Use Case
Test Data Management

Guide to test data automation

Janice Manwiller
March 21, 2024
In this article

Introduction to test data automation

In this guide, we introduce the essentials of test data automation. The guide helps you to understand its benefits, the key strategies, and how to add it to your software testing workflow. It also shows you how Tonic Structural is an ideal partner for your test data automation effort.

What is test data automation?

To get started, what does it mean to automate your test data?

Test data automation means to automatically create and manage test data. You use test data automation tools and technologies to generate, manipulate, and manage that data. When you automate test data, you accelerate your testing cycles, improve test coverage, reduce errors, and ensure that software is thoroughly tested under a variety of conditions.

Automated test data generation and management ultimately allows you to more quickly deliver high-quality, reliable software.

What does test data automation involve?

Key aspects of test data automation include:

Data generation

Use automated tools and scripts to create your test data.

To ensure comprehensive coverage, include a variety of inputs, such as valid and invalid data, edge cases, and boundary values.


Organize and store test data in a structured way, to make it easily accessible for testing purposes.

You can also use version control and change tracking.

Data masking and anonymization

To protect the privacy and security of sensitive or confidential data, use techniques to mask or anonymize the data.

Data variation

Introduce variations in data to simulate different scenarios and conditions. This helps identify how the software behaves under different inputs.

Data refresh and cleanup

Automatically refresh or reset test data between test runs to ensure test consistency and repeatability.

Clean up test data after testing is complete.

Integration with testing tools

Integrate test data automation with testing frameworks and tools to seamlessly provide the necessary test data for automated test scripts.

Data validation

Perform automated checks and validations on the test data to ensure that it is correct and that it conforms to expected standards.

Benefits of implementing test data automation

For software testing and quality assurance organizations, test data automation offers several benefits, including:


Streamlines the process of generating, managing, and maintaining test data.

Reduces the manual effort required to create and maintain test datasets, which saves time and resources.


Automated test data generation ensures consistency in the test environment.

Testers can rely on standardized datasets, which reduce the risk of human errors and test inconsistency.


You can reuse automated test data across multiple test cases, which reduces redundancy and makes the testing process more efficient.

This allows for better test coverage without duplicate effort.

Increased test coverage

With automated test data generation, it’s easier to create a wide range of test scenarios, including edge cases and boundary conditions.

This leads to improved test coverage and the ability to identify hidden defects.

Data variation

Test data automation allows you to introduce data variations, to enable testing of different scenarios and conditions.

This helps to uncover potential issues related to data handling and processing.

Data security and privacy

Automated test data tools can include data masking and anonymization techniques.

These techniques ensure that sensitive or confidential information is protected during testing, which is crucial for compliance with data privacy regulations.

Cost savings

Because it reduces manual efforts and minimizes errors, test data automation can cut costs in the long run.

It optimizes the use of resources and infrastructure.

Faster testing cycles

Automated test data generation and management speed up the testing process, which enables faster delivery of software.

This is especially valuable in rapid release environments such as Agile and DevOps.

Improved test data quality

Data validation checks ensure that the test data is accurate and meets the expected standards.

This contributes to higher test data quality.


Automated test data solutions can scale to handle large datasets and complex testing scenarios.

This makes them suitable for projects of varying sizes and complexities.

Enhanced test environment management

You can integrate test data automation with test environment management tools, to better control and coordinate test environments.

Regression testing

Automated test data enables more efficient regression testing, because you can easily refresh and reuse data for each test cycle.

In short, test data automation helps to improve testing processes, increase the reliability of software products, and reduce testing time and cost.

Data-driven automated testing is crucial to modern software development methodologies such as Agile and DevOps, where rapid and high-quality releases are essential.

Key strategies for test data automation

Implementing effective test data automation involves a series of key strategies that organizations should consider.

With these strategies, you can establish a robust test data automation framework that enhances testing efficiency, maintains data quality, and supports the overall quality assurance process.

Throughout the process, effective test data automation requires collaboration between development, testing, and data management teams.

Identify your data requirements

The first step in a test data strategy for automation is to know your data.

You need to identify the specific data requirements for testing scenarios, to ensure that you understand the types of data needed for comprehensive testing.

Use data profiling to analyze your existing data, to reveal its characteristics and potential issues.

Mask and anonymize your data

When dealing with sensitive or confidential data, data masking and anonymization techniques are crucial to ensure privacy and security while maintaining data realism.

Select suitable data generation tools or frameworks that align with your testing needs, allowing the generation of diverse test data, including valid, invalid, and boundary values.

Automate your data validation

Use automated data validation checks to verify the correctness and integrity of test data, to identify data-related issues early in the testing process.

Secure your data

Implement security measures to protect test data repositories. Restrict access to authorized personnel.

Use version control

Establishing version control for test data is essential for tracking changes and maintaining data consistency, particularly in multi-team or multi-environment scenarios.

Use a test data management platform

Consider investing in a test data management platform that provides centralized control, data provisioning, and data masking capabilities.

Such platforms streamline test data operations and enhance data governance.

Automate data refresh and cleanup

Automating data refresh and cleanup processes between test runs ensures a consistent test environment and prevents interference from previous test data.

Integrate with testing frameworks and tools

Integration with testing frameworks and tools is critical for seamless access to test data by automated test scripts. Scalability is another factor to address, ensuring that the test data automation solution can accommodate growing datasets and evolving testing requirements.

Document your processes

Thorough documentation of test data automation processes, including data generation scripts and masking rules, aids in knowledge sharing and troubleshooting.

Train your team

Training for the testing team on effective test data use and management is essential, ensuring that team members are well-versed in the principles and best practices of test data automation.

Keep informed on and compliant with privacy regulations

Staying informed about data privacy regulations relevant to the organization is crucial, ensuring compliance with these regulations in test data automation practices.

Keep improving

Finally, continuous improvement is vital. Regularly assess and enhance your test data automation strategy based on feedback from testers and stakeholders.

Test data management automation

Test data management automation (TDMA) specifically focuses on the end-to-end management of test data throughout the entire software development and testing lifecycle.

While test data automation primarily deals with the generation and provisioning of test data, TDMA encompasses a broader range of activities related to the planning, creation, maintenance, and optimization of test data.

Here are key aspects of test data management automation:

Data provisioning

Automated processes to provision test data to various testing environments, including development, testing, staging, and production.

Test data creation automation ensures that the right test data is available when needed.

Data masking and anonymization

Similar to test data automation, TDMA incorporates data masking and anonymization techniques, to protect sensitive information in test data, which ensures compliance with data privacy regulations.

Data subsetting

TDMA can involve subsetting, which creates smaller, representative subsets of production data for testing.

Subsetting reduces storage requirements and accelerates test data provisioning.

Data refresh and cleanup

Automated processes to refresh and clean up test data between test runs.

This ensures a consistent and reliable testing environment.

Data generation

In TDMA, data generation goes beyond random data generation.

It can involve creating complex data scenarios, data combinations, and data relationships to simulate real-world testing scenarios.

Data versioning

Manages different versions of test data to align with the evolving needs of the testing process.

Ensures that test data remains consistent with the application's development.

Data dependency management

Tracks and manages dependencies between test data elements.

Ensures that changes in one part of the data do not adversely affect other parts of the testing process.

Data governance

Establishes and maintains data governance practices for test data.

Defines policies for data ownership, access controls, and data usage.

Self-service data access

Some TDMA solutions offer self-service capabilities, which allow testing teams to request and provision their test data without direct involvement from data administrators.

Integration with test automation tools

TDMA integrates with test automation tools and frameworks, to ensure that automated test scripts have seamless access to the required test data.

Reporting and monitoring

Reporting and monitoring capabilities track the availability and quality of test data.

They help teams to efficiently identify and resolve issues.

Data archiving and purging

For regulatory compliance and data management purposes, TDMA may automate the archiving and purging of obsolete test data.

With TDMA, organizations can ensure that test data is efficiently managed, secured, and available to testing teams when needed.

This approach enhances the overall quality of testing, reduces manual efforts, and accelerates the software development lifecycle.

TDMA is particularly valuable in complex, regulated environments where data privacy and data integrity are critical.

Test data generation tools and platforms

A variety of test data generation tools and platforms have emerged, each designed to cater to specific testing scenarios and requirements.

These tools and platforms encompass a wide range of functionality, from generating synthetic data for functional testing to managing, masking, and provisioning test data in complex enterprise environments.

A screenshot of the Tonic Structural UI, showing its subsetting graph view.

The tool or platform that you choose depends on your specific testing needs and technology stack.

Let's explore some common types of test data generation tools and platforms that empower testing teams to create, secure, and manipulate test data:

Open-source libraries

Open-source libraries or frameworks that provide functions and classes to generating synthetic test data.

They are often language-specific, such as Python libraries to generate random data.

Database-specific tools

Some tools are designed specifically to generate test data for databases.

They can create structured data based on database schemas and relationships.

Web-based data generators

These online platforms or web services allow users to generate various types of test data.

To generate the data, users use a web interface to configure parameters and options.

Data masking and anonymization tools

While primarily focused on data security, these tools can also generate masked or anonymized test data that protects sensitive information.

Data subsetting tools

Used to create smaller, representative subsets of production data for testing purposes.

They reduce data volumes while maintaining data integrity.

Test Data Management (TDM) platforms

Offer end-to-end solutions to manage test data, including generation, masking, subsetting, and data provisioning.

They often integrate with testing and development environments.

Performance testing tools

Some performance testing tools include features to generate large volumes of test data that simulate real-world loads on applications.

Custom in-house solutions

Organizations can develop custom scripts, programs, or tools that are tailored to their specific data generation needs.

These solutions can be highly specialized.

Data modeling and ETL tools

Data modeling and ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) tools can create test data either based on data models or by extracting and transforming data from various sources.

Data virtualization tools

Generate virtualized test data on-demand by providing access to a wide range of data sources and formats.

These tools are more frequently used for data analytics use cases.

Case studies: Successful test data automation implementations

Now that you know more about test data automation and why it’s so valuable, let’s quickly look at a couple of cases where companies used the test data platform Tonic Structural to add test data automation to their development processes.


Paytient works with employers and health plans to offer lines of credit to pay out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. Their data by definition is rife with PII. The Paytient engineering team needed masked versions of the data for testing. Using Tonic Structural’s ability to mask data in flat text files, they are able to quickly and reliably produce the data they need without exposing any PII.

What they achieved:

  • Overall ROI of 3.7x
  • Saved 600 hours of development time

What they're saying:

"If I think about what it would cost for us to build something even remotely viable for us to solve our test data problem in the way that Tonic has solved it for us, it's orders of magnitude more than what it costs us to run Tonic Cloud." - Jordan Stone, VP of Engineering


Hone provides an industry-leading platform for leadership training, offering comprehensive online learning programs to companies and their employees. They needed reliable data for sales demos and software QA that did not expose PII. Tonic Structural’s all-in-one data masking, subsetting, and synthesis platform offered exactly what Hone needed. They use Tonic Structural to automate the provisioning of realistic and secure test data.

What they achieved:

  • Reduced regression testing time from 2 weeks to 4 hours
  • Reduced critical bugs to zero
  • Increased average contract value by 5%

What they're saying:

“Before we had Tonic and the availability of production-quality data for our engineers and QA, we would see critical issues at least once a week that were tied to not being able to accurately test our features under real-world scenarios. Now, we haven't had a critical issue since we fully operationalized Tonic into our software development life cycle. That was nine months ago." - Jason Lock, Senior Software Engineer and Tech Lead

Summing up: adding value with test data automation

With test data automation, you automatically create and manage the data that you use to test your software products. By carefully planning and successfully implementing test automation strategies, you improve testing quality, reduce manual efforts, and accelerate the software development lifecycle, all while protecting your sensitive data. Most importantly, it allows you to more quickly deliver high-quality, reliable software to your customers.

Tonic Structural can be a vital tool in your test data automation arsenal. Its robust data masking and synthesizing capabilities allow you to create realistic test data that doesn’t leak sensitive information. Subsetting means that you can use the same source to create different chunks of data to accommodate a variety of use cases. Finally, you can easily integrate Tonic Structural into your existing software development lifecycle. To learn more, connect with our team today.

Build better and faster with quality test data today.
Unblock data access, turbocharge development, and respect data privacy as a human right.
Janice Manwiller