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3 Reasons to Practice Test Automation in Agile Development

When working in an Agile context, teams are expected to deliver a releasable product increment at the end of each iteration, or at least within short time intervals (depending whether the teams are adopting scrum, kanban, or some other framework).

In order to achieve this, they need to adopt effective testing practices that align with the Agile principles. Test automation emerges as a fundamental element of Agile development, ensuring faster feedback loops, increased efficiency, and enhanced collaboration. In this article, we will introduce 3 reasons why test automation is essential for Agile development and explore its benefits for development teams:

  • Reduce wasted time on problems detected late in the delivery process
  • Get more confidence in changing your code with consistent and reliable tests
  • Invest more time on evaluating and improving user satisfaction



Reduce wasted time on problems detected late in the delivery process

While in a waterfall based development approach, test is considered as a specific phase following the development phase, in an Agile context, test is a continuous activity and each product increment needs to be tested in order to meet the quality requirements that the users or the industry are demanding.

Shifting to a continuous testing approach requires a lot of change in terms of process, practices, and in how people collaborate. Facing this difficult challenge, many teams stick to manual testing, and testing all features at once at the end of their iteration, or even after the iteration.

This often leads to discovering problems late in the delivery process, and not only does it create a waste of time to investigate and fix them, but it can also severely impact the customers and the business.

Therefore it becomes crucial to have a fast and reliable feedback loop. Manual testing can be time-consuming and prone to human errors, resulting in delays and bottlenecks. Test automation allows teams to execute test cases rapidly and continuously, providing instant feedback on the quality of the code changes.

Agile development is closely associated with Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) practices, which aim to automate the process of building, testing, deploying, and releasing software. Test automation plays a pivotal role in CI/CD enablement. Automated tests are integrated into the CI/CD pipelines, ensuring that each code change is thoroughly tested before being merged into the main codebase. This seamless integration allows teams to detect and fix issues early in the development cycle, reducing the risk of defects reaching the production environment.


Get more confidence in changing your code with consistent and reliable tests

In Agile development, where iterations and changes are frequent, consistency in testing becomes vital. Manual testing might introduce variations due to human errors, leading to inconsistent results.

Test automation brings consistency and reliability to the testing process by executing test cases in the same manner every time they are run. Automated tests are not affected by human factors like fatigue, which ensures that the results are accurate and dependable (However all tests passing don’t necessarily indicate that the product meets all quality criteria!). The reliability of test automation increases the team's confidence in the software, allowing them to make more informed decisions during the development process.

The more changes are made, the more chances to break existing features. Automating regression tests becomes crucial to ensure that new features or modifications do not adversely affect existing functionalities.

Automated test suites can be executed quickly and repeatedly, verifying that all previously working functionalities continue to function as expected. This efficiency in regression testing not only allows teams to focus on innovation and feature development, but also gives the confidence to rework existing features and tackle necessary refactoring as the product evolves.


Invest more time on evaluating and improving user satisfaction

Comprehensive test coverage is vital for delivering a high-quality product. Manual testing often restricts the extent of test coverage due to time constraints and the repetitive nature of manual test execution. Test automation allows teams to expand their test coverage substantially. Automated tests can be easily repeated and scaled, enabling testing across various platforms, devices, and configurations.

Not only does this allow teams to create more sophisticated test scenarios, cover edge cases and critical functionalities, but this also creates opportunities for the teams to learn more about their product and their users.

Testing the functional parts of the product and its business logic in various conditions contributes to guarantee that the product behaves as it was intended to, but it doesn’t tell whether users will love it.

Test automation opens a space to invest more time on the product critique where all different roles in the teams, including users and stakeholders, can collaborate and contribute with their unique perspectives and knowledge. Spending more time on practices such as exploratory testing, user research and interviews, product discovery and data analysis will provide new learnings and insights to the teams in order to improve their product and better satisfy their users.


Final Thoughts

Test automation is a cornerstone of Agile development, enabling teams to respond swiftly to emerging requirements and deliver products in shorter cycles.

Yet, it is frequently observed that Agile teams resist or push back the adoption of Test automation practices, and then struggle to sustain high-quality software and deliver at a rapid pace.

Overcoming the lack of understanding regarding the importance of test automation in Agile development requires a combination of education, communication, and demonstrating tangible benefits. Agile teams and managers need to be educated about the long-term advantages of test automation, such as improved efficiency, higher quality software, faster feedback loops, and reduced time-to-market. By addressing misconceptions and providing clear data on the impact of test automation, organizations can make informed decisions that align with the principles of Agile development and lead to a more successful software delivery.

Jean-Baptiste Vasseur

Written by Jean-Baptiste Vasseur

Agile coach and CEO of yamaneco, a Tokyo-based consulting and coaching agency. We explore and pursue new ways of defining value, collaborating, and practicing at work. We challenge the status-quo and support our clients to build learning and adapting organizations.