In today's fast-paced mobile world, organizations are under more pressure than ever to quickly develop, deploy and maintain new and improved applications to remain competitive. On top of these critical software development initiatives, businesses are still required to perform ongoing maintenance of their overall IT environments. To make it all work, organizations not only need to align their respective software development strategies with maintenance routines, but they also must bake proactive and tenable software testing practices into the mix.

Ongoing maintenance requires automation

In the days when application downtime wasn't such a big deal, most organizations relied on software testing teams that performed duties manually. However, as IT has become more dynamic in nature, manual software testing can't keep up with the demand of fluid IT operations and related maintenance. Manual testing in today's IT environment incurs significant costs and often causes application downtime that can undermine the business as a whole.

Enter test automation, which uses scripts and tools to identify any conflicts or performance issues, often before they occur. Coupled with ongoing maintenance initiatives, test automation can keep organizations focused on key business strategies, rather than occupied with fighting fires after they have started.

Benefits of test automation

As stated earlier, businesses must keep updating their respective software portfolios. Even the most minor changes can affect the overall performance of critical business applications, so all features must be tested each and every time code is changed or introduced. Without test automation, the entire process can quickly spiral out of control. Test automation also decreases time-to-market, which is essential to remain competitive in today's cutthroat world. Finally, test automation can reduce overall costs to the business by quickly discovering points of failure in an application before it moves into production.

Tips for developing a test automation strategy

When developing a maintenance strategy that uses automation, teams need to first allocate sufficient time for testing, especially in more agile development environments. In other words, testing and test automation needs to be equally important as writing code.

Effective test automation enables regression testing, which lets IT administrators create repeatable tests that follow the software through every iteration of the build. When creating test scripts, IT administrators need to take the following parameters into consideration:

  • Code correctness
  • Maintainability
  • Portability among multiple environments
  • Versioning between builds

Finally, automated testing needs to produce results that can be acted on quickly to save time and money — an objective that is often impossible with manual testing.

In addition to the pressures of rolling out more powerful and flexible software on a rapid and regular basis, development teams and IT in general are charged with cutting costs. In other words, it is no longer acceptable for IT to be a drain on the overall business budget — IT is now regarded as an asset. This can only be achieved through effective automation techniques. By factoring automated software testing into ongoing maintenance efforts, businesses can stay on top of their game.

Has your business switched to automated test processes? What has been the biggest benefit? Let us know in the comments.

Karin Kelley is an independent industry analyst and writer, with over 10 years experience in information technology. She focuses on cloud infrastructure, hosted applications and services, end user computing and related systems management software and services. She spent nearly eight years at 451 Research, where she spearheaded coverage on emerging desktops-as-a-service (DaaS) markets. She has extensive expertise in enterprise infrastructure software and services, as well as a deep understanding of SMB, MSP and hosting markets. Karin holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from Humboldt State University, where she also studied Geology.