# The ROI of Test Automation

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2 Using that model, we could calculate the ROI for a given project the following way. Let s look at the automation of testing for a small website that gets weekly content updates. We would start by looking at the costs for the effort in terms of time. Item Cost Time Publish website and execute testing Weekly Develop manual tests for the site 1 \$50 hr 4 days Execute manual tests for the site 2 \$50 hr 1 day Develop automated tests for the site 1 \$50 hr 10 days Execute automated tests for the site 1 \$50 hr 1 hour to review logs Maintain manual test cases 1 \$50 hr 1 day every two weeks Maintain automated test scripts 1 \$50 hr 1 day every week Hardware for test execution 2 \$1,000 ea Test software and licenses 2 \$2,000 ea If we know the timeline for the project, let s say we knew this website would be updated weekly for the next year, we can calculate the return on investment for automation. Cost of automation = price of hardware + price of software + time to develop scripts + (time to maintain scripts x number of times scripts are executed) + (time to execute scripts x number of times scripts are executed) Cost of automation = 2 \$1,000 ea + 2 \$2,000 ea + 10 \$50 hr + (1 \$50 hr x 52 weeks) + (1 \$50 x 52 weeks) Cost of automation = \$2,000 + \$4,000 + \$4,000 + \$20,800 + \$2,600 Cost of automation = \$33,400 Cost of manual = time to develop test cases + (time to maintain test cases x number of times tests are executed) + (time to execute manual testing x number of times tests are executed) Cost of manual = 4 \$50 hr + (1 \$50 x 26 weeks) + (1 \$100 x 52 weeks) Cost of manual = \$1,600 + \$10,400 + \$41,600 Cost of manual = \$53,600 ROI = benefit / cost ROI = (cost of manual cost of automation) / cost of automation ROI = (\$53,600 - \$33,400) / \$33,400 ROI = about 61% over the course of the year What s wrong with this? There are a couple of problems or incorrect assumptions with this model. First, you can t compare automated testing to manual testing. They are not the same and do not provide the same information about the application-under-test. Automated tests are by their very nature simpler than manual tests. Automated testing is simply not as effective as manual testing is for complex tests. Because it has to be repeatable, must work within the confines of the tools and scripting languages used, and must have some semblance of maintainability, automation lends itself to certain classes of tests (discussed later in this paper). Further, aside from types of tests, automation will find different types of bugs than manual testing

5 What you need to avoid is looking at the costs that would be present for any type of automation. That is, don t look at the hardware costs unless they exceed the hardware used for everyday testing. You don t need to calculate the cost of computers for test data generation if all testers use computers regardless of whether or not you automate. However, you do need to include hardware costs if you need ten more computers to execute regression scripts on them. This method assumes that some of the costs for automation are simply absorbed by the testing group as costs that would exist regardless of automation. Testers will still have computers. Testers will still need training. And so on. What are the benefits? Calculating the benefits for each type of automation involves an in-depth look at each type as it exists in your specific context. For example, it would not be unreasonable for the automation effort to assist in the unit testing of screens as developers start churning them out. Some potential benefits of this are time savings for developers (they are often more critical path for the project and there may be a money savings if they are paid more per hour). This also finds more bugs earlier in the process, which means they get fixed before the initial release to testing. This also saves money and could be calculated by looking at the average cost to fix bugs on similar projects. Finally, this also gets the tester working with the screens earlier rather than later. This means the tests developed could be used as a baseline for other automation efforts (this value can be determined and used for other automation ROI calculations), and it means testers will have a basic understanding of the code before the official test cycle begins (also saving money as they will not have to spend as much time familiarizing themselves with the software). Another example could be automating installation testing. Let s say we need to test the installation of a program on four different operating systems on ten different hardware configurations. This would be 40 different tests, all very similar, none of them overly interesting for the tester, and all of them requiring significant time as far as the time to install and performing the verification of a correct install. Here we could perform the test one time manually, and use those numbers to determine the time to install the software, determine the time to automate the install of the software, determine the cost of developing the validation scripts, determine the cost for manually executing testing on each configuration, etc. All said and done, we can use equations similar to the classic example above to determine if this automation makes sense. We can also factor in if this testing needs to be executed for each iteration. The real determining factor here is the level of detail in which the validation scripts will go. Ideally, the validation scripts will not be the only test you have for all these divergent configurations. The scripts will most likely fulfill your testing for a specific subset of requirements. Again, this is not a substitution for manual testing but is its own breed of testing. The ROI value is not the value of automation vs. the cost of executing these tests manually, but is instead the benefit of this type of testing, plus the benefit of whatever the manual tester is doing while these simple tests are executing. Calculating ROI A general rule I follow for automation is to automate all things that offer immediate returns and to automate the tests I couldn t possibly perform manually. Unfortunately, as pointed out above, these tests normally don t need to be justified anyway. Nevertheless, don t overlook them as legitimate types of automation and deduct their costs from the costs of other types of automation. If you have powerful hardware and software for performance testing, there is a good chance those resources will be useful for other types of testing as well. Rule number two is if you have a hard time convincing someone that it needs to be automated and if you feel you need an equation to see the long term advantages of automation, don t bother automating it. As proven by modern accounting scandals, you can make the numbers say whatever you want. Don t use ROI calculations as confirmation for a bad idea. If the value of automation is not apparent, these calculations will not make them apparent. These numbers will only help with the planning of automation and serve as a quick justification for resources. Don t use them to fool yourself into automation that you don t need.

6 Finally, when you have to, fall back to the classic example above for how to make the calculation. Try not to equate the effort with manual testing as a means for cost cutting, but instead look at what it does in terms of freeing up your manual testers. In the installation and configuration testing example above, I freed up a manual tester by automating that obviously boring and repetitive type of testing. This does not mean I m not paying that tester anymore. It means she is doing more challenging and more meaningful testing, like helping that junior java developer track down a potential memory leak. More information For more information on calculating and maximizing the ROI for test automation reference the following sources: Lessons Learned in Software Testing by Cem Kaner, James Bach, and Bret Pettichord Cost Benefits Analysis of Test Automation by Douglas Hoffman Test Automation An ROI based Approach by Jose Varghese Maximizing ROI and Avoiding the Pitfalls of Test Automation by Bill Hayduk

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