps break silos while automated testing gives confidence and data that teams can use to make efficient improvements to software. 

The likes of Apple, Philips, Spotify, eBay, Walmart and countless other organizations have applied Agile and DevOps to attain business results. In fact, out of 188 reference clients surveyed by Gartner Research for its Magic Quadrant, 74% were using Agile and DevOps methods as of 2019. 

Because of the intensified competitive landscape, Gartner notes, "The application testing service market is undergoing transformation to cope with the digital technologies and the speed of releases in Agile and DevOps."

A solution?

In a conversation with Softtek's QE Global Director, Ernesto Davila, and QE Solution Manager, Paco Martinez, I got the scoop on a new service offer: Intelligent Test Automation (ITA) for application and software development. This solution makes use of the latest tech like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), creating use cases that are transforming entire industries. It was only a matter of time until these competencies got applied to application testing services. 

Let's start by understanding what this solution implies. For sake of simplicity, ITA— which can also be referred to as cognitive testing— is a blanket term that implies leveraging AI tech like ML and deep learning (DL), natural language processing (NLP) and other cognitive computing technologies during the testing process.

Companies who offer intelligent test automation may differ in their specific service offerings, but all share five common goals:

  1. Increase speed to market
  2. Reduce testing effort
  3. Increase testing coverage
  4. Reduce testing costs without sacrificing quality
  5. Run more impactful tests

FRIDA Intelligent Test Automation platform

Now that we have some general context, let's have a look at Softtek's intelligent testing solution, FRIDA ITA. 

A creative request

It all started about 3 years ago, when Softtek received an RFP with an interesting ask: "Propose an innovative idea for a testing solution." As Ernesto explained, "The team came up with a vision to revolutionize the industry by automating the entire testing lifecycle." At the time, all automated testing tools were focused on traditional test automation, covering only certain phases of the testing lifecycle.

After responding to the RFP, the rest was history, and the solution is now available after its release announced during the Digital Innovation Summit 2020 that took place at the start of this year.

Solution at a glance

There are three elements that make for a successful test spring using CTP:

  1. ITA Engineers: As Rich Friedrich, Director of Systems Software at Hewlett Packard Labs, said, "Programs mirror human logic, but they don't mirror intuitive thought." For that reason alone, despite cutting-edge technology doing the bulk of the dirty work, testers still stay very involved in the testing effort. They must ensure the test objectives are reach, maintain close communication with the development teams and orchestrate the testing workflow. 
  2. FRIDA ITA: As Ernesto and Paco explained, the biggest objective is to "significantly reduce the human testing effort required in any given development project," doing so by combining Softtek's 25+ years of experience providing QA and Testing services with recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence. The result is a solution that incorporates intelligent automation features across the entire testing lifecycle, from requirements review to test execution. 
  3. Processes (best practices): Including intelligent test automation into the Software Development Lifecycle requires a few practices and implementation methodologies be in place. These include but are not limited to Agile Scrum, Kanban, SAFE Pod and TMMi (see page 10-11).

Features 

Companies that incorporate those three elements into their business model are ready to benefit from intelligent automated testing. Here are the main features of FRIDA ITA:

  • Automatic test case generation: Web applications have gained a prominent role in society, creating substantial revenue streams for many companies. The services they offer often function on a large scale and must change and update frequently to keep up with the rapid evolution of technology. Because of the fast-paced environment, companies must quickly estimate the impact of changes before implementation. Through automatic test case generation, FRIDA ITA creates a complete test case (with positive and negative testing, plus boundary value analysis) based on identified test scenarios that were also automatically created using a digital user story as the initial input. The results can be imported directly to any test management tool (think Zephyr, ALM, qTest or your own). 
  • Scriptless test creation and execution: If you've heard of low code or no code, this concept is right on that page. FRIDA converts test cases into automated test scripts so that you don't have to script or program— a true savior to the time and effort required in a less automated or fully manual approach.
  • Smart regression testing: Advances in testing methodologies and technology have allowed companies to roll out new software features as often as daily. Every release, however, poses the risk of software regressions (bugs) to be introduced. To make automatic test case generation more useful, we must have something equally powerful to efficiently execute the tests. Once FRIDA ITA converts test cases into automated test scripts, coverage gaps are identified using its analytics component and smarter regression testing sets are suggested based on identified product risks and historic data. In short, this feature ensures that new releases are functional after a code change, reduces testing effort and rules out redundant test cases.
  • Defect prevention through analytics: This feature uses data science algorithms to identify defect trends and predict results, and ML is then leveraged to improve test cases and regressions. By singling out the root cause, best practices can be put into play to prevent recurrence.

A stronger future with intelligent test automation 

The future adoption of intelligent-cognitive computing solutions for software and application testing will be driven by a proven ability to kickstart and maintain revenue generation, reduce TTM for new products and features, lower costs, reduce defects and carve out new spots in the competitive landscape. Although such advances may sound radical, testing teams will not be smothered out— they will be empowered. Cognitive computing technology has given the world of testing a bright future, but it is ultimately up to the human test engineers to synergize with their intelligent robot counterparts to recast testing as we know it.

"Unlike any other industry, that of IT services relies on talent. The heart of our company is our people, and it is our responsibility to nourish it."

Softtek President and CEO, Blanca Treviño

Framework For Intelligent Digital Automation FRIDA solution