Friday, December 14, 2018

How to slash software testing costs with these 6 proven ideas

In chatting with CEOs of SaaS companies, one topic keeps coming up over and over again: how do we cut our software testing costs? Or, if we can't reduce them, how do we tame the growth in our software testing spend? What's just as surprising is that IT leaders in large enterprises ask the same question!

While everyone is looking for a silver bullet, let me be the voice of reason for you: software testing costs will only keep rising unless you do the 6 things mentioned below. But more importantly, be brave and implement the 10 strategies from our Secret Toolbox for a more lasting and effective outcome.

After all, this statistic from a survey conducted by IBM security, clearly illustrates that the last thing you want to achieve by cutting software testing cost is lowering the quality of your applications:

1. Shift left - don't leave testing until the end

Don't lie to yourself, because you know this is true: software testing is always the last task performed when shipping a new application. This is the case with waterfall as well as agile. It's not a problem of methodology, it's human nature - because we are wired to, encouraged to and applauded for releasing applications that make for great PR announcements.

Unfortunately, software testing ALWAYS seems to fall victim to the need to meet release deadlines and customer demands.

I say "unfortunately", not only because this manner of software delivery leads to frustrated users and high churn, but also because costs balloon and you end up scratching your head, having to read articles like this one.

Think of it this way: software testing is to a great user experience, what software design is to software development. Get this order wrong and you end up in a whole world of hurt, not just financially, but also in terms of the hit that you take to your reputation for not being able to deliver bug-free applications, on time.

By "shifting left" and ensuring that software testing is conducted from the outset of and throughout the development process you create the necessary space that empowers your team to find and squash bugs before they ship a release.

It's not rocket science, but it is just as powerful (in terms of delivering bug-free software).

2. Start test automation early...

...not after you've finished developing your application as is the (unfortunate) prevailing opinion. There are two primary reasons you automation should soon after your application's first stable releases are ready:

  1. You will be able to gain greater test coverage during every sprint from an earlier stage, because your manual testers' workload will be much reduced, or at the very least, better managed. Naturally, greater test coverage equates to a better user experience, less user frustration, less churn and therefore a healthier bottom line.
  2. Your automated testing suite keeps pace with your development so that you don't have to over-invest later to bring your automated regression suite to a level where automated tests represent 90%+ of complete test coverage.
If you well understand the mental aspects of high performing software teams, you will already have realised that what you need is a mindset shift. Shift yourself from a place where test automation is a nice-to-have, to a reality where a lack of test automation is like trying to make progress with your handbrake on.

3. Collect good people, not just lots of them

Most software teams I know are short of people, especially testing people. This leads to a situation where non-IT team members are drafted in help test every release. Or worse still, you have to resort to using your customers as an outsourced testing team.

If this seems like normal service for you, consider this: the former sucks the productivity out of your broader business and the latter results in frustrated customers who feel abused. These customers are usually the first to churn, leaving you trying to top up a forever leaky revenue bucket.

So what's the answer? You might be surprised to learn that it's not "more testers." The often forgotten advantage of test automation is that it allows you the time and money to reduce the size of your software quality team AND fill it with passionate team members of the highest calibre.

Just in case you haven't caught on: high calibre software quality types don't take roles that offer them "lots of manual testing." The guns that you should be hiring want a role in an organisation that wants to progress by helping its people reach new heights.

So let your automated tests handle the repetitive and the mundane, and empower your software testers to take your user experience to the next level.

Are you only conducting manual software testing at the moment? Do you use non-IT people from the business to help with software testing? Do you want to change to a more cost-effective structure?

4. Prioritise your tests based on risk

I'm often asked, "can we do smoke tests with your Qsome cloud testing tools?" I've come to learn that what this really means is: can we run just a few tests that we think might be important, because in the past we've never had enough time to test everything?!

If you share this mindset then you've not grasped the power of test automation. The number 1 advantage of test automation is that it allows you to test early and often during a sprint. When implemented effectively, you will not be able to use your previous manual testing data as benchmarks, because the numbers produced by your automated testing program will seem unreal.

For large and complex applications, however, where even automated regression tests can still take some days to complete, risk-prioritised tests are the new smoke tests. Good software testing tools are able to priorities your tests based on technical and business risk factors and give your team an option to run an objective subset of tests under certain circumstances.

This frees your team and managers from making difficult decisions that have potentially disastrous consequences, in the blind.

5. Select a test automation tool that is fit for you

A mindset change of the order that I'm recommending here will allow you to dispel the following two myths from your psyche, that:

  1. All test automation tools are the same; and
  2. Your software testing needs are so special that you need a custom built test automation tool or framework!
First, there are test automation tools that were built many moons ago, but you shouldn't be wasting your time with them. Importantly for you, there are cloud-based test automation tools that will enable you to conduct continuous testing on your web and mobile apps. Get our Ultimate Guide To Test Automation for a comparison of the most popular, modern software testing tools and test automation engines.

There may also be certain elements in your ear espousing the benefits of a "custom-built test automation framework." Why, you ask? Because our software is so special that there's not been a testing tool invented that we can use for automated tests, they answer.

Call BS on such flights of fancy before they irrevocably drain your budget, your energy and your professional credibility. Unless you're testing autonomous vehicles or software to land odd-shaped crafts on Mars, you can choose from a veritable smorgasbord of automated software testing tools that will cover at least 80%+ of your test automation needs.

By buying off the shelf, you save yourself the enormous cost and headaches of having to manage a team to develop, test and maintain a software testing tool. Why would you bother?

6. Outsource to a specialist test automation services company

When you find there is a lack of progress within your software quality program stretching over a year or more or your in-house strategies and decisions are not delivering the desired outcomes, look outwards for the answer.

When outsourcing your test automation be careful to select a turnkey solution where the automation can begin from the day dot. Never accept a solution where your test automation partner will first build you a custom framework (refer to paragraphs above) and then begin automating your tests, unless you want to implement a sure-shot recipe for missed deadlines, ineffective tests and test automation that has zero ROI.

Check out the 6 success factors you must consider when selecting an outsourced test automation company.

If you need help in solving these challenges, or in cutting software testing time and finding more bugs before your application's users find them, speak to us understand how we will be able to help you. Download our Secret Toolbox and then book in your test automation mastermind session to help set you on the right path to achieve your goals.
Or call us on +61 3 7001 1430 or +44 20 3411 4974 if you're in the UK, or email solutions[at]
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