Impediments for Automated Software Test Execution

University dissertation from Västerås : Mälardalen University

Abstract: Automated software test execution is a critical part of the modern software development process, where rapid feedback on the product quality is expected. It is of high importance that impediments related to test execution automation are prevented and removed as quickly as possible. An enabling factor for all types of improvement is to understand the nature of what is to be improved. The goal with this thesis is to further the knowledge about common problems encountered by software developers using test execution automation, in order to enable improvement of test execution automation in industrial software development. The research has been performed through industrial case studies and literature reviews. The analysis of the data have primarily been performed using qualitative methods, searching for patterns, themes, and concepts in the data. Our main findings include: (a) a comprehensive list of potential impediments reported in the published body of knowledge on test execution automation, (b) an in-depth analysis of how such impediments may affect the performance of a development team, and (c) a proposal for a qualitative model of interactions between the main groups of phenomena that contribute to the formation of impediments in a test execution automation project. In addition to this, we contribute qualitative and quantitative empirical data from our industrial case studies. Through our results, we find that test execution automation is a commonly under-estimated activity,  not only in terms of resources but also in terms of the complexity of the work. There is a clear tendency to perform the work ad hoc, down-prioritize the automation in favor of other activities,  and ignore the long-term effects in favor of short-term gains. This is both a technical and a cultural problem that need to be managed by awareness of the problems that may arise, and also have to be solved in the long term through education and information. We conclude by proposing a theoretical model of the socio-technical system that needs to be managed to be successful with test execution automation.