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The Importance of Collaboration in Testing and Test Automation


The topics of testing and test automation usually conjure visions of software and hardware under test on a test bench in a lab or on a production line. The involvement of human actors can seem quite secondary and distant from executing test plans and running through test steps.

In practice, test engineering is a very human endeavor: humans design the systems under test, specify testing criteria, implement test code and evaluate test results. And they don't perform these tasks in isolation.

“Collaboration means working with other individuals on a project, task, or idea. The goal of collaboration is to pool ideas and skillsets and achieve results that benefit the group. Communication, interpersonal skills, information sharing, and strategy are all necessary for successful workplace collaboration in offices and remote workplaces.”

What does Collaboration Mean for Test Automation?

Collaboration is increasingly central to product testing and testing automation. The particulars of collaborative test/test automation cover

Who - Collaboration in Test Automation can involve a varied set of stakeholders: software and hardware developers and devops /agile leaders; test and QA engineers; support team members; and line-of-business (LoB) staffers, including product and project managers and channel marketers.

What - The key elements of Test Automation are test plans, test cases, devices-under-test (DUTs), results listeners, report generators and analyses. Collaboration entails the shared development, use and analysis of these elements, with sharing occurring locally and remotely with equal ease.

Where - The locales for collaboration are many. Certainly, product and test teams already collaborate face-to-face in the office, in the lab, and on the production line. But increasingly, test automation collaborators are working remotely, at home, across corporate campuses, across town and country, and and around the globe.

When - Collaboration occurs throughout the the lifecycle of products under test. Traditionally, collaboration has been limited by proximity in space and time. Today, with global teams and remote working practices, there are ever-increasing opportunities to bridge gaps in locale life-cycle stages.

How - The technical locus for collaboration is expanding, with co-design and testing occurring at far-flung sites and results shared via web apps, network connectivity and cloud storage. Moreover, automated test invocation and execution can occur locally, remotely or in hybrid scenarios.

Why - the benefits of collaborative test/test automation include

  • Superior resource utilization

  • Higher quality of products under test from "many eyes"

  • Greater test coverage and faster test execution from differing "angles" and approaches

  • Accommodation of modern distributed/remote organizations

OpenTAP Collaboration Roles

Collaborative test/test automation can recruit stakeholders from both technical and business disciplines. For OpenTAP, collaboration usually involves three key job functions or ecosystem roles:

Plugin Developers

Developers across the ecosystem create, distribute and maintain OpenTAP plugins. Their deliverables enable test engineers and operators to leverage available test equipment and interface with devices-under-test (DUTs).

Test Engineers

These engineers develop test plans, set up test environments and validate test results using OpenTAP plugins and other tools. Their deliverables enable test operators in software production and in manufacturing environments.

Test Operators

Test Operators execute tests in software production environments and on manufacturing lines. Their work depends upon test plans and plugins created by Plugin Developers and Test Engineers.

Collaboration Rationale and Benefits

Collaboration plays a vital role in modern test automation for multiple reasons:

  • Teamwork and knowledge sharing: Test automation today involves multiple team members, including developers, test and QA engineers, support staff, and line-of-business staffers - product managers et al. Collaboration allows team members to share expertise, experiences, and insights, fostering a collective understanding of the systems under test and the automation framework. This knowledge sharing enhances the overall effectiveness and quality of the testing effort.

  • Test case design and coverage: Collaboration helps define the scope of testing and test cases. By involving different stakeholders, organizations gain a more comprehensive understanding of application functionality, user scenarios, and edge cases. A collaborative effort ensures that the testing effort focuses on the most relevant test cases and promotes better test coverage.

  • Tool selection and strategy: Collaborative discussions help in choosing the right tools and defining the test automation strategy. Developers can provide insights into technical aspects of software and hardware, while test and QA engineers can share testing expertise. LoB staff can help to align test efforts with business goals. By collaborating, the team can make informed decisions that best suit project requirements and constraints.

  • Maintenance and scalability: Test automation requires ongoing maintenance of the testing base as the systems under test evolve. Collaborative efforts facilitate knowledge transfer among team members, ensuring that everyone understands the automation framework, test scripts, and underlying technologies. This shared understanding enables the team to maintain and update the automation suite more efficiently. Collaboration also helps in scaling up the automation effort by distributing the workload and leveraging the diverse skills of team members.

  • Shifting leftward: Collaborative practices allow teams and team members to work closely and identify issues earlier in the product lifecycle. Testers, on the dev team or working in QA/QC, can share findings with developers, and together they can investigate and resolve issues more effectively. Collaboration also aids in debugging, analyzing logs, and troubleshooting problems, leading to faster resolution and improved overall productivity.

  • Continuous improvement: Collaborative feedback and retrospective discussions are crucial for continuous improvement. Team members can share observations, suggest enhancements, and discuss lessons learned. This collaborative approach fosters a culture of continuous learning and improvement, leading to refined test/test automation practices and better outcomes over time.

In summary, collaboration is important in test automation as it promotes teamwork, knowledge sharing, effective test case design, tool selection, maintenance, issue resolution, and continuous improvement. By working together, teams can leverage collective expertise and skills, leading to more robust and efficient test/test automation efforts.

Supporting Collaboration with OpenTAP

OpenTAP is itself a collaborative effort, having been developed by Keysight to meet the needs of Nokia and other ecosystem partners. Open source is by definition a collaborative activity and since its launch OpenTAP has enjoyed contributions by a commercial community that spans the globe.

Collaborative activities around OpenTAP and capabilities within platform include

  • Contributing to the OpenTAP code base (bug fixes, feature requests, etc.)

  • Sharing plugins with the OpenTAP community

  • Highlighting ongoing challenges and rewarding experiences on the OpenTAP Forum

  • Hosting instances of OpenTAP in the cloud

  • Providing open APIs for OpenTAP, testing and test automation tools to ease integration in test workflows and interoperability with tools and infrastructure

The members of the OpenTAP community invite you and your organization peers to collaborate with us in improving OpenTAP, finding new applications for the platform, and in leveraging its collaboration-enabling capabilities.