Salesforce test automation: A complete overview

Salesforce test automation: A complete overview

Holly White on

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Testing is an integral part of software development, but these tests are useless if they are failing or hindering your release processes. As a result, many teams struggle to create tests that reliably build on their code in future and can be easily reviewed.

If you’re reading this wondering whether you and your team would benefit from automated testing as part of your overall deployment testing process – the answer is yes!

What is Salesforce test automation?

Test automation for Salesforce is an important tool for modern Salesforce DevOps. It helps improve code quality and set you up for rapid and reliable deployments. Despite having many recognized benefits, it’s still a niche concept for many teams.

Test automation uses manually written scripts to test your Salesforce code to determine if your deployment will succeed or fail. These tests can help you pinpoint problems before they make it to the end user, and being able to automate this process means that you can deploy much quicker and with less chance of something going wrong – like human error or an integration bugging out.

Automating these repetitive tasks will free up the rest of the team to concentrate more on other areas of the codebase and keep your end users happy.

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What types of test automation are there in Salesforce?

Because of the complexity of Salesforce, not to mention the applications and integrations that come with it, there are a lot of different tests that can be performed around every inch of the platform. The most common are:

Integration testing: Salesforce can integrate with a multitude of applications and plug-ins, which all need to work together. Integration testing focuses solely on whether the code will be able to integrate with these other tools in your tech stack or if something is going to break the second you deploy.

Functional testing: This type of test looks at the whole design of your Salesforce org and checks to see if it is working as intended. It works by providing input and measuring the output against the functional requirements of the platform.

Unit testing: Down at code level, unit testing is used to check whether individual components are working correctly. This can be anything from triggers to classes, and it’s important to check that each one can function on its own without affecting the other units.

Regression testing: When you test your code and config, you’re not just testing the newest code you’ve released – you’re also re-testing the previously released code. This makes sure that everything still works together and you haven’t introduced any breaking changes. You’ll see this referred to as ‘regression testing’ – a regression is when something previously worked, no longer works after a release.

Load testing: How would your Salesforce environments cope under an influx of traffic or processes? Load testing measures the performance of your Salesforce org under increased processing demands and finds the ‘breaking point’ of your org. Knowing this point then allows you to plan for an influx of traffic or processes that could unexpectedly crash your environments.

UI testing: User interface (UI) testing is important to test how elements of the application behave when the end user interacts with them. The UI elements that can be tested are all the things that the user can click – things like drop-downs, menus and icons.

Advantages of Salesforce test automation

Continuous testing not only strengthens the state of your existing environments, but it also creates a foundation to deploy successfully too. There are many benefits of using automated Salesforce testing:

  • Increased test coverage: Unit testing is used to meet the minimum Salesforce requirement of 75% code coverage on Apex classes. These unit tests will track any modifications and whether there has been a change in the code’s behaviour as a result.

  • Early bug detection: Frequent testing will set you up to find and fix bugs and code errors early in your development process. Catching these early decreases the likelihood of finding a severe issue later on down the pipeline.

  • Time and cost savings: It requires a lot of effort to manually check every corner of the Salesforce application, the integrations, and all of your code. Having a quick and reliable way to test frees up the team to focus on the things that really matter to your end users. This translates to huge ROI for the wider business, as testing becomes more efficient and team members are able to focus on adding value elsewhere.

  • Cleaner existing code: Testing the whole application every time you add new code means that all of the existing code gets a thorough clean. This can throw up any issues nice and early, meaning you can fix and carry on as quickly as possible.

  • Reliable deployments: Testing and validating deployments before they’re released to production will flag any errors or issues straight away. This saves the need to unpick any errors later down the line, after they’ve caused more serious issues.

  • Reduced human errors: Taking away the human element from manual and repetitive tasks means there’s less chance of human errors creeping its way into the codebase.

Challenges of Salesforce test automation

Salesforce is a complex beast that’s always increasing in functionality. But these enhancements can also increase complexity, meaning your automated tests can hit a few speed bumps along the way:

  • Tests scripts require time and effort
    The original scripts can take a lot of time and patience to get right, so being methodical and making sure they’re accurate can save you a lot of time in the longrun. Unfortunately, your hard work can be undone if Salesforce releases an update that directly affects your tests.

  • Dynamic elements
    Each environment is unique, with different fields, objects, and integrations. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the dynamic elements and that can shift or change when a test script runs. This makes it hard for the test to pin down the element and fail to test it.

  • Frequent updates
    Salesforce is constantly rolling out upgrades and new features which can throw your tests into a spin more frequently than you’d like. To make testing work well for you, it’s worth investing time into a tried and tested method to keep on top of repairing and improving the test scripts. To complicate matters, many Salesforce tests are run using a snapshot of the org, which means that the data can already be out of date when you see the results.

  • Team lacking experience
    The Salesforce ‘clicks not code’ style of development is accessible to admins and developers alike, but this doesn’t necessarily transfer into the testing side of things. Scripts will need to be written by team members with a certain level of training. There are a number of test automation tools out there, but choosing the right one and successfully implementing it requires some knowledge of testing best practices.

Is manual testing still necessary?

After reading the benefits of automated testing, you might think the answer to this question is ‘no’ – but there’s still a time and place for manual testing. Though manual testing doesn’t work at scale, this doesn’t mean you should write off the need for human intervention entirely. For example, User Acceptance Testing, or UAT, is reliant on how your user feels when using your application – something that can’t be tested with a machine. This type of testing is usually performed in a sandbox or UAT environment to check that the change works as expected.

Because UAT testing is subjective and dependent on human interaction and emotion, these tests need to be carried out by a person. How does the user feel when navigating around the UI? Are they happy or annoyed at the placement or functionality of a particular field or button? These questions will always have a better outcome with a human tester.

Similarly, QA testing is nearly impossible to automate because a level of natural creativity and curiosity is needed. Automation can’t think, suggest or collaborate, so something that requires this level of skill and cognitive ability simply can’t be automated. This style of testing relies on the individual to find defects that aren’t easily uncovered by other tests. QA testing acts as a safety net against the release of unfinished or ineffective updates and changes.

Common use cases for test automation

It’s hard to determine what makes something a good candidate for test automation, but you don’t have to automate all test cases. Instead, just focus on the ones that will give you and your team the most benefit. To figure out which ones those are, you should consider things like how often the test needs to be done, how complicated it will be, and whether it’s important to the wider team.

The best use cases for automated testing are processes that are consistent and repeatable, meaning they can consistently be used across multiple builds. This removes the risk of human error and saves you time.

Automated testing best practice

Automated testing will make your Salesforce releases easier and save you time and money in the long run. But when thinking about how to start testing on Salesforce it’s definitely worth following the best practices:

  • Plan your tests: Planning how to get the most out of your tests will help you in the long run. This should involve the people who the tests will affect and collaborate on what will give you and the business the most value.

  • Start testing early: Testing at various stages throughout your development process means you’ll be alerted to issues sooner, so you can start fixing them earlier.

  • Keep testing your tests: Environments can change at the click of a button — an integration that worked last week could suddenly start stalling and causing issues. Test as often as you can to maintain the integrity of your tests and stop hiccups from holding up your processes.

Get the right tool

Adding automation to your development and release process can be a powerful way to improve your releases, and with the right tools on hand you will make automating your testing so much easier.

If you want to take the first steps, Gearset can help you get set up with automating your unit testing and gaining full visibility over your Apex. If you’re new to Gearset, unit testing is just one of the DevOps tools you can access for free in a 30-day trial. Why not get started today?

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