GA technologies Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as "GA technologies") is a venture company that takes on the challenge of the "real estate x Tech (Prop Tech)" market, which is said to have a market size of 40 trillion yen. Technology and innovation to inspire people. With this vision, the company is pushing forward with industry reforms by replacing the analogy of paper, faxes, and telephones with digital ones to increase productivity in the real estate industry.
Because of this, the company is also actively working on automation using digital technology. In addition to the development team, the company has a culture that actively promotes the automation of back-office operations.
We asked Ken Kakizaki, the QA team manager of GA technologies, about the process of automating software testing and the effect of implementing Autify.
ー First of all, please tell us about your business.
Ken: I'm the manager of the QA team at GA technologies. I am mainly in charge of "RENOSY", a comprehensive brand of real estate technology provided by our company. RENOSY is a service that allows customers to learn more about real estate properties by visiting the website and inquiring if there is a property they are interested in.
ー What kind of issues did you face before implementing Autify?
Ken: We were still a relatively young company about four years after our development organization was launched, so we were having frequent problems with contact forms that were dropping, or with the appearance of the site being so corrupt that we couldn't even get to the form. We had a lot of other problems, and if we didn't improve the quality and automate the testing, we wouldn't be able to keep up.
- First, please tell us about your business.
Ken: I am the QA team manager at GA technologies. I am mainly in charge of “RENOSY ” which is a real estate tech brand that our company provides. In traditional real estate sales, persistent telephone solicitation was commonplace. However, RENOSY does not do this. Instead, customers can visit the website and if there is a property they are interested in, they can make an enquiry for details.
- Regarding QA of web services, what kind of problems did you have prior to introducing Autify?
Ken: For about four years after the development organization was launched, we often had problems such as “the contact form is down” and “the website isn’t working correctly and cannot reach the contact form.” This was partly because we were a new company. There were many other problems, and we could not catch up unless we automated the test and improved the quality.
However, more and more new projects and products were being created, and all we could manage was to follow-up on product updates and manually test important parts. We just didn’t have time to automate the test.’
- Automation does tend to take one step forward and two steps back... What test automation efforts did you undertake before you considered Autify?
Ken: We’d tried E2E testing tools that can be used with coding bases such as Selenium and cypress. I believe we tried various methods for a year or two. But it was more trouble than it was worth because setting up the environment was troublesome, operation was slow, and there was no documentation. We already did not have time, so we just could not push automation forward. We were stuck.
- So, you chose Autify to solve that. What was the deciding factor for its introduction?
Ken: Due to the nature of our product, many customers access the site using Internet Explorer (IE) to use our services, and conversion rate is remarkably high. It was essential to carry out tests using IE. However, performing IE tests ourselves was difficult. Aside from preparing a real machine, we would have to investigate the cause if the test failed. We just could not handle it. Meanwhile, Autify supports IE. Plus, there is no need to create a separate test scenario for IE. I knew how easy it was to create a test scenario after seeing the demo, and I intuitively knew that this was what I was looking for!
- It is difficult to set up and operate a cross-browser test environment. All of this is handled by Autify. It is as if we are stepping on landmines so that users don’t have to. That’s how we are continuing development.
Test automating did not progress for years, until introducing Autify
- Did you have any struggles when you introduced Autify?
Ken: Not at all. We had been completely stuck, but it was resolved instantly. We were able to automate right away.
- I am incredibly happy to hear that. How did other team members react to it?
Ken: Once I showed them the Autify test result screen, they immediately understood what it could do. They didn’t need any special explanation. There are currently seven members in GA technologies' QA team. We started by providing an account for every member and setting up an environment where they could use it freely so that anyone could interact with it at any time. Perhaps because some members had experience with Selenium IDE, we were able to start using it smoothly without any special awareness programs or training. Looking back, maybe it was good to start small. Although at the time, it was a huge step for us so none of us though it was a small start at all!
- What did you do as a small start?
Ken: Originally, the automated test we did was to check if status code 200 was returned after pinging. As an extra, we started off by checking if the site’s css and appearance was not distorted or broken. After that, we gradually expanded by checking if we were correctly receiving an inquiry through the form.
- It certainly doesn't feel like a particularly difficult test case. Was it effective enough?
Ken: There was a huge value in that we were able to create a world view that customers could access RENOSY, obtain the necessary real estate information, and contact us 24 hours a day.
- I’m glad to hear that we were able to help create that world view!
Effects after introduction: cost of constructing an environment is zero, maintenance takes only 15 minutes
- What kind of effects have you seen after the introduction?
Ken: First, the time and cost for building the environment for test automation has become zero. Test maintenance virtually takes no time either.
- What was maintenance like before?
Ken: When we were using Selenium or cypress, we would have had to reluctantly investigate the cause if a test didn't work well. To investigate the cause, the first task is to prepare a verification environment for investigation and redeploy the code that was rolled back to build the environment. All this was just to get things ready to investigate, and it would take us three to four hours. After that, the real investigation for causes begins. There are various cause investigations. We continue exploring to find out whether there was a problem in the code or if it was a browser issue. For example, suppose you find that the cause was that the required ID had not been assigned. Then, you will have to contact the front-end team and ask them to assign an ID to the relevant part, and confirm that the ID does not adversely affect anything else... This results in a tremendous amount of work time. Once you experience this, you will not want to investigate the cause any more.
- Does that mean with Autify, you no longer have to investigate the cause?
Ken: Not exactly, but the process of cause investigation has become overwhelmingly easier. You don't need to specify an ID, of course, and it automatically detects any small changes. A “confirmation required” status is displayed on Autify, so we can correct the scenario just by confirming that section with a click of a button.
- As a result, how long does maintenance take now?
Ken: Work that used to take hours or days for one problem can now be done by taking about 15 minutes per day to confirm. This is actually not something we have to do every day. We can operate without any maintenance. It's extremely easy.
- I’m glad to know that we are freeing up you and your team’s time. Has there been any other benefits?
Ken: We perform A/B testing of websites. If we perform an A/B testing and the response is good, we adopt it. We do this cycle and pattern many times. Autify definitely picks up such A/B testing as well. Recently, as the scale of the organization has grown, there have been changes that I’m not involved with and don’t know about. In this case, I can know about it through Autify. For example, I can see that a page was renewed and that it’s working fine. The benefit of Autify has been more than just test automation, which was what we originally wanted.
- How about the cost?
Ken: It’s been said that test automation pays for itself after 4 times of use. In that respect, it has paid for itself straight away after we introduced it. For repetitive tests, I delegate it to Autify without hesitation. As I mentioned earlier, GA technologies is conducting various projects one after another. Sometimes we create, and then immediately throw away. We can concentrate on quickly improving the quality, even if it’s something we only do once. I feel that has been a huge advantage.
- The fact that you were able to focus on the original QA work has a major benefit.
“The accumulation of small successful experiences” results in change. A message to those who will be working on test automation
- Do you think the effort to automate software testing is something new?
Ken: Tools such as Autify that can easily create automated tests are emerging, so the topic of test automation is already commoditized and generalized. I don’t think it’s something special.
- I see. And you're aiming to take it further?
Ken: I think about what comes next. Now that 5G is being rolled out and the amount of data that can be handled is increasing dramatically, I personally want to create a cycle where logs that come out of automated tests are stored somewhere and analyzed, so that we can aggressively improve quality. For example, we are considering how we can know the tendency of bugs and measures to prevent them in advance so that we can utilize it for development.
- Please give a message to people who are planning to work on automation.
Ken: I think many people who can’t take the step to automation are under the impression that the goal of automation is beyond reach. Most information that comes out to the world is quite polished, and I personally used to think that way, so I sympathize. However, since joining GA technologies and encountering Autify, my impression has changed completely. If out of 10 manual tasks, even 2 or 3 could be automated, your world view will change. As I said before, we started with checking for status code 200 and screen distortion. You might think those are small tasks, but it was because of those small successes that we are now able to delegate confirmation tasks to Autify and focus on new products and functions. That is how we have been able to concentrate on what really matters in QA, which is to think about how we can improve quality. I’d like people to think that even small things can give use a huge sense of confidence and success, so that they can take the first step.
- I am extremely interested in the further evolution of GA technologies' services. Thank you, Ken.