Software testing is an inevitable part of the entire software development and deployment cycle, which is directly linked to the quality of the end products. In addition to testing for errors, bugs, and other discrepancies, it is also important to check the consistency of the test results. Sometimes, the results may vary for the same test code, making the process unreliable; failures due to inconsistent test results are called flaky tests. Flaky tests tend to hinder the developmental process, hide the bugs in code, increase total costs, and slows down the overall progress.
Flaky tests are highly unpredictable with higher fluctuation rate; there is no reliability on whether they would pass and provide desired results. Dealing with flaky tests is a critical challenge of automated tests and it becomes important to eliminate any fluctuating end results and improve the quality. Hence, companies are taking necessary measures to reduce the flakiness and create a reliable and stable product.
Reasons for flakiness in test automation
Flaky tests are an indication of unreliable test results, which will affect the quality and hit the brand adversely. It is essential for organization to identify and eliminate flaky tests for improving the quality. Flakiness may occur due to a number of reasons; the popular ones include:
Poorly written tests: Among all the other reasons, a poorly written test case is the most commonly occurring one. A poor test case will not give the results as expected, and often lead to fluctuation in the end result; thereby, creating a negative impact on the overall effectiveness of the process. Flakiness arising due to such reasons can be easily avoided by investing in good resource who can write best and unique test scripts.
Not having a strategic framework: Frameworks are a critical parameter to perform testing activities successfully. They comprise a set of rules/guidelines to design, create, and manage test cases. In scenarios where a strategic testing framework is missing, they may lack having an efficient test handling method, coding SOPs, standard repositories, resource access protocol, and a lot more. Without a standard framework in place, the test result may experience flakiness showing inconsistent results.
Shared test environments: Organizations often tend to share infrastructure, operational processes, and teams across multiple projects, to save on cost and resources. The shared environment can lead to overlapping of testing processes giving rise to serious conflicts. Further, the share environment may not prove to fix emergencies, delay deployment time, and doesn’t guarantee superior quality, leading to flaky tests. Enterprises should avoid using shared test environment to control and manage flakiness.
Issues of synchronization: Synchronization focuses on keeping test automation and AUT (application under test) in sync. In the event of failing to do so, the test result may be subjected to flakiness showing inconsistent results. Hence, to avoid flaky tests, it is important to handle the issues of synchronization.
Tests dependent on each other: Having tests dependent on each other is a bad testing practice, as it doesn’t provide the flexibility to behave and assert as expected. If the tests do not execute independently, they might cause flakiness in the test results. Hence, it is important to understand the objective and create and run test as per requirement.
How to identify, fix, and manage flakiness?
Flaky tests interfere with productivity and quality, slowing down the entire process. It is of utmost priority to have a regular check on the test processes/results to reduce flakiness. Here are some methods you can incorporate to identify and manage flaky tests.
Align the processes
You should consider the long-term impact while designing the automated tests. The evolution of software technology is inevitable; thus, the automated tests must be adjustable in alignment with the undefinable changes. Most of the flaky tests arise due to issues with integrating new technological advancements and digital resources. Aligning the process with the integration and performing a thorough user acceptance testing will reduce flakiness to a maximum extent.
Define the objectives
Clearly defining the test objectives for automated UI testing processes will ensure that the user interface provides consistent results to the users. Defining clear objectives will determine the scope of the end results, hence, testers can work towards achieving consistent results and adopt a strategy to completely avoid flaky tests.
Streamline the development process
To remove flaky tests, you should ensure that every step of developing a software is streamlined for avoiding pitfalls and bugs even after the launch and upgrades. Additionally, you should conduct unit testing at every step of the development process to resolve any disruptions and issues in real-time rather than encountering bugs in lateral stages or after launch. You can also define the scope of testing evaluation standards so that the development and deployment teams can eliminate any probability of flaky tests of the software.
Allocate resources efficiently
Automated testing focuses on concerns of time, resources, cost, and quality. It is also essential to formulate strategies that guide towards efficient development rather than flakiness. These strategies ensure that allocation and reallocation of the resources during the software development lifecycle are subjected to credible outcomes of efficient automated tests rather than being dependent on unreliable results of flaky tests.
Test the quality of the software
Automated testing is one of the most effective ways to track the progress and efficiency of software and ensure a premium user experience with the continuous protection of sensitive data. Concerning this context, you need to list all the tests to ensure optimum performance and reduced software flakiness.
Abide to the protocols
To attain desired performance and value from the automated testing processes, the development teams need to ensure that they abide by the testing standards. Also, they should follow every protocol and guideline so that the tools used by automated testing processing support attainment of the predetermined objectives and ensure the longevity of software utilization.
In this regard, the testing team needs to ensure the tools are versatile, accessible, and compatible with all the testing requirements, and are easy to maintain and document. By ensuring that the automated testing framework is maintainable and scalable, you can ensure adequate quality checks of all the functional aspects of the software and maintain error logs for reviewing occurrences and repetitions of the issues.
Maintain the scripting standards
For eliminating flakiness, you must ensure that strict specifications are enforced on scripting standards used throughout the automated testing processes. With exacting specifications imposed throughout the software development life cycle, uniformity of coding, error handling, debugging, and documentation can be established, simplifying the reporting practices, and enhancing the quality of automated testing processes. Additionally, the testing team would clearly be understanding the actions they should be in alignment with the implied specification for documenting the errors and handling the unexpected behavior of the software.
Ensure the elimination of errors
Software development and testing teams should also install checkpoints throughout the software development lifecycle to ensure that the steps are aligned with the predetermined pathway. The testing processes are deployed to ensure the software is error-free before the actual launch. One should conduct the check of mapping before the initialization of the software development to ensure that the team members have clarification about the reporting requirements and testing resources throughout the process.
It also allows the testing team to conduct manual testing of the outcomes derived by automated testing to eliminate flakiness from testing and bugs from the software. Verification at predefined points allows helping the team in monitoring the software development process in real-time to avoid any deviation and delay due to bugs, flakiness, or any other aspect.
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