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Tools tip from Boston test conference

''In software test automation, the present reality is this: Management wants more for less,'' Greg Pope, deputy section lead, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, told an audience at the International Conference on Software Test Automation in Boston last week. Improved software test automation tools and processes can help meet this management mandate, Pope said.

Up front precision is not highly valued right now, he indicated. ''You don't have to do it right the first time, it is a more iterative world,'' said Pope. ''The problem is that developers seldom have time to do formal design or unit tests.''

This means that reusability of tests is more important and, in turn, that the design of tests will become more important. ''We're going to have to think more about the architecture,'' said Pope. He suggested use of UML design information for testing could become more prevalent as updates to that language make it more precise and as it adds elements that testers need. Some such elements are under consideration for the upcoming revision of UML.

Automated tools can help, but they can also become expensive shelfware if IT development managers do not put the proper processes in place. But who is most likely to benefit from these tools?

''You are a good candidate for an automated tool if you have a testing process in place, you follow the testing process and you can repeat the testing process,'' Pope told the test conference crowd.

The best situation for automated testing is when you have a stable product going through upgrades. Also, you need a ''toolmeister available,'' said Pope, who indicated that having one good, dedicated tools person usually works better than having 10 distributed testers who fit testing into an already busy schedule.

Before buying an automated testing tool, you should also get input from all areas of the IT department, Pope said. ''Otherwise, test tools collect dust after a department project is over.''

Once you have the tool, he warned, prepare for a learning curve. Having unrealistic expectations about the new tool is not good, and automated tools may not immediately save time.

For more from Greg Pope, and other presenters at the International Conference on Software Test Automation in Boston, read ''Extending the testing process'' at http://www.adtmag.com/article.asp?id=6766 by Lana Gates or go to the conference page ''Software Test Automation Conference & Expo'' at http://www.sqe.com/testautomation/.

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.

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