Global Test Automation During COVID-19

As COVID-19 spreads across the United States, and more states are being forced to instill shelter-in-place mandates, employees are increasingly being asked to work from home, leaving test processes and infrastructure (like private clouds, secure network access, specific mobile phones, etc.) behind. 

How to Keep Your Automation Programs Running in Times of Crises. 

Many companies simply tried to distribute test execution to remote workers, and are scrambling to meet tight releases. I believe that Global Test Automation (GTA) is the best solution to augment teams who haven’t rapidly spun up the infrastructure and to help companies diversify against risk. 

In 2006, when Hung Nguyen, Brent Whitlock, and I wrote the book on Global Test Automation, the goal was to help organizations not only address the fundamental issue of Software Testing and help better execute software Test Automation but to optimize resources by using expert outsourcing and labor cost arbitrage. Today it’s commonplace in software development for a company to use some level of outsourcing for their testing practices. 

Global Test Automation is about your organization’s need to:

  • Automate Testing
  • Build complex, perhaps multi-tool Automation harnesses and frameworks
  • Automating, where possible, at various levels such as API or service level.

But, getting qualified Automation Engineers internally can be a big cost. Building and maintaining the infrastructure and tool cost…you know where that goes. That was true in 2006 but it is especially true today, and pivotal moments like the Great Recession and COVID-19 have shown the need for global automation programs. 

Global Test Automation, when implemented correctly, is a powerful tool to distribute risk, as well as protecting you against future staff change and instability. Each of these three points below is exponentially more important as basic business functions in software development in 2020. 

LogiGear’s Global Test Automation (GTA) Strategy is based on 3 principles:

  1. Everybody needs to automate Software Testing. Automate a lot, not a little.
  2. You should outsource it. Finding really qualified Automation experts or Automation Engineers capable of handling your requirements can be quite difficult.
  3. You should offshore it. The cost of hiring sophisticated Automation Engineers is prohibitively high for many companies. 

For the complicated issues that many software teams in the US are facing today–productivity during work from home, costs, management oversight, investing more in infrastructure during this crisis, difficult or unmanageable release schedules due to the effects of COVID-19–Global Test Automation presents an opportunity to solve these problems and prevent them from occurring again in the future, a small silver lining to this ordeal. The transition to GTA is rather straightforward and a powerful way to scale as required. 

Why It Makes Sense to Offshore

The skills required to design and implement robust, reliable, and effective automated tests can take years to perfect and requires significant investment in training. Hiring people to fill skills gaps in-house can take a painstakingly long time, and even if your new recruit has incredible technical skills, it can take time for them to integrate with the team. Outsourcing to an offshore provider can be a quick fix to these pain points.  Our teams are well-practiced in Proofs-of-Concept and jump-starting projects and the approach to getting plugged into projects. Our teams are staffed with highly-skilled and efficient Automation Engineers, who have had exposure to many different products and services due to the nature of being a part of a diverse testing services company. Their extensive, shared experience can help you get the most out of your testing by harnessing the power of a small army of testers that would be impossibly expensive to host in-house. These teams are ready to hit the ground running. They have the skills and experience to offer a rapid solution that grows as your organization does.

Also, if times get incredibly tough and overhead needs to be reduced, there are often fewer complications in ramping down an offshore team, compared to an in-house team. Most testing service providers allow for flexibility in contracts and allow you to ramp your team up and down to meet demands. 

Using Global Test Automation to Plan and React

Another way to look at GTA is to consider it a framework or model to design your risk recovery and continuation plan. This is just as applicable for an organization ready to take the leap into full GTA as it is for organizations that aren’t quite ready for the transformation.

Let’s take a look at how Global Test Automation can be used as a filter or guide in designing a Risk Recovery/Continuation Plan:

  1. Automate a lot – Under pressure time is king. Review all your current test procedures and ask if these can be automated and whether they should be.  “Automate a lot” shouldn’t be interpreted as “automate everything,” as this can lead to flaky and unreliable tests––adding even more workload to an already pressed team. If automating simple checks can free up time for staff to concentrate on more important tasks, this is a good thing. If the simple checks can be run reliably in the absence of staff, and the reports still made available to people who need it, this is also a good thing.
  2. Outsource it – Especially right now, amidst COVID-19, having the flexibility to keep your internal team focused on changes to the release at hand, on an e-release, or support issues are more possible when you outsource the day-to-day testing work to a dedicated team. Getting testing done, keeping anyone’s productivity up during periods of great change is never easy. Outsourcing the day-to-day testing work is a great solution for many organizations.  When upset hits (be it a pandemic, financial upset, natural disaster, etc.), an uncomfortable reality is that your team might not be reachable or available; think about the current global situation. The hierarchy of importance in regards to testing work is going to be constantly changing in response to COVID-19; by outsourcing your day-to-day testing work to a testing vendor, your in-house team is able to keep focus maintaining business continuity through these trying times. Furthermore, specific to these uncertain times, by diversifying your testing teams and moving work to a different affected area, you’re minimizing business risk overall.   We are experienced working with organizations on how to outsource their testing processes. You can consider having collaboration programs between your teams or your sites to invite teams to share ideas and ways of working; spreading the knowledge and skills across all teams involved will only help in the long-term.
  3. Offshore it – The benefits of offshoring are well known today. The first thought to many people’s minds is labor arbitrage. But in my experience, the biggest benefits are a focused, stable workforce that usually cannot be put together at the home office. From the availability of highly-skilled staff to the cost of this staff and their management, many organizations could not put an internal Automation expert team together. In the long term, the biggest benefit will be having a team that has been built to suit your tool or technology needs and has been specifically structured and tuned to be plugged into a project to hit the ground running. Coupling subject matter expertise and technical skill has always been the key to successful Automation programs. Using offshore teams gives an organization flexibility they may not have at the home office.

It is a prudent idea to run regular risk remediation and continuation exercises with your organization. Build a plan using outsourcing, offshoring, and GTA as a guideline, and test its performance in mock scenarios.

Conclusion

The outbreak of COVID-19 has illuminated the risk of relying too heavily on the status quo. Organizations can leverage outsourced or offshore resources to mitigate difficulties when staffing availability and consistency issues arise, while those dependent on key personnel and in-house processes are struggling under time, work pressure, or forced to self-isolate. The coming weeks and months will see our industry evolve; the best way to be on the right end of this is to look at how your organization operates holistically and how each part can operate in the time of crisis.

After being in business for over 26 years, LogiGear has seen its way through countless difficult periods and has empowered numerous organizations to survive through these times as well. With over 16 years of having an offshore division to complement our Silicon Valley division, we know how to help. With a decade of rapid team ramp-ups, our secure infrastructure, our processes, and our resources allow us to ensure your business’ continuity, allowing you to focus on what truly matters: the health and safety of your organization. 
Get in contact with us today, and one of our team members will be in contact with you to see how we can help you meet your goals and deadlines throughout this time. Our teams are tool agnostic, we can provide you with a turnkey solution using our own TestArchitect or your preferred toolset. The global economy may be trying your business, so LogiGear is proud to reach out a hand and stand beside you in these trying times.

Michael Hackett
"Michael is also a co-founder of LogiGear Corporation, and has over two decades of experience in software engineering in banking, securities, healthcare and consumer electronics.

Michael is a Certified Scrum Master and has co-authored two books on software testing. Testing Applications on the Web: Test Planning for Mobile and Internet-Based Systems (Wiley, 2nd ed. 2003), available in English, Chinese and Japanese, and Global Software Test Automation (HappyAbout Publishing, 2006). He is a founding member of the Board of Advisors at the University of California Berkeley Extension and has taught for the Certificate in Software Quality Engineering and Management at the University of California Santa Cruz Extension. As a member of IEEE, his training courses have brought Silicon Valley testing expertise to over 16 countries."
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