How to Create a Successful Test Automation Strategy: An Interview with Kalyan Konda

[interview]
Summary:

In this interview, Kalyan Konda, the president of Gallop Solutions, details how to create the most successful and effective test automation strategy. He explains how much of your team's testing should be automated and how IoT will impact automation.

Josiah Renaudin: Welcome back to another TechWell interview. Today I am joined by Kalyan, the president of Gallop Solutions. We'll be speaking on how to create a successful test automation strategy. Kalyan, thank you very much for joining me today.

Kalyan Konda: It's my pleasure. I'm glad to be here.

Josiah Renaudin: It's absolutely great to have you. First, before we really dig into the topic, can you tell us a little bit about your experience in the industry?

Kalyan Konda: I started my career in software testing. I actually wrote a lot of scripts in WinRunner, and also wrote scripts in LoadRunner. I've been in the industry for almost two decades. I am somebody that you can call a career tester, because this is what something that I have been doing since the beginning of my career. I started as a test engineer, like everybody else. I've done a lot of work in the non-functional testing space—especially test automation, performance, security, insulation, compatibility, things like that.

I worked for both product development companies as well as IT services companies. I started managing large global teams of two thousand plus people in my previous stint. And right now, I am managing the company’s testing services business. Now here I am, working at Gallop. Gallop is independent testing services. We are the largest independent testing services company in North America. I'm responsible for business at Gallop and Gallop is also a subsidiary of Cigniti.

Josiah Renaudin: So often with our audience we are asked, "How do you create successful test automation strategies?" It's becoming more and more important. So to kick things off, what about the current state of the software testing industry has made automation so critical? Has agile and these other rapid methodologies in mindsets put automation at the forefront?

Kalyan Konda: Well, yes, the good thing about agile is that it brought test automation to the forefront, unlike in waterfall where people were trying to explain the whole return on investment and the value of doing test automation. But sort of agile, I'd say makes it easy, sort of provides the tailwind that is required for test automation. And agile sort of assumes that test automation is the key ingredient of the world of test automation strategy.

And as we speak right now, with many of the enterprises and the product development companies that we are involved with ... It's very often, I would say almost to the extent of 50 to 60 percent of the companies are actually doing test automation within the sprint. Of course they're using models like test driven development, acceptance test driven development, behavior driven development, things like that. So it's very difficult to imagine a project where there is no test automation being done, especially if they're practicing agile because agile embraces test automation right from the get go.

Josiah Renaudin: Yeah, and it's crazy to think now, like you said, it's kind of hard to imagine testing without automation. Automation has become so pervasive and so kind of consistent throughout all these different aspects of testing. But before you even get that rolling and get your automation all set, what helps you to determine which automation tools or frameworks are best for a specific company? I think it's always important to note that every situation is different, there's always proven practices that say, well, this usually works for everyone. What different factors point to specific tools for specific companies?

Kalyan Konda: That's a very good question. I would say that probably a few years before, a lot of companies wanted to standardize on their test automation tools. They were looking for the single tool that can automate their desktop applications, legacy, web, mobile, and then see if there's a way that they can actually centralize on a single test tool. But things are changing. A lot of enterprises have come to sort of one understanding that it's almost impossible to find a single tool that can cater to all of their needs. So more and more what we're seeing is that especially for the Legacy ERP kind of obligations people are depending on commercial test tool vendors, like HP QTP, but when it comes to mobile, browser & web based applications, we see that there is a lot of interest in open source tools like Selenium.

However, the organizations have to put together a framework that sort of helps you to standardize all your test automation assets, irrespective of the tool that you're using. And that way as a test team, though, you have a lot of tools under need, but when it comes to your test automation assets as an organization, you are able to drive all of them using a single framework and are able to see the results that are being produced by these different tools in a single format. So it is easier for you to derive some metrics and then put together the reports. So that's what we're seeing in the marketplace now.

Josiah Renaudin: And what about the balance between automated testing and manual testing? Some people go out there and say, "Well, here's the exact percentage." Other people again say, "It depends on who you're talking about and what they're working." But in your mind, how much of the testing process should be automated? And maybe even more importantly, do you think that every testing team ... And which it seems like this is the case but just to make sure ... Do you think every testing team should at least use some automation?

Kalyan Konda: Yeah. The way that I look at it is, you know, the creative part of testing, which is the exploratory manual testing, is not going to go away. However, I would say that we would need a right mix of both - test automation and manual testing. If somebody tells me that they're doing everything with automation, I'd be very cautious about it and vice versa. So I would say that the applications that are supposed to offer very rich user experience and human aesthetics, and the color combinations play a very important role - things like that I think we still have to depend on doing manual functional testing. But once you have the tests created, and that needs to be run many times downstream in multiple cycles, there is no point in trying to do that manually over and over. Definitely makes sense to go ahead and automate it.

Josiah Renaudin: And I feel like there's more and more things that we’re now tasked to test because the Internet of Things is happening. Everything has some sort of internet connection. Everything is connected. What impact do you think the Internet of Things and the expansion of connected devices will have on automation? Will that make automation even more important, since there's just so much out there that we can't manually test everything, and will it change at all how you look at test automation strategies?

Kalyan Konda: I would say that the Internet of Things makes automation even more critical because what Internet of Things is basically doing is that you had these embedded systems before. Embedded systems is all about ... You have the hardware that is actually providing a response, a message to the software based on the input and the software is doing whatever it's supposed to do. And the Internet of Things there is quite a bit of a human response to both software and hardware. Through voice and touch, and things like that. Which means that to be able to simulate the entire flow that connects across hardware and software, makes it really unique. And that is where we need to be able to write a framework and also be able to connect different test automation tools so that they can actually recreate this entire user experience which is a combination of software and hardware is going to play a very important role.

So, I would say the Internet of Things is really providing that thought leadership and innovation that is required to mix and match tools and at the same time ability to bring them together. Because now you aren't talking about a monolithic system but multiple hardware & software systems interacting with each other.

Josiah Renaudin: One of the biggest points here for anyone listening is, "How can automation help my business? How can automation help my team?" So how do you measure the return on investment in test automation efforts?

Kalyan Konda: Just like any other initiative I would say that many people that grew within the testing discipline, they try to see that test automation is more of a technical topic. When they're thinking about test automation, they're thinking about a particular test automation tool. They're thinking about programming language, they're thinking about analyzing the log files, they're thinking about framework, they're thinking about quality attributes of the framework.

All these are good and needed, but it is not sufficient. If you take it a level above, the software testing or software test automation initiatives have to be funded. Which means that it is all about efficiency , and the returns we are able to generate from these test automation initiatives. I would say that test automation to start with, has to be a business topic. If it does not generate enough returns, doesn't make sense to automate. Most of the time, a lot of enterprises when they embark on their test automation journey, they tend to have a really unrealistic expectation because they are not thinking through the whole test automation journey, the steps involved and the investments required. Thus I would say that test automation has essentially to start with a business topic and then the technical topics will follow. However, making sure that the technical implementation as well as the business aspects of it needs to be balanced.

Josiah Renaudin: And let's round this out by looking ahead. What do you see as the future for open source test automation tools?

Kalyan Konda: I would say that open source test automation tools are definitely going to rule the future. And we could clearly see based on some of the analytics that we are seeing on Google, the interest on the open source test automation on something like Selenium is five times higher than any other commercial tool that is out there. Even when you look at the jobs that are published on websites- be it on Dice, or be on LinkedIn ... We see that there are far more higher number of jobs that are asking for Selenium, FitNesse, Jbehave, Cucumber, tools like this is far higher than some of the most popular common shell test automation tools out there. So I think that we are clearly seeing a trend where open source test tools adoption had got to the point where it's truly ... It's going to explode, is what I think of when it comes to open source test automation.

Josiah Renaudin: Fantastic. I really appreciate your time, Kalyan. It's always good to talk to someone who is so embedded in test automation about not just the current state, but kind of what we can expect around the corner and down the road. So I appreciate you talking and I'm looking forward to hopefully talking more about this in the future.

Kalyan Konda: Thank you very much for talking to me.

K. KondaKalyan is the president and business head at Gallop Solutions. He leads Gallop to consistently exceed customer expectations through technically superior software testing services. In the last fifteen years he has tested, managed, led, architected, and delivered best of the breed testing services to global enterprises and independent software vendors across verticals. This includes offshore, onshore, hybrid models of global delivery spanning T&M, fixed, and outcome based delivery models.

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