Where are you headed with your test automation efforts? Like all journeys into the unknown, a map can prove to be especially handy.
I think of test automation as being broken down into 5 goal groupings, that themselves have 1 über goal. Thus, I present my test automation roadmap or what I call The 5 Ts...
Don't find it... make it!
Developing test automation takes time (I just rolled my eyes at myself as I typed that). Of course this is painfully obvious to you and absolutely everyone else... but still, time is always an issue when developing test automation. you will always struggle to find time to write new tests, design better tests, maintain existing tests and refactor tests when things change.
But you can't find time for automation... you have to make time for it. Factor it right into your testing estimates and/or block off specific time for automation. The amount of time, or a lack thereof, allocated to automation is a great indicator to how committed your team/stakeholders are to automation and will be directly related to it's success.
The right tool for the right job...
There is a veritable plethora of test automation tools available today and there are even more opinions on which is best. Picking the best tools depends heavily on the context of your project and the skills of your team. Choose wisely and try before you buy! Give your tool candidates a spin for an iteration (week or two) and see how they perform in the field.
Not just tests... great tests!
Start writing tests! Write them iteratively, refactor regularly and fix failing tests quickly (keep 'em green!). Value working tests like you would working software. Start small (eg. smoke tests) and expand to improve coverage. Consider continuously adding to your framework rather than striving for the perfect framework up front. Aim for beautiful tests that are concise, easy to read and will be easy to maintain.
Show your cards...
Get your automated tests in front of your team/stakeholders/management and solicit their input. Testing should be a group activity... get the group involved! Share your testplans with your team; set up regular test-code reviews; pair-program. Celebrate your milestones and accomplishments! Schedule tests to run often and post results for all to see. Fast, consistant feedback will improve your tests, help manage expectations and show a return on your automation investment.
The ultimate goal of test automation, and the destination on this roadmap, is trust. Without trust, test automation has no value. As the oracle for your SUT (system under test), you, your stakeholders, and your team, must be able to trust the answers it gives. Such trust takes considerable time and effort to build and is derived by successes with the previous 4 Ts. With enough time, the right tools, great tests and a transparent effort, trust in your automation will grow. Trust me!