Innovative ideas for every utility

Automated testing: solution adoption (part 2)

Critical to enabling new products, programs and services that utility customers want and need is a modern technology stack that includes automated testing software. This kind of software increases the effectiveness, efficiency, coverage of a company’s software testing exercises while significantly decreasing costs.

Anthony Shorten, Senior Principal Product Manager for Oracle Utilities, discussed these benefits in Automated testing: accelerating time-to-market for new offerings (part 1). In part 2, Shorten discusses what to look for in a solution and how to set it up for success during the implementation.

VE: Not all automated testing frameworks and tools are created the same. Can you discuss the pros and cons of today’s software options?

AS: While automated tests developed using any automation tool can reduce testing time, there are solutions where test assets need to be built and maintained with each patch and upgraded by specialists in the scripting language and this can eventually peel out the entire test automation of its benefits. This is especially true for automated tests that are based on screen recording. The issue with this approach is that it is limited to screens and typically products are far more than screens. This just limits the effectiveness of testing.

In the marketplace, new user experience innovations are being implemented in products to reduce costs and improve the user experience. These user experience changes have the potential to negate existing test assets, increasing costs due to rework.

Companies need solutions that provide out-of-the-box service-based testing assets that can be used to orchestrate and model business processes, across all channels, including batch processing, without the need to develop scripts. In fact, removing scripts from the forefront of automation is key to expanding the user base for testing. Having the control of testing in the hands of business testers provide better outcomes and more satisfying outcomes.

VE: How do you establish a precedence for near- and long-term automated testing success when you first implement your automated testing software?

AS: The key to success in implementing automation in testing is to model your business processes effectively in the tool. The key to any testing is to verify those business processes work with your data so that your business can operate with the product and your configuration, including extensions.

The near-term success is really realized by concentrating on critical business processes that deliver the most business benefit first. Customers who have used this approach have been able to adopt automation quickly and realize benefits very quickly. Once those key business processes are modelled, looking at other processes are that are less critical but still important are then recommended to be automated.

Once a library of these processes is ready then you can truly realize larger amounts of cost and reduction of risks.

Fundamentally, you are using the tool to ensure your business processes are not adversely impacted by changes or upgrades. That is one of the most fundamental reasons why customers want to test, especially using automation.

VE: How can system security be ensured when a utility implements automated testing software?

AS: One of the most common misconceptions around automated testing is the focus on functionality over security. The key to fully exploiting automation is to incorporate security testing — including negative security testing — to ensure the right roles have access to the right functions and the right data.

Having test assets that drive security testing will reduce risk and ensure optimal security through upgrades, quarterly patches and service packs to provide consistent security outcomes.

VE: Some utilities using OUTA realize a savings of up to $250,000 annually by moving from manual to automated testing. Where are those savings coming from?

AS: The cost savings primarily come from being able to reuse the assets they built with different data scenarios repeatedly. Repeatability and isolation are key. They reduced their initial costs by concentrating on critical processes that delivered the highest value and after building those assets using the tool, they realized savings from the reuse.

OUTA isolates the assets from changes to its interface and concentrate on testing the functionality not just the screens. This means you can run assets for much longer than traditional automation realizing savings in test asset maintenance. It allows utilities to only modify their assets when they want to take advantage of new feature in pace with the business.

VE: Can you share some automated testing best practices?

AS: The key for automation is getting the assets ready. A common pitfall is to assume you must automate everything to get a benefit from the tool. This is not true.

Customers who are successful at automation don’t use the all or nothing approach. They concentrate on the high value critical processes first. Customers and partners remind us that there are a small number of processes that have the most business value for a utility.  Those can be automated quickly and get you using the tool rapidly to realize the savings quickly. Once that is done then other business processes can be added over time to the library.

This is a more measured approach and tries to get you testing as quickly as possible which is where you will start to realize the benefits quickly.

The advantage that automation which has prebuilt assets, is that it short cuts the process, to help realize cost and risk benefits quickly, whereas traditional automation tends to start with no assets reducing that critical time to test metric, thus reducing savings.

VE: One last question: automation means that internal resources have time to focus on other tasks. What are some valuable projects former manual testers are working on for their utility?

AS: Automation has significant positive implications for the resources you use for testing as they can now concentrate on higher value activities like assessing user experiences, typically not covered by automated testing, and helping the business with impact analysis of change.

Automated Testing Software Benefits Review
If you missed part 1 of this interview and want to learn more about the benefits of automated testing software, read Automated testing: accelerating time-to-market for new offerings (part 1) and post your questions for Anthony. Bookmark Oracle Utilities' The Tech Spot and subscribe to the Utilities Global Business Unit newsletter for new blog post announcements.

Oracle Utilities, including Opower, partners with the world's hardest working electric, water and natural gas companies to empower, enhance and enable your every single day. From cloud-native products and better grid management tools to support for every single step of your customer's journey, we have the answer. Learn more at oracle.com/utilities. Get specific product information as quick as clicking right here.


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