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Key things to consider when choosing regression testing tools

Making a decision about regression testing tooling purchases means taking stock of plans for CI/CD implementations, existing automation capabilities, staff expertise and more.

To select the right regression testing tools, teams also need to pay attention to the structure of their test automation tool stack. When considering what tools to adopt, it's important to carefully consider the needs of existing development processes, involve all stakeholders, and provide everyone sufficient time to make a sound purchase decision.

High-quality regression testing requires an appropriate array of test automation tools. Despite the importance of these tools, however, teams don't always engage in the warranted amount of research, analysis and evaluation required to make a good selection. Furthermore, teams need to be proactive about the selection of their test automation tool stack. After all, the processes of considering, purchasing, implementing and training on the adoption of new tools can require considerable amounts of time.

Below, we explore the questions and selection criteria that can help a team make better-informed test automation tool purchases, which, in turn, makes for stronger regression testing. Additionally, we discuss a potential process for selecting new testing tools for a development team.

What affects regression testing tool decisions?

For software teams that adhere to Agile and DevOps methodologies -- including an implementation of shift-left techniques -- regression testing has become an integral part of continuous testing efforts. In turn, automated regression testing now plays a front-line role in CI/CD efforts. QA team members should ideally execute automated regression tests for every feature and code commit that goes through the team's overall CI/CD pipeline.

An effective regression test strategy involves heavy amounts of test automation -- specifically, automating unit and component testing as well as functional and nonfunctional testing.

An effective regression test strategy involves heavy amounts of test automation -- specifically, automating unit and component testing, as well as functional and nonfunctional testing. Note that different tools are needed for each of these test types, and therefore, regression testing within Agile and DevOps methodologies requires a stack of tools rather than just one.

Testers won't be the only staff who use this tool stack. Solution architects, developers, software development engineers in test (SDETs) and release engineers use the tooling. Accordingly, the selection of regression testing tools should be a group effort that includes representatives from every team that relies on them in some way.

3 key things to consider

Once conversations around new regression test tooling begin, it's important for the deciding group to consider two critical factors when it comes to their software development processes and team structure.

The first factor to consider is the organization's maturity in terms of CI/CD. This entails asking the following four questions:

  1. Has the organization implemented CI/CD?
  2. If not, is CI/CD in the enterprise's future plans?
  3. How frequently does each development team release software?
  4. Is the frequency of those release cycles likely to increase?

If CI/CD is in place -- or on the horizon -- the tool stack must include test automation tools that can integrate with testing tools that are already in place, as well any tool the team plans to adopt down the line. Seamless integration of these automation tools is particularly important if there is already a comprehensive CI/CD tool stack and pipeline in place.

A second factor to consider revolves around the unique needs, skill levels and capabilities that exist within your current software team. For instance, many developers need access to language-specific test automation frameworks and tooling packages, such as PHPUnit, Vue.js or Cypress. Meanwhile, DevOps engineers, SDETs and automation test engineers need access to platforms like Postman for API testing and automation tools like Selenium to build end-to-end regression test suites.

Finally, it's critical to also consider the specific type of applications being tested. If it is a web application, for instance, the team needs to look at tools capable of testing across numerous operating platforms, web browsers and mobile devices. Or, if the application encompasses a number of complicated business workflows, it's likely that a robotic process automation tool like Automation Anywhere needs to play a prominent role in testing procedures.

Codeless automation tools

If a team is not well experienced with automation, one option is to adopt a codeless test automation tool. These are tools that make use of record and playback techniques, command-line testing and, in some cases, AI technology to help teams write fully automated test cases in plain language rather than programming code. Once the tests are run, these tools also provide locators that teams can use to find individual objects, failures and test scripts in need of repair.

Codeless test automation is starting to play an increasingly important role for teams looking to shift from QA to quality engineering. Codeless tools may even facilitate higher levels of collaboration: By providing the opportunity for any team member to write their own test scripts, the scope of care and responsibility for ensuring software quality expand across a wider population of the overall software department.

The automation tool selection process

To start the actual tool analysis process, develop a comprehensive list of every specific feature and testing capability each team's personnel need access to in that regression testing tool. While it's unlikely that any one tool perfectly satisfies the needs of everyone, this catalog plays an important role in objectively reviewing options and identifying gaps where other tools could step in.

As options are narrowed down, solicit opinions from colleagues and other nonvendor professionals who may have firsthand experience with those tools. To this end, software conferences and expos can provide a wealth of information about individual tools, not just from vendors, but from fellow attendees actively working with test automation.

Eventually, identify at least three tool vendors to request demos from, as well as any open source tooling worth taking for a test drive. Before any final purchase, ask for a trial copy of the tool that the team can use to design its own proof of concept (POC). Creating this POC provides invaluable firsthand information that helps make the right decision.

Of course, remain mindful of the organization's timeline for analysis and implementation of the regression testing tool. Depending on an organization's specific structure or industry vertical, there may be legal, compliance and security concerns that are necessary to navigate as well. Accordingly, it is important to plan for those steps in the implementation schedule and to avoid rushing a decision as much as possible.

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