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Understanding the Total Cost of Ownership(TCO) of Test Automation

Definition of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and its Importance for Test Automation

The total cost of ownership (TCO) for QA automation refers to the overall cost associated with the development, implementation, maintenance, and operations of a quality assurance (QA) automation solution over its entire lifetime. The TCO calculation includes all expenses related to the automation project, including costs for initial investment, development, and quality control(testing), support, maintenance and operations, resource staffing and training, opportunity.

Calculating the TCO for QA automation is an important factor as it helps organizations evaluate the actual cost of implementing an automation solution. With TCO estimates, organizations can make informed decisions on whether to invest in automation or not, and which automation solution to choose. It also helps identify gray areas where costs can be reduced and where efficiency can be improved. By focusing on TCO figures, organizations can ensure that the automation solution provides long-term value and meets their business objectives.

How are TCO and ROI related?

ROI stands for Return on Investment. It is a financial metric that measures the efficiency of an investment. It is usually expressed as a percentage, calculated by taking the net benefit of the investment (profit) and dividing it by the cost of the investment. The result is expressed as a percentage or a ratio. In general, the higher the ROI, the more efficient the investment. Here’s How to Get The Best ROI in Test Automation.

To calculate the ROI of test automation, you need to determine the costs of test automation, including the cost of the tools, the cost of setting up and maintaining the test automation environment, the cost of training and hiring staff, and any other costs associated.

You also ought to determine the benefits of test automation, including the time and money saved by automating manual testing, the reduction in the number of defects found in production, the increased speed and coverage of testing, and other benefits.

To calculate the ROI, you can use the following formula:
ROI = (Gain from the investment – Cost of investment)/Cost of investment x 100
ROI = Savings/Investment
The gain from an investment that we get from test automation is:
Speed -> How faster the STLC becomes
Quality -> Improved product quality
Cost saving -> How much costs are saved after implementing test automation

It’s important to note that ROI calculation is a simplified representation of investment and benefits. It is important to consider other factors, such as the impact of automation on customer satisfaction, the quality of the product, and the ability to release the product faster.

TCO and ROI are interrelated since the TCO can impact the ROI of an automation investment. Accurate calculation of the TCO of an automation project can help organizations accurately determine the potential ROI. For example, TCO and ROI are inversely proportional; if the TCO is higher than expected, the ROI may be lower than expected. On the other hand, if the TCO is lower than expected, the ROI may be higher than expected. Both TCO and ROI are important metrics for evaluating the financial impact of an investment, including investment in test automation.

Factors contributing to test automation TCO:

Several cost factors can add up to TCO. Let’s identify, categorize and estimate cost factors and discuss each in detail:

Tool cost

Test automation can be more expensive than initially anticipated, especially when using open-source tools that rely on programming languages, such as Selenium WebDriver, Appium, TestNG, PyTest, and Cucumber. Although these tools and libraries are open-source, there are hidden costs associated with them, including infrastructure, maintenance, and support expenses. Furthermore, commercial automation tools may offer additional features and support, but these benefits also come at a price.

Licensing cost

Hidden licensing costs can arise when using open-source tools and libraries, particularly in conjunction with cloud-based infrastructure services like AWS and Azure. For instance, running your test automation on these platforms may involve specific service fees. Additionally, executing automation scripts on Virtual Machines incurs charges and may require licensing fees. VMWare, a widely-used hypervisor for virtualization, necessitates a paid license for enterprise features.

Training cost

Training costs are associated with any automation tools that utilize a programming language. If a team is unfamiliar with the language or the automation frameworks being employed, they may incur expenses related to learning, developing, and implementing these tools. These costs can include programming language training, automation framework training, and specific tool training expenses.

Maintenance cost

Maintenance costs associated with automation tools that use a programming language can result in additional overhead. As applications evolve, test scripts must be updated to adapt to these changes, increasing the cost of maintaining both tests and frameworks. Framework maintenance costs also arise when using tools like Selenium, which may be developed with TestNG, Cucumber, or JUnit frameworks, as these require extra effort and resources to maintain. Moreover, staying compatible with the latest versions of automation tools may involve updating and maintaining the tools themselves, adding to the overall maintenance costs.

Infrastructure cost

Infrastructure costs, which can be hidden, are associated with open-source tools. For instance, hardware expenses may arise when purchasing or upgrading servers and storage devices to support automation projects, and unforeseen costs could occur in case of hardware failures. Software costs might involve additional resources, such as consultants and IT personnel, for installing dependencies, project-specific setups, and maintenance. You ought to also consider network-related expenses and ongoing costs for updates, patches, and bug fixes.

Integration cost

Open-source automation projects can incur various integration costs, such as development expenses for integrating custom code and test scripts with tools and developed frameworks with external systems based on project requirements. These tasks may require costly automation developers and system integration engineers. Configuration management costs might be necessary. In situations where open-source tools have different documentation categories for usage (simple, medium, and complex), documentation experts or technical writers may be needed to create clear, concise guides, adding to the cost.

Operations cost

Operations costs are also involved in open-source automation projects. For example, DevOps expenses may include resource costs for DevOps engineers and QA architects specializing in DevOps implementation and maintenance. Additional training, skills, and knowledge required for mastering DevOps tools can add to the cost. Infrastructure costs for DevOps, such as network resources, pipelines, and servers, should also be considered.

How does testRigor help in achieving highly optimized TCO and the best ROI?

All the TCO cost factors discussed in the previous section are effectively addressed by testRigor. testRigor is a cloud-hosted AI system and a no-code test automation tool that tackles various manual and automation testing challenges. It efficiently overcomes issues such as complexity in setting up a local framework, complexity of test creation, high costs and continuous maintenance, code breakage during execution, and effort in debugging and failure analysis.

testRigor’s approach to building an end-to-end test automation suite is unique. The tool uses AI for element detection during execution, and its reporting is comprehensive and self-explanatory, including screenshots for each executed test step. The time spent on failure and defect analysis is significantly reduced compared to any other automated testing tool on the market.

testRigor serves as a one-stop solution for conducting end-to-end testing activities, constructing robust regression end-to-end test suites, and delivering high-quality results to end users. testRigor covers web, mobile, and desktop testing, and allows anyone on the team to author robust test cases with minimal training. The offerings are highly customizable, depending on the number of parallelizations and other factors.

testRigor also provides the option for on-premise installation, along with features expected from the best automation tools, such as increased coverage, reduced testing time, lower costs, and enhanced stability.

Companies often favor open-source tools due to their perceived cost-free nature compared to paid alternatives. However, as the above discussion illustrates, open-source tools are not free at all, as they come with high hidden costs such as maintenance, training, operations, and usage of third-party libraries. Refer to Why testRigor should be your only Test Automation Tool?

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