Test automation is critical for a holistic software testing strategy in today’s DevOps cycle. Efficient automated QA systems run by talented engineers can shorten development times, improve time to release, lower costs, and drive scale. It’s worth noting that nearly a quarter of companies that initiated automated software testing showed an ROI within the first six months. Sounds perfect, right? 

Unfortunately, there are still major hurdles to test automation that can cause significant issues while impacting app speed and quality. Here are five common test automation challenges and how DevOps teams can work to overcome them.

1. Quality engineering talent shortage

The global talent shortage affects nearly every industry, so it tracks that one of the biggest challenges to adopting test automation is finding and retaining the talent you need. Techstrong Research data shows that over 88% of companies struggle to find, hire, and retain quality testing and automation support engineers. The global quality engineering talent scarcity impacts the quality and speed-to-market of products for companies, causing delays and often cost overruns. At the same time, DevOps teams are being asked to release code more quickly than ever before.

Many companies will need a strategic combination of digital tools, platforms, and software testing teams to bridge the talent gap. So first, to meet this challenge, explore multiple software testing staffing models. Do you have the existing infrastructure to support full-time QEs? Or do you need to leverage QEs through an outsourced testing partner? Outsourced testing is an excellent option if you need a consistent, knowledgeable QE/QA team to cover many locations/devices, prioritize continuous testing, and develop an automated strategy with dedicated partnerships to help.

From there, your QE team can focus on test automation development that optimizes and fully integrates existing manual processes and human testers with new automated resources.

2. Bottlenecks caused by flaky broken scripts

Automation provides an efficient way to test code, but as more tests are introduced, it can create bottlenecks in the system. The sheer volume of tests and testing types can sometimes be overwhelming, backing up the queue and slowing delivery. Test runs start to get delayed. Test results are late, flaky, or rushed. Then, when broken scripts or flaws are introduced into the testing environment, the problems only magnify. Engineers must be diverted to repair the testing environment, removing them from other duties and slowing down the development cycle.

To keep the CI/CD cycle flowing smoothly and prevent test automation challenges, it’s all about creating a sustainable process. Integrations with Testlio’s automated features or other leading third-party automation platforms pull automation test failures for manual validation or fallback. Failure signals are then pushed to manual testers who investigate, reproduce and quickly offer actionable insights.

3. Maintaining integrations across a diverse DevOps toolchain

Too often, separate tools and platforms are operated in siloed environments, requiring additional work, such as adjusting file formats during handoffs. It also creates a need for more visibility between processes or team members; perhaps some are utilizing tools, and others are not. Yet, many DevOps teams accept that it’s the way things are and work around it — leading to repetitive, manual processes that can introduce human error when they could be automated.

Don’t settle for inefficient or non-existent communication and integration between your platforms. The right toolchain can make all the difference in testing environments. A fused testing pipeline with integrated tools can accelerate the DevOps process and avoid errors. By creating a seamless workflow, you can generate a complete, end-to-end approach for testing. For example, Testlio has developed an integrated fused testing toolchain that can help accelerate testing by using the following:

Fused testing helps maximize attainable ROI on current & future investments in test automation tooling with an open and extensible architecture. An agnostic approach to DevOps integrations lowers switching costs and provides flexible tooling options for task management, test management, and test automation through partnerships and integrations.

4. Automated tests miss human issues

Software devs are under pressure to make tradeoffs on speed, quality, and feature sets to meet deadlines for release. Though automation is often touted as the ultimate solution to speed issues, developers must be careful about which tests they automate and which they do not. Unit tests, API tests, and UI tests are prime for automation. 

But automated tests can only notice some of the apparent issues that manual testers would see, specifically in usability, exploratory, and localization testing areas. 

  • Exploratory testing: Software bugs are sneaky — they hide in the nooks and crannies of project requirements and user stories. Structured exploratory testing helps uncover issues missed from automated scripts.
  • Usability testing: Usability revolves around the entire app-driven experience — something that requires human testing on real devices and in real locations. Usability testing uncovers problem areas where the customer experience falters inside and outside the app.
  • Localization testing: Users will pass up products whose graphical or UI elements are incompatible with their culture, language, or preferred devices. Localization testing matches your app with an expert network of global testers to ensure your app passes the “locals” test.

Manual testing is essential for verifying new features and offering actionable reproduction instructions for issues missed by flaky or broken automated scripts. While automated testing offers immediate test execution, manual testing provides flexibility and coverage that only humans with real devices and localized insights can perform. The real solution to missed issues during automation is to fuse manual and automated testing, merging machine and human resources to test in parallel. 

5. Script writing, implementation, and maintenance

One of the most time-consuming parts of the test automation development process is developing the scripts and testing environment. Getting it right from the start is crucial since flaws in the writing, implementing, and maintaining scripts can degrade app quality and cause significant rework. It’s also expensive since you’re paying QE talent to manage the process. 

Solving this test automation challenge requires rethinking the workflow. For many, testing comes near the end of the development cycle. Today, however, there’s an increasing movement to shift left and integrate testing earlier in the CI/CD pipeline. Shift-left testing reduces costs by testing and solving problems earlier in the development cycle. Defects get repaired as they are found rather than waiting for the final testing cycle. Once this process works, it provides a continuous testing environment that reduces bugs and errors in the early stages, saving precious dev time.

Kassidy Kelley serves as the Managing Editor for Testlio and works from her home base in Boston, MA.