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Issue Summary
Automation hasn't been or is not properly maintained and gradually decays to shelfware

Category
Process

Examples
Common causes of decay include (a combination of) *):
  • Business pressures: management pushes only to automate new test cases so that there is no time to maintain existing automation testware.
  • Lack of process or understanding: management doesn't understand the need for maintenance, and makes decisions without considering the implications.
  • Lack of documentation: automation testware is created without the necessary supporting documentation.
  • Lack of collaboration: knowledge isn't shared around the organization and business efficiency suffers, or junior automators are not properly mentored
  • Delayed refactoring: adjustments in the automation testware due to changes in the Software under Test (SUT) are postponed. Delays mean that more effort is later required to bring the testware up-to-date.
  • Lack of knowledge: automators simply don't know how to write maintainable automation or the ones that knew have left the team or the company.

Questions
Who is in charge of automation?
Who sets the priotities?
Is there an automation team? How is it composed?

Resolving Patterns
Most recommended:
  • TEST AUTOMATION OWNER: If there isn't yet a "champion" for test automation, it's high time to do so. Find who would do, and appoint him or her publicly
  • REFACTOR THE TESTWARE: If the current automation is becoming less useful, then it needs to be changed so that it meets the current needs and goals of the testing and the automation

Other useful patterns:
  • ASK FOR HELP: This pattern is a no-brainer! Use it
  • LOOK AHEAD: keep in touch with the tester, automation and development community in order to stay informed about new tools, methods etc.
  • LOOK FOR TROUBLE: watch out for possible issues in order to solve them before they become unmanageable
  • MANAGEMENT SUPPORT: management support is a key resource when fighting against automation decay. Without it you will only be able to win a few "battles", but not the "war"
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*) Most of the examples have been adapted from WIKIPEDIA, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technical_debt