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Automation Framework – Should I Buy or Build?

Automation framework -Should I buy or build

When the product reaches a stable state, companies and test managers want to get the most from the power of a test automation framework. This brings them to a dilemma of whether they should buy from the market or build their own customized framework.

Both of the approaches have their pros and cons. Companies want to ensure they decide correctly or else they may risk time and money with either approach. So which one is the better strategy- buy or build? 🤔 The answer lies in the following paragraphs.

Advantages of using an automation framework

A test automation framework has many advantages. It allows us to produce results within less time and without involving too much effort. It helps understanding code better and produces reusable code.

In addition, it helps reducing testing costs as you don’t need to hire too many people to execute those thousands of tests. There is a huge variety of frameworks available which are licensed as well as free/open source. The issue is to find the right framework for your project needs. The bigger challenge is to apply a framework to an existing project and then configure it to the actual needs.

Should I Buy or build the automation framework?

My opinion about this debate is that both approaches are acceptable and it depends on the project’s needs. However, it is not easy to choose which one is better 🤷‍♂️

Buying gives you two further choices: buy an open-source or a commercial licensed framework. With open-source, you can install and use it quickly. For example, if a test code is hosted on GitHub, dashboards can be created quickly and only a few configurations are required to run the tests. In both options, a wide variety of test reports can be created that the managers find very attractive.

Building your own framework gives you a different experience. You are in control of your code. You can apply customizations and configurations in the code. You are not limited to the number of features that you can add or edit. The framework is adjusted to the exact needs of the project, hence ensuring that it satisfies the specific needs that may not be possible in a commercial framework.

To decide whether to buy or build an automation framework, consider the 3 C’s – Cost, Customization ease, and Control. Let’s evaluate both strategies on these three metrics:

Cost

You have to consider the cost of effort and time put by the teams to build a solution. There are unforeseen costs of implementing an automation solution that need to be taken into account. The teams have to do the coding for the test case creation, debugging, execution, and error handling 🔧

Reports need to be produced via code and should be made customized to suit the management’s needs. A lot of support is required for the code as test cases keep on changing, triggering a change in the scripts. There may be additional efforts to integrate with CI/CD tools and DevOps. To do this, new hiring may be needed if the existing team is not capable of producing code.

All these will increase the project costs. Further cost increase may happen if additional infrastructure is required to execute these tests. The need to scale will arise naturally whenever the test volumes and test performance scales up 📈

All such costs are covered when we buy a readymade automation framework after evaluating the framework against the product needs. A number of commercial test automation frameworks provide many features that make it much easier to automate testing tasks.

It isn’t necessary to employ developer-level skill sets to create and manage automated tests. Most of the automation can be done by any member of the team. Not only is this cheaper, but it helps the developers to focus on building product features—instead of working on the test automation code.

Customization Ease

Even while evaluating commercial frameworks, you might need to consider the customization ease factor 💡

Though limited options are available with these, we have to see how much they can be customized to project needs. If the predicted scale-up is too high which requires a lot of customizations, we may be tempted to build our own that will complement the actual product.

However, if there is not too much customization required, buying a readymade solution is more suggested.

Control

With a commercial automation solution, it is the tool vendor who is responsible for adding and maintaining additional features at his own timelines. While most vendors don’t charge extra for such updates, there is little or no control over the vendor release schedule.

Then again, there is a great benefit that comes from the collective feedback and feature requests from the customer base. Your team can gain from the experience and innovation that arises from that large group of your industry peers.

On the other hand, a built framework gives complete control to the team and they can write new features as and when required.

📍 If you’re looking for a free open source based automation framework that addresses the 3 C’s discussed above, I’d suggest checking out TestProject.

So who is the winner?

Building your own test automation framework is a total win if:

  • The project is highly complex and belongs to a specific domain
  • There is a lot of future development planned
  • The company has allocated enough budget
  • Skilled workers are available who can write, customize and maintain scripts quickly

Commercial or open-source wins if:

  • The project belongs to a common popular domain, like e-commerce or a hospital domain
  • The budget is limited
  • Release to market times are tight and many quick deliveries are expected from the teams

Carefully consider all of the above factors and you will reap the benefits of having
automation in your project 🤗

Vipin Jain

About the author

Vipin Jain

Vipin Jain has got 20 year experience in the IT industry. A Masters in Computer Applications from Rajasthan University in 1998, he has accumulated a deep knowledge in software projects, their methodologies and quality. He has dedicated the last 16 years of his professional career to Software Quality. Currently working with Metacube Software as Head QA and delivery manager, he is involved in establishing QCE at his company. An avid Speaker and writer, he loves speaking at conferences and delivered many presentations at national and international levels. He is member of Review Committees of various international organizations. He has presented papers in many of the best QA conferences across the world including TestingUnited, ExpoQA, QA&test and SQA, TestCon, TestingUY to name a few. Many of his papers got published in various magazines and journals across the world. He has a proven record of implementing and refining test processes for various clients across the globe.

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Comments

14 3 comments
  • Avatar
    Manish Sharma August 3, 2021, 4:25 am

    Vipin,
    All teams struggle with this “buy v/s build” decision at some point in their life cycle and you have very clearly spelled out the criteria to consider while making this decision for a specific project / product.

    This is very useful even beyond test automation.

    Thank you for sharing such great insights in such a simple manner.

  • Vipin Jain
    Vipin Jain August 3, 2021, 9:27 am

    That is Correct Manish. People just jump on various fancy Automation tools and approaches, without thinking whether buying will be beneficial or they should invest time building it. Often they realize that they are on wrong path midway.

    thanks.

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