Test Automation for SaaS Products

Software as a service is a popular delivery model for various business application domains including content management, service desk applications, accounting, invoicing, human resource management, CRM and ERP.

Versus long-term software licensing of client packages, cloud delivery of SaaS enterprise apps offers greater convenience, lower risk and the economic advantages of reduced capital and operational expenditures with pay-as-you-go subscriptions.

Challenges of SaaS Testing

SaaS testing poses unique challenges:

  • Frequency of Releases – The instant delivery model of SaaS means shorter release cycles, which implies an agile or DevOps development and testing practices.
  • Functionality and Performance – SaaS implies no product versioning, thus a new release affects all users at once. So, functionality and performance testing must ensure the absence of negative impacts.
  • Cross-Browser Compatibility – A SaaS deployment needs a single OS but must present itself consistently across browser brands.
  • Scalability and Accessibility – Understanding how a SaaS app responds to increased load, zero to peak load rates, demand from multiple sources, such as mobile users, and meeting SLAs are all critical aspects of scalability testing.
  • Data Integration – If a SaaS application is part of a suite data sharing must be thoroughly tested, which is especially difficult if suite members follow different release schedules.
  • Usage Models – Configurability of SaaS apps is critical for adoption by enterprises who each have their unique ways of doing business. Testing configurability requires understanding your users’ business models to optimize which workflows to prioritize.
  • Security – The convenience of anywhere access of SaaS means testing the strength of a service’s identity management and data security measures is critical.
  • License Functionality – Without sound licensing policies that are correctly enforced, both users and providers suffer, so each release must re-verify that licensing is being correctly enforced.

SaaS Testing Advantages

Many traditional application testing aspects are not applicable to SaaS testing. SaaS does not require multiple version support nor will the software run on multiple OS platforms. Support for client or in-house servers is also unneeded as is backward compatibility testing.

Applying SaaS Test Automation

Test automation improves test coverage in the areas mentioned previously as well as complementing agile or DevOps environments required for SaaS products’ compressed release cycles. It does not completely preclude manual testing, however, which can suggest new test cases using exploratory testing immediately after each code release.

Test Automation as a Development Project

When approaching the unique aspects of SaaS testing automation, we find it extremely helpful to constantly identify areas where automation may be employed from unit testing to production.

Additionally, the most successful automation efforts, in our experience, create test automation capability via the same development methods used for the code itself:

  • Develop a detailed test plan designed to keep pace with agile or DevOps practices
  • Plan for continual test documentation maintenance
  • Start with a framework-driven approach that includes defect tracking functionality
  • Always strive for reusability in your tests, which promotes less brittle tests while saving time
  • Develop a solid test reporting protocol that rapidly returns results to the developers
  • Hire testing experts with coding skills as no test automation tool completely substitutes for such skills

Measure Success

We have seen many test automation efforts fail because no metrics were put in place from the beginning to measure success or failure and guide corrective steps as the project progresses.

Start by setting goals for the percentage of test cases that are automated for each area of testing, a percentage improvement in test coverage and the percentage improvement of time to release. Simply applying these metrics will suggest other useful metrics to apply as your test automation capability matures. Strive for metrics that are relevant to assessing the overall ROI of your test automation efforts.

Test Automation Framework Capabilities

When building or buying a test automation framework assess its maintainability to avoid it falling into disuse in a short time. For instance, if new tests are difficult to add to existing collections, testers will resist augmenting test coverage.

Your automation framework should accommodate testers with coding skills but reduce complexity for those testers without such skills. It must separate scripts and data, handle multiple data formats, such as CSV files, plain text, XML and so on.

If a candidate test framework does not include a test manager, defect management tool or continuous integration and continuous development capability, assess the effort required to integrate those critical functions.

Strongly consider using a cloud-based automated test framework such as Saucelabs, BrowerStack, TestingWhiz, ITTester, etc. to lower costs and increase scalability. Cloud deployment services such as AWS, Azure or Google Cloud Compute also offer the ability to virtualize test automation instances using your preferred hypervisor to obtain greater efficiencies.

Consult with Test Automation Experts

It cannot be overemphasised that SaaS test automation is a complex, long-term endeavour with unique requirements that may easily overwhelm an enterprise’s QA capability. Thus, it often pays to enlist experts who have been down this road many times before. Such a move is especially critical given the short release cycles inherent in SaaS products and the value of thorough testing across multiple domains in the highly competitive SaaS market.


If you have questions about getting started with Test Automation or want to push the toolset further, give us a call. We’re always happy to answer any questions.