Tools Need Testers: Why Automation Isn't Automatic
Test automation isn’t quite as automatic as its name suggests. There’s a misconception out there that you can buy a bunch of test automation tools, set them up properly, and walk away without a second thought or worry. However, it’s important to understand that automation is a skill in itself, and while the tools are meant to help, it’s the tester who still needs to do the testing.
So, it’s vital to drop these misconceptions and fully understand that test automation is a useful—and some might argue necessary—tool that can both simplify and enhance your test management. This is doubly important in our agile world, where rapid releases are king.
Dorothy Graham, a software test consultant, explained the most common test automation blunders in a conversation with StickyMinds. As a published author and test professional, she’s been doing her best for years to explain one obvious truth about test automation tools—they’re not a thinking, decision-making tester.
“All a testing tool does, a test execution tool, is it runs stuff; that's all it does,” Graham explains. “A test execution tool has zero intelligence. The least intelligent tester you'll ever have on your team is the tool, so that's a big difference.”
Now that we’ve established that automation isn’t automatic, let’s discuss the steps you can take to both pick and properly incorporate different tools into your team. First, make sure the tool you use isn’t designed for a waterfall structure when your team is humming along with agile. If your team already has strong communication, issues like this shouldn’t even come up, but make sure every member of the team is on the same page.
And don’t forget to strongly reassure the testers that manual testing not only has a place within your processes, but that it’s integral to successful releases. As Graham pointed out, the tool itself doesn’t have a brain, so the need for skilled, experienced testers is just as strong as ever. Just make sure the testers know that.
As Zephyr’s Chris Wright points out, agile and automation go hand-in-hand. Schedules are continuing to tighten as developers and testers work smarter and faster, but the quality expectations have stayed the same. So, of course, the tools are needed. However, as Graham reiterates, they aren’t replacements.
“Tools don't replace testers; they support them,” she continues. “The testing tools don't test, they help testers. Get the computer to do what computers do best and get people to do what people do best.”