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Automated Regression Testing: 2024 Guide

Chris Schwartz

Chris Schwartz

Welcome to your guide to automated regression testing in 2024. This guide provides a complete overview of automated regression testing, highlighting its critical role in modern software development. Whether you're interested in understanding its benefits, learning how to implement it, or exploring best practices, you're in the right place!

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What is automated regression testing?

What are the benefits of automated regression testing?

How to automate regression testing in 8 steps

Automated regression testing best practices

Keep learning


What is automated regression testing?

Automated regression testing is a software testing technique that uses automation to execute a test suite of regression tests.

This is the quickest and most accurate way to validate that new code changes have not adversely affected the existing functionality of the software. These tests can be performed frequently and consistently, acting as a safety net to quickly identify and rectify regressions before they affect production.

Automated regression testing plays a key role in ensuring software quality in today's fast-paced software development environments. By using automation, you can continually ensure all your applications remain reliable and high-performing, even as new changes are introduced.

What are the benefits of automated regression testing?

Automated regression testing offers major benefits that streamline the testing process, enhance efficiency, and ultimately contribute to higher-quality software and better business continuity. Below, we outline the top five benefits it brings to businesses.

1. Save resources

The greatest benefit of automated regression testing is that it frees up resources. Automated regression tests pick up the slack of predictable, rule-based, and repetitive testing with high accuracy.

Ideal_Task_For_AutomationImage: The ideal task for test automation

This means testers can spend less time on repetitive and time-consuming tasks and more time working on other types of tests. Manual testing can then be used to explore more unusual cases that require special attention or similar examples that require a human’s creative and critical mind.

By choosing a codeless test automation tool, additional time can be saved on the setup and maintenance of automated flows, and dependencies on developers are removed, letting QA teams flow through bottlenecks.

Overall, saving time and improving operational efficiency equates to cost savings and happy bosses. Hence, this is the most important benefit.

2. Immediate feedback

For teams following a waterfall approach, regression testing is typically performed at the end of software builds as the last step before a release.

However, in agile environments, regression testing should be regular and facilitate quick feedback. The continuous testing in agile approach aims to test iteratively, create instant feedback loops, and reduce the overall testing time while improving quality.

Agile-testing-methodology

Continuous testing is reliant on automation to get the speed and accuracy during more frequent testing before a release.

With an automation tool that creates visual recordings and logs, you can easily go in and detect why tests fail. This speeds up feedback loops and bug fixes.

3. 24/7 testing

Automated regression tests can run 24/7, 365 days a week.

With scheduling, you can set up your tests to run at night. People don't have to wait for test results during working hours. You can also run tests at intervals, such as daily or weekly, to ensure that no bugs are missed.

Automation allows testers to focus on more value-generating tasks while regression tests run in the background.

Continuous testing ensures that testers are notified about bugs before they reach the end-users. And as mentioned above, with the visual recordings and logs, identifying and fixing bugs becomes faster and more efficient.

4. Enables scalability

With the ability to test faster comes the ability to test more.

Testers can quickly get stretched to the maximum when they test manually. They don't have time to test at the level that is required to adequately reduce business risk. They also risk overlooking or skipping crucial steps.

As a result, exploratory testing and test design can also get deprioritized which has a negative effect on the quality of the software under test.

“When tests are all manual, there’s a temptation to skip some phases, because the effort doesn’t seem worth the outcome. But when they can be automated, there’s no need to skip them.” - Capgemini, World Quality Report

By automating, tests can be run continuously at a speed and frequency simply not possible with manual testing. This makes it possible to scale testing and QA, without spending additional resources.

Learn more about achieving continuous testing in agile and continuous delivery environments in this comprehensive guide.

5. Lowers maintenance

As new features are added to a product, new tests must follow, causing the regression suite to grow over time. Eventually, it’ll reach a point where it’s no longer feasible to manage your regression test cases manually.

For this reason, it is important to select an automation tool that will make it easy for you to keep a clear overview of your testing suite, and allow you to adjust and maintain it without requiring you to rewrite or change code. With a no-code automation tool, this becomes possible and helps keep maintenance burdens low.

How to do regression testing in agile teams

How to automate regression testing in 8 steps

There isn’t necessarily one right approach to regression testing, but you can save your team a lot of time and resources by thinking the process through from the start. This will not only help increase output quality but will also help contain costs.

We’ve put together these eight steps to guide you through the planning process, and to hopefully save you some time down the road.

Make sure to also watch our on-demand webinar on automating regression testing to learn more about how you can make your regression testing more efficient.

1. Scope

The first step to consider when introducing automation into your regression testing is the scope.

This includes outlining timelines and milestones for each sprint in the project, as well as defining which regression test cases should be automated and which should be kept manual.

It’s important that all team members (Product Owners, Developers, Testers, etc.) are on board with this scope, and that each know their responsibilities for the different parts of the project (we’ll go into further detail with this in the next step).

2. Approach

When choosing a regression test automation approach, there are three areas to consider: process, technology, and roles.

PROCESS

When building your automated regression testing suite, it’s important to have a well-defined and structured process. Make sure to cover the following in your plan:

  • When during the sprint should automated test cases be created?
  • When are features ready for automated testing?
  • Which features are tested manually?
  • Who takes care of maintenance?
  • How do we analyze results?

Get the factsheet: How to analyze test automation results

TECHNOLOGY

Before you start, you’ll also need to identify which applications you need to automate, and what technologies these are based on. This will determine which test automation tool you should be using.

In most cases, regression testing will involve several application types: web-based, desktop-based, mobile apps, and so on. Therefore, it's important to have a tool that can handle all your automation requirements.

Many start out automating with a free, code-based open-source tool such as Selenium, but then run into problems when they find out that it only covers some of their regression testing needs (Selenium only works with web applications).

In addition, with code-based tools, developers and testers often end up spending a substantial amount of time on writing automation scripts as well as maintaining all those scripts down the line.

Evaluate tools: Discover the best regression testing tools available in 2024.

ROLES

Next, you need to define the roles for automation in your team. Regression testing may not be the only thing you’re automating, in which case keeping an overview of who does what is essential.

Examples of roles and responsibilities include:

  • Automation Lead: Responsible for coordinating and managing all activities regarding automation in the project.
  • Test Case Designer/Reviewer: Similar to code reviews among software developers, it’s important to establish a review process for automated test cases. This means that a tester will typically have at least two roles: test case designer and test case reviewer.

Over time, your regression testing suite will inevitably grow as your software is developed, meaning more and more time will go towards maintenance of regression suites.

What’s more, it’ll become all the more important that there are clear roles defined for handling this suite (the more complex it gets, the higher the risk of breaking automation flows).

It’s highly beneficial to use a regression testing tool that, firstly, lets you keep a clear overview of your testing suite. A visual, no-code regression testing tool, as opposed to one that requires coding, will make this a lot easier.

Secondly, it’s beneficial to have a tool that allows you to administer roles and access to automation flows and suites.

3. Risk analysis

Risk analysis shouldn’t just be a part of your regression testing automation strategy, but your test automation strategy as a whole.

It can be difficult and time-consuming to try to foresee everything that can go wrong, estimate the cost, and find a way to mitigate or avoid that risk. Nonetheless, it’s important to at least consider these things.

Depending on your business’ size and the complexity and importance of your business processes, you can perform this risk analysis with the simple approach outlined in the example below, or you can move into a more extensive process of risk scenarios, cost calculations, and mitigation planning.

The analysis below is created by listing the identifiable risks qualified with these details:

  • Description and relevant metadata
  • Severity: What will happen if the risk becomes reality? How hard will it hit the project?
  • Probability: What is the likelihood that it happens?
  • Mitigation: What can be done to minimize the risk?
  • Cost estimate: What is the cost of mitigating the risk –what is the cost of not doing it?

example-risks-diagram-v1.0

4. Environment and data

Organizations with a software department will typically have a more or less well-defined method for how software is released to production. This process usually includes one or more test environments.

Test automation is a “deterministic game”; known inputs will produce predictable outputs. This means that stable and predictable test environments are a prerequisite for successful test automation.

You should also consider the data that is part of the tests and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where to store test data?
  • Will it work to use a copy of production data?
  • Can production data be masked?
  • Should the test cases clean up data on their own after use?

5. Execution plan

At this point, you’ll already have considered the scope of your project in terms of timelines and responsibilities. This next step is about turning those elements into an actionable plan.

An execution plan should outline the day-to-day tasks and procedures related to your automated regression testing.

Your plan will define the test cases to be automated and your strategy for creating regression test suites.

Before any automated test cases are added to the regression suite, it’s best practice to run and verify the tests multiple times to ensure that they run as expected. False failures are time-consuming, so it’s essential that test cases are robust and reliable.

It may be a good idea to create a procedure for making test cases resistant to changes in the system being automated.

This procedure will of course depend on the application in question, but it should cover how test cases recognize and interact with elements in the application under test. Execution of test cases should be handled either by the pipeline orchestrator (Jenkins, TFS, Bamboo, TeamCity, etc.) or by a scheduling tool.

This means that regression tests will run either as part of a build/deployment event or on a known time during the day. Also consider selecting a setup that allows for parallel execution of the test cases to get the feedback from the regression tests faster back to the development team.

Remember, you can never test too much, and the combination of test automation, reliable test cases, and scheduled/controlled execution will inevitably have a positive effect.

6. Release control

In any release pipeline, regardless of its complexity and maturity, there is a point at which a team needs to decide whether to release a build or not. Parts of this decision-making can be automated, while other parts still require human, critical thinking.

In other words, the final decision regarding release should ideally be based on a combination of algorithm results and manual inspection.

In any case, test automation results will play a critical role in this decision. But it’s up to you to decide if you only want to allow releases if all regression tests pass, or if you want to have the lead tester approve the result.

After a complete run of regression tests, you should consider including the application logs as part of the release decision. If the regression tests have good application coverage, then any errors not related to the UI should reveal themselves in the log files.

release-pipeline-diagram-v1.0

7. Failure analysis

Having a plan for how to analyze failing test cases and the actions required to take afterwards is a critical—yet sometimes neglected—part of test automation strategy.

The time it takes from the point where a tester is notified of a failing test case until the fix is described, understood, and accepted in the development backlog is usually much longer than teams anticipate. As a consequence, release cycles risk being delayed, and the agile team becomes less agile.

Having a well-defined process for this can save a lot of time and frustration throughout the release cycle. A good place to start is to outline how different errors should be handled and by whom. For example:

  • Environment issues → Raise a ticket with the DevOps team
  • A bug in the application under test → Flag a bug for Development
  • A bug in the automation scripts → Create a task for the test team

8. Review and feedback

Finally, once you’ve drafted your regression testing automation strategy, you’ll want to make sure that it is reviewed and approved by all members of the involved development team.

From here, try to work on enforcing a culture for continuous learning and improvement, where you include and embrace feedback from stakeholders, peers, and all team members working with automation and adjust the strategy where needed.

What's next?

Once you have a relatively good idea of how you want to approach your automated regression testing, and you’ve made an effort to plan the automation journey that lies ahead of you, the next step might be to find the right regression testing automation tool.

Automated regression testing best practices

Effective automated regression testing hinges on careful planning, smart tool use, diligent maintenance, and ongoing optimization. Here’s our list of automated regression testing best practices which has been refined through many years of test automation projects.

1. Define your strategy

Establish a clear plan addressing test coverage, automation vs. manual testing, testing environments, and reporting. Customize this plan for the platform you're working on (e.g., Salesforce Lightning).

2. Choose your tool wisely

Pick automation tools that fit your team's skills and your system’s needs. Remember, no-code or low-code options speed up setup and maintenance. Also tools that both technical and non-technical team members can handle promote shared responsibility in testing.

3. Keep tests updated

Regularly revise your test suite to match your software's evolution, ensuring your regression tests remain relevant and effective. Choose low-maintenance testing solutions to reduce the maintenance burden.

4. Align your team

Ensure everyone understands the testing strategy, tools, and goals. This unity helps streamline the automation process. Draw on the knowledge of application super users to improve test automation quality.

5. Plan to scale

Design your testing strategy to easily scale up, accommodating more testing without a linear increase in resources.

Related reading: Top 9 Regression Testing Best Practices

Conclusion

Automated regression testing is essential for maintaining software quality and efficiency in today's dynamic development environments. By automating repetitive tests, teams can save valuable resources, gain immediate feedback on changes, and significantly enhance scalability and maintainability of the testing process.

Your journey towards effective automated regression testing begins with a step towards embracing these best practices and continuously adapting to the evolving software landscape.

Keep learning

Dive deeper into automated regression testing with our on-demand webinar: Automate to Innovate: Mastering Regression Testing with Leapwork.

Ideal for both refining your current methods and starting fresh with automation, this webinar offers key insights on automated regression testing. Watch now to take away strategies for optimizing regression testing without compromising speed or quality.

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