Test Automation: The Key to Your Next Project’s Salvation?

When it comes to software development projects, test automation (Oracle OATS, HP UFT/QTP, etc.) is oftentimes seen as a luxury—nothing more than a speedy improvement over the status quo.  But while this is somewhat true, test automation offers so much more than speed: it allows you to execute essential stress tests that would otherwise be impossible to afford.

Test Automation: The Key to Your Next Project’s Salvation?

Photo courtesy of akahawkeyefan (modified – Creative Commons)

When it comes to load testing, test automation—thought by some to be a mere time-saving luxury—makes the impossible possible.

Ever assembled a chair, only to have it break the first time you use it? 

Whether you missed a screw, nail, or other vital part of the assembly, it appeared finished—you only realized it wasn’t when you actually tested the final product according to its expected function.  Software projects work in the exact same way; if they’re not tested under the expected load they’ll incur once released, there’s a pretty significant chance that they’ll buckle underneath the weight of a live user base.  

One of the most salient examples of this is healthcare.gov, arguably the most infamous botched software release of all time.  Upon releasing, it was plagued by its performance under load—as the website’s design forced users into a high-traffic bottleneck—leading to the site’s poor performance and pitiful reception.

As the former example can attest, these kinds of tests—known either as performance testing, load testing, or stress testing—aren’t as commonplace as they should be.  Few, if any, companies have enough testers on staff to even get close to approximating a software system’s maximum load, and it’s far too cost-prohibitive to ever be a worthwhile expense, even if it were feasible. 

With costs making load testing impossible, many companies simply forgo it—risking user satisfaction, employee productivity (for ERP systems and business apps), and tremendously costly rework if their new software can’t handle the load.  What else can they do but hold their breath before every release? 

Fortunately, there’s a better way.  When it comes to load testing, test automation—thought by some to be a mere time-saving luxury—makes the impossible possible.

At first glance, automation can seem like an extravagance to some.  Even with an ironclad ROI that can cut up to 50% of a company’s testing budget, some see those returns as “soft benefits”—offering increased efficiency without any new functionality.

That all changes with load testing. Whether you use HP Unified Functional Testing/UFT (also known as HP Quality Center/Quick Test Professional/QTP), Oracle Application Testing Suite (Oracle OATS), or any one of the other myriad automation tools out there, automation enables you to execute formerly cost-prohibitive testing with a mere click of a mouse.  A far cry from the “trial by fire” method employed elsewhere, it prevents rework, delays, and headaches from users and IT staff alike. 

While it may be possible to initially dismiss test automation as an extravagance, once you take load testing into account it becomes an essential ingredient to a comprehensive, high-quality testing effort.  Whether you’re building a business app, working on a new release for your ERP system, or creating the next big mobile app, make sure your software can handle its user base before going live.  Otherwise, you’ll be no better off than if you tried to sit in that faultily-built chair—sore from the collapse and struggling to put the pieces back together.


Mike Hodge
Lighthouse Technologies, Inc
Software Testing | Quality Assurance Consulting | Oracle EBS Consulting

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