Six Test Automation Must-Haves to Maximize Mission Success

Jet In Flight

In the aerospace and defense industry, operations regularly risk human life and significant economic loss. There is embedded software within a complex system of many interacting hardware elements. The system embodies significantly advanced functions never before coded in software. Whether you’re designing systems for command and control (C2), complex police operations, or neutralizing enemy missiles, automated software testing has become a must-have to keep up with release schedules and ensure systems can deploy with no defects.

However, the choice can be overwhelming with the different types of automation solutions on the market today. Here are the six must-have features and functionality you’ll want in any test automation solution and why.

1. Test in Terms of User Journeys and Desired Outcomes

You know when a segment of software or system carries out a mission successfully. But can you model your testing to help ensure the desired outcome? The experts on the mission who are using your systems are likely to be military-qualified personnel or law enforcement experts — not programmers. Writing a set of test scripts isn’t always the most common way to capture the test process.

The solution is to create a model of the user journeys and desired outcomes visually in a codeless way. You can model, for example, the displays of your command-and-control system, the elements within those systems, and the flow of interacting with those elements between different displays.

It might be modeling the process flow of your simulation of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch or how a heads-up display system on a plane looks with different amounts of data. Modeling enables you to create a digital twin of the existing system and test as if human users and other systems are interacting with it.

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2. Anticipate Real-World Stress and Unplanned Scenarios

Picture this: you’re under fire in hostile territory and calling in air cover. What if you don’t press the right buttons in the correct sequence? What if the system behaves unexpectedly due to geography, temperature, pressure, hardware version, and network conditions? There are an infinite number of conditions. It is nearly impossible to anticipate human and system behavior in all situations, so testing only “happy paths” is not good enough.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is ideal for exploring these unplanned scenarios, and the best test automation solutions use AI. An AI test-recommendation engine navigates all potential journeys through the system model — far more than a human could possibly think to test. It complements regression testing with automated exploratory testing, guided by a learning model that feeds on data around system changes, historical test data, and actual usage patterns. Using AI assistance, it is possible to automatically explore stressful permutations to simulate humans and systems under stress.

3. Protecting Classified IP While Enabling Third-Party Testing

It is common to bring in different teams to test the product you create. However, in the defense, government, and aerospace industries, it is not just about protecting the internet protocol (IP). The IP is classified, and you absolutely cannot let someone see what’s inside the workings of your system.

For mission-critical sectors, your approach to testing automation and controlling a system must be non-invasive — without the need to look inside the black box or touch the code. By creating a digital twin model, you can use and test the system the same way you would the system-under-test (SUT) but without accessing any IP or code.

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4. Ensure the End-to-End UX Won't Fail in the Field

The dreaded error message is the last thing you want to see in a tense situation in the field. What happens if you don’t have system connectivity, forget your password, or mistype it? It’s critical to test through the eyes of the user.

Say you test on a platform based on Android version 13, but the tablets the warfighters in the field use are running on version 12. You may have assumed it’s the same, and the underlying software might function fine. However, a critical display does not render properly and is unreadable.

You can only uncover this problem using the software as a user would. Furthermore, there may be issues around any aspect of the user experience — functionality, performance, usability, and connectivity.

A must-have for your software test automation program is the ability to test anything on any device — from on-premise to the cloud, across mainframes, packaged or custom apps, microservices, and legacy systems. This way you know whatever is being used in the field is exactly what was tested in the lab.

5. Predict the Likelihood of a Successful System Launch

Getting a risk analysis before release is critical. You do not get a second chance with mission-critical applications. Astronauts on the moon using your oxygen sensor system or a special ops team using your satellite positioning system to determine enemy location is not the time to discover your launch has bugs. Plus, the cost of returning and fixing issues once released is exponentially higher.

Top test automation solutions have a system of predictive analytics for launch readiness, meaning they use statistics and modeling techniques to determine future performance based on current and historical data. The system learns as it collects more data, getting smarter and better at predicting success.

Taking this data and applying predictive analytics, including comparing previous releases and their perceived quality, gives you a mission risk analysis associated with the release. A good test automation solution includes a dashboard, reporting, and what-if analyses surrounding the launch risk so you can make informed decisions about your launches.

6. Track Mission Progress and Recommend Improvements

There is tremendous pressure to release and go live, but testing does not have to end there — you can continue to test in production. There are two aspects. First, seeing how real users are experiencing the system by measuring whether they are completing key tasks within the desired mission parameters. Second, creating synthetic users to interact with the system and test aspects of the functionality and performance in production.

Suppose a particular user journey doesn’t seem to be working. In that case, an analysis may identify the problem and suggest a remedy that feeds back into development to make a measurable improvement to the system.

For example, you might identify that the red text on a blue background on your targeting system interface is hard to read. The targeting effectiveness meets the successful mission levels by feeding your testing results and monitoring back into the dev process. This process includes a recommendation to change to a more readable combination.

A must-have for any test automation solution is a loop of continuous improvements, including the ability to get your system’s telemetry data. Suppose the data is not hitting the positive mission outcomes. In that case, you need the ability to zoom in through the eye of the user and use synthetic monitoring imbued with an AI personality to use the system. Then, you can better determine why those user journeys are breaking down. You can provide a remedy to send back into the development process to say, “if you change this, you will improve your positive mission outcomes in this way.”

Organizations in aerospace and defense must meet higher standards for accuracy, quality, reliability, and delivery when testing. With the right software test automation solution, you can meet mission outcomes every time while achieving real business results.

Learn how Eggplant meets all six of these must-haves and more for your specific use case by contacting us.

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