Automating with Agile

31 12 2013

Agile is not a new word to the world of Information Technology. Automation has been said to be one of the key practices to making an Agile project possible. This in many ways may be considered true. I have been going through some good established practices of Agile, where most have been based on some basic level of automation, which helped in making a success of the project. I have penned down some thoughts on what it means to have test automation along with Agile practices.

There are many schools of thought which have gone into the agile way of doing a project and managing the various components that finally lead to the delivery of the project. When we consider Agile and its various derivatives, we come to realize that each Organization has their own way of dealing with the complexities that come with it. There is mention of starting with a session to discuss and elaborate on what the scope of the project is and how it can be broken into smaller pieces which then become the initial requirements. These can then be distributed to the team and made into story cards, attached with t-shirt sizes and put up on the scrum board to be picked up in batches by the team and worked on. In this fashion, a project progresses with the minimal of friction  and gets completed within the estimates provided by the t-shirt sizes. Most of the time this might not be entirely true, but this is how some Organizations perceive Agile and practice it; in the process giving negligent time for the automation, as manual tests take up the majority of time to complete.

When we talk of automation in Agile, it not only consists of the testing component, but an overall ‘continuous integration’ component. From the check-ins, build, unit tests, defect handling, integration & system tests to the final deployment on the ‘test’ server for doing the User Acceptance Testing (UAT).  Agile shops majorly miss out on this flow which should be the first thing to be completed for a Project to perform smoothly through its life-cycle. There are a multitude of tools available for making these tasks simpler and more robust, to name just a few which I have used – Jenkins/AntHill, Maven/MSBuild/make/Ant, SVN/Git, JIRA/FishEye, Crucible, TOSCA/QTP/pCloudy.com/Selenium.

In the path to Agile, we forget that we need to do the planning for automating our complete build-deploy process also and that includes the crucial part for integration & system tests. A thoughtful planning would be to make the initial framework using stubs for the interfaces and when these get built, replace them with the real thing. Often what I see is the perception that automation should be started when a clear and stable build is provided; yes, in a way this might be true, but not for Agile, where you really need to be agile and think on your feet. Start by implementing a strategy, wherein you have stubs ready and a CI platform available to make sure that testing can be done without code. This was the first lesson I was taught, we were to create test cases based on the ‘pseudo-algorithm’ and  the interfaces that we have written. The tests need to be developed in a way that all fail initially and as and when the code is delivered they start to pass according to the requirements provided.

If you have done this then you have taken that crucial step towards Agile automation, that will take you a long way in making the project a success for you and your Team.

 





Working with TOSCA (Part 2)

28 04 2013

This has been a long overdue post from my end, and as I now have some time at hand, thought it was better to put it down.

TOSCA has been promoted by Tricentis in Australia for the past 3+ years now and has risen from being an unknown tool in the ANZ markets to now in the 2nd position after the ever prevalent QTP (although under HP’s banner, it has undergone a lot of iterations and name changes also now). Tricentis has used the MBT principles to create TOSCA as an easy to use and implement tool. It allows the test team to concentrate on creating the actual workflow of the application, from the ‘artifacts’ provided in the initial ‘Requirement’ and ‘Test Case Design’ sections. From then, it is a simple case of either matching these test workflows with the appropriate screen objects (‘Modules’), or running them manually [yes, you can run ‘Test Case’ created in TOSCA as manual or automated tests]. TOSCA provides a section for ‘Reports’, which is in PDF format or from the ‘Requirement’ tab, which provides an overview of what has been created, what is automated and what has passed/failed. The ‘Execution List’ tab provides a simplistic way to define the different ways (and environments) in which you can run your test cases.

As I wrote in my previous post, TOSCA should be started from the Requirements of the application, where the application is broken into workflows and each is assigned a weight-age  This provides the base for creating the test cases in our ‘Test Case Design’ section.

The ‘Test Case Design’ is the interesting part (and claimed by Tricentis, as not being used by any other tool, as yet). Here you need to dissect the requirements and application to create each attribute and assign its relevant ‘equivalence partitioning‘. Sometimes this may not be necessary and  the TCD acts like a data sheet for the test team.

For most automation tools, you begin with the application and then match it with the requirements. TOSCA wants you to start from the requirements and build it to the actual tests. Then you add in the actual application and you are on the way to creating a well thought out automation or manual test practice.

Now TOSCA v7.6.x has come out with a new Cross-Browser testing concept called TBox. This allows you to create a ‘Module’ in one of the main browsers, and be used across IE, Chrome and FF.





Working with TOSCA

23 07 2012

For the past few months, I have been working on a new paradigm to Automation, with a “Model Based” tool from Tricentis – TOSCA. Overall, it is quite a different experience in using it. It does not contain any code, and builds from the requirements as a model of what the actual application will contain. The catch being that initially you do not need to define your test cases from the application end and things might not even be in sequence of what the actual final application would look like.

I have an analogy for this – a human body is composed of head, body, hands and legs. Each one has its own “attributes”, which in turn have “instances”. This is what is called the ‘Model-based approach’. Each hand will have attributes such as fingers, nails, elbow, fore-hand, wrist, etc. Then, all these attributes will have instances – long fingers, short fingers, thick fingers, etc. Now to build a body, you need to join all these “attributes” into a seamless body with the various parts working in tandem. This is what a test case would look like in TOSCA. With the initial parts of the body being the Test Case Design part. The joining together of the parts being the test case and the final infusion of blood being the execution and reporting [have not used Frankenstein here, as TOSCA tends to create a human rather than it’s alternate :-)]

TOSCA takes its roots in Object Oriented Modelling, employing concepts such as separation of concerns and encapsulation. In TOSCA, you can create classes, attributes and instances (objects). This modular breakdown makes the understanding and management of the actual requirements fairly simple; without going into how the final system under test would look like. I find this a very cool thing; although it took me some time to understand the concept in relation to the current bombardment of the existing Test Frameworks and Tools.

Again, the interface has a very intuitive design, which can be modelled according to the needs and quirks of the person working with it. People might argue here, that it is the same with Eclipse and other such tools like MS Visual Studio Test Professional, but the concept is totally different with TOSCA. You have the drag & drop capabilities, combined with a good integration across all the functionality provided from putting in the requirements to the final reporting; all in a single interface and tool, with support from a dedicated and technical team to get over the initial hiccups of using it.

The next good part, I found, was its capability to extend its technology adaptors (adaptors are used to automate tests against systems developed in various technologies, such as HTML, Java, .NET, Mainframe, Web Services, etc.) using the ubiquitous and simple VBScript and VBA; which is prevalent as the development language of choice in the Testing Community. I found this quite interesting, as we can now easily use TOSCA with almost any system, which we can code to make the underlying adaptor understand. For example, we had a hybrid mainframe green screen application to test (a rich Java GUI with an embedded mainframe emulator), which after a week’s work was ready to be tested with TOSCA; I have not come across such quick development cycles with other tools I worked with/on. That said, TOSCA has the capability to extend itself to different backend databases with the ease of just creating a simple module for it and using that module throughout your test cases to create a connection and then run your customized SQL queries.

If you start from the Requirement Definitions part, you can easily put in your current requirements and provide a measure of weight-age for each.

Then comes the part where you can extremely easily define the actions you can do on the objects which form your test cases. TOSCA by default defines 6 such actions – Do Nothing, Input, Output, Buffer, Verify and WaitOn, which take care of how a particular attribute defined earlier in the Test Design is taken action on.

More on this coming up soon…