Test automation metrics are measurements that evaluate an automated testing effort. In this post, we’ll discuss what test automation is, common challenges with automation, and the relevant test metrics and KPIs you can use to measure automation. See this article for a set of key test metrics to help measure automation efforts.

What is Test Automation?

Test automation refers to the practice of using software tools that automatically execute tests and compare actual test outcomes to predicted outcomes.

Test automation allows software testers to focus on tricky test cases while automation handles the repetitive time-consuming tests required for all software.

Any test automation effort presents some common challenges, such as the following:

  • Testing teams need to consider their choice of automated testing tools (see this article by TechTarget about choosing the right tools). There are a variety of testing tools on the market that suit particular types of tests and scenarios—choosing the right tools can make the difference between a successful automated effort and failure.
  • Even with the right tools in place, an automation strategy is crucial. You need to understand what tests to automate and how you can automate them. The goal is a shorter test duration.
  • Automation isn’t a “set and forget” method of testing. Teams need to figure out how to maintain automated scripts for test cases to keep them up-to-date.
  • Automation requires a high initial investment, but it should eventually deliver positive ROI. To ensure you get your money’s worth from automation, use test metrics and KPIs.

What are Test Automation Metrics and KPIs?

Test automation metrics and KPIs are both measurements of how effective your test automation efforts are.

A KPI (Key Performance Indicator) is a metric that closely aligns with your critical business objectives. So, while all KPIs are metrics, not all metrics are KPIs.

Test metrics can help you diagnose issues with test automation efforts, while a KPI can evaluate whether the automated effort delivers the business objectives of automation—positive ROI, higher quality software, and quicker testing.

Test Metrics – How Measuring and Tracking Can Help

Metrics and KPIs can help overcome some of the main test automation challenges.

Any good measurement can help you track the effectiveness of automation, for example, by examining the testing cycle duration in automation versus manual tests. Automation should accelerate the time-to-market for software—without measurements, you have no way of knowing if automation leads to the desired benefit.

Metrics and KPIs can measure the costs and the savings from automation, helping you to determine your return on investment.

The feedback you get from metrics can help you identify aspects of the automation effort that aren’t working for you and improve on them. For example, testing inefficiencies can indicate a poor choice of automated tools. You can then try different tools that better suit your testing team.

Test Automation Metrics

Here are four examples of test metrics useful for tracking and improving test automation:

1. Total Test Duration

Total test duration simply measures how long it takes to run all automated tests. In a fast-paced development environment, getting testing up to speed with software development through automation is important.

However, if testing remains a bottleneck even with increased automation, then there is something wrong with the automated testing efforts that warrants investigation.

2. Automation Progress

This metric reports on the progress of a test automation effort by measuring the proportion of automated test cases.

This metric can help a team understand whether automation efforts are bringing value to the team. A team’s goal should be to identify which tests should be automated (as opposed to automating all the tests). The team’s progress is then measured based on those tests that were automated.

3. Test Execution

Most test automation tools give feedback on the number of tests executed per software build. These metrics allow a team to measure its progress and to understand whether timelines and coverage targets are met.

Typically, a team plans the length of its automated test duration. Test execution is then used to indicate whether the team is on track and what remains to be done: Passed indicates activities that are complete, while Incomplete, Blocked, and No Run indicate activities to continue working on. Failed indicates activities to look into and understand the reason for failure, such as a bug, incorrect data, or other problems with the test.

However, Watch out for false positives and false negatives – the fact that tests ran, or that a certain percentage passed, does not guarantee a quality release.

4. Defects Found in Testing

This metrics measures the number of valid defects encountered during the test execution phase. The number of defects found is useful for predictive modelling, in which you can estimate the residual defects expected under certain coverage levels.

Closing Thoughts

Test automation is a critical component well-suited for today’s fast-paced agile development teams, and teams need to make it a priority.

To adopt CI/CD methodologies, which include fast feedback loops, and shifting left (test as soon as possible), a high level of automation is required.

Teams need to choose which tests to automate, how to automate tests, what tools to use, and how to maintain tests. Test metrics and KPI provide an invaluable way to get direct insights on test automation and overcome the challenges of implementing it.