The Limits of Regression Test Automation

Test automation has now become an essential part of software development. However, if they go too far, engineering teams can waste time on maintaining old tests instead of focusing on new projects.


What is Regression testing?

Regression Testing is a type of software testing which confirms if a recent program or code change has not adversely affected existing features. Regression Testing is a full or partial selection of already executed test cases which are re-executed to ensure existing functionalities work fine.

Automated regression testing is only required if a business tries to implement Agile and DevOps practices into the development lifecycle. Yet, if too many test scripts, with complex test code, are created, there might be some long-term maintenance challenges.


What are the risks?

When a team starts to write test cases, they need to find the right balance. Indeed, the test cases can’t be too slackly, or they’re passed too easily but they also can’t be too complex, or they will require to be updated and rewritten regularly, which will only waste time.

Engineering teams often underestimate the cost, time, and resources used to change and test peripheral aspects of development projects, like error messages, log output and user interface text. Rather than focusing the team’s abilities on new projects, they will be constantly checking older regression test scripts to make sure they are still correct. In some organizations, there are multiples teams who handle these tasks, increasing the costs and slowing down the development velocity.

Everything comes down to prioritizing what should be automated and what shouldn’t. This is why engineering teams need to take into account the time, costs, and resources it takes them to do these regression testing, and if it is worth it.

Many teams only focus on the hardware and software sides, but it is also important to consider if the company has the staff and expertise to handle a growing codebase of tests. Likewise, if a new test automation expert is hired, they will need time to familiarize themselves with the existing test regimen or writing their own.


Does Automation always save time?

Once automated tests are set up, there is still lots of work to do. Indeed, some tests fail and need to be analyzed one by one. It can be due to bugs in the software or poorly designed tests.

Performing the failures analysis takes time. For instance, if there are 1,000 test cases with a failure rate of 5%, it is 50 failing tests to review. And it takes around 10 minutes to review – if you’re quick – it’ll be over eight hours spent reviewing tests! This only makes the business lose a lot of time.

One way to save time is to disable some less-important tests so engineering teams can focus on the most important ones. But this is not a solution. There is nothing to protect against unexpected failures.



Automated regression testing has become an essential part of modern development practices to deliver quality software quickly. However, there is a need to balance how much automated testing is needed to optimize resources and avoid unnecessary maintenance efforts. Automated tests should always be created to ensure full and efficient testing of the software without burdening the team.

If the engineering team spends too much time maintaining test scripts for regression testing, then there might be a problem, and implementing some manual testing to complement test automation might be a good solution.