Automation Needs Strategy, Leadership, and Real Testing Skills

(This content originally appeared on TechWell Insights)

Mandated test automation is similar to the current trend of websites previously dedicated to writing now pivoting to video — both require new skillsets to do things right. If you force a staff of writers to suddenly understand title cards, proper video length, editing tools, and YouTube SEO, you’ll often end up with a lot of hard work and few tangible results.

When managers burst through the door and decree that from here on out, test automation isn’t just a supplemental aspect of the testing strategy, but the focal point, the output isn’t often as first hoped. Many people assume that automation tools are automatic, and all you need to do is buy them, point them in the right direction, and then allow them to assure the quality for you.

That’s just not how things work, though. Mary Thorn, the director of software test engineering at Ipreo, works with different vendors and teams all the time, and one of the major issues she runs into is a fundamental misunderstanding of how automation works and what it takes to actually do it right.

“One of my biggest frustrations when you use vendors is, they come in, and they just want to automate,” Thorn explained to StickyMinds. “They just want to be fed test cases. To me, that’s not much value. I want those people to have thoughts and ideas on how to test.”

The people behind your automation tools need to understand how the testing is done in order to get the value you’re looking for. You want your automation people to be able to write their own test cases, understand the domain so that they know what they’re automating should be automated, and have an overall solid testing foundation.

You need structure, strategy, and skilled testers to implement automation, as Thorn continued to hammer home.

“They just knew that Joe Smith over there has the whole test suite automated, but they don’t never know the results or what’s broken or constantly write up bugs,” Thorn said.” It was crazy to me that there was no long term strategy other than ‘You’re mandated to go automate,’ and that’s what they did, without no real leadership around it.”

There’s no magic automation button that can take hours and hours of testing work off your team’s plate. Test automation needs to be supported by leadership, experienced testers, and a strategy that allows the tools to work as intended.