Why You Should Focus On What Automation Does Not Do
There’s not a professional among us who would disagree that automation, when approached and implemented correctly, is valuable. So where does the dispute surrounding automation come from?
In my experience, the contention comes not from the individual who will eventually become the practitioner, but from the individual who was sold a bill of goods on what automation “does” for the company. Almost always that is the person with the budget, not the person who will be using the tool.
I’d like to turn the “does” on its end and focus on what automation “does not.” In a lot of cases, what automation “does” directly relates to the bottom line. That’s not a bad thing—we should all be cost-conscious—but what this has loosely been interpreted as is the misconception that the more automation you have in place, the fewer people you will need to have on your payroll.
Here are some thoughts to mull over as you either implement automation in your organization or choose your next position in a company where implementing automation is a goal in the next year.
1. Automation does not equal a tool. A tool can fulfill tasks for automation, but to equate a successful automation plan with only implementing and adopting a tool will only perpetuate and increase dissension within teams. Automation should really be viewed as an approach. To fully operationalize your automation approach, think holistically.
2. Automation does not save time—at first, anyway. In my experience, it takes six to nine months to start seeing a return on investment for a tool if saving time is a high success factor. I’ve seen many tools shelved after three months because the magic of the initial sales pitch has worn off and the test team says it will take less time to just run the tests manually. Be realistic with your expectations.
3. Automation does not replace humans. Automation makes humans more efficient, not less essential. If your success criteria is directly mapped to a reduction in the number of your test/QA team, be wary. Instead, think about where your team will focus its efforts once your automation approach is implemented. Exploratory, edge cases, outliers, etc., are all great areas to have your human-based testing focus on once automation is implemented.
4. For all you traditional manual testers out there, automation does not mean you will be out of a job. However, if you have been reluctant to broaden your technical skill sets that focus on programming and automation (that’s “and,” not “or”), you may find your career choices limited.
5. Automation does not fix the “square peg in a round hole” challenge. To expect one tool to solve every technical or operational issue because of its hefty price tag or initial effort will set you up for failure. Consider three to five tools for organizations of more than thirty practitioners, or at least two for organizations smaller than that. Give your practitioners the ability to choose the tool that works the best for their situation.