Test Automation: It’s a Direction, Not Just a Destination

It’s easy to get seduced by the results of test automation—faster testing, increased coverage, improved accuracy, a high ROI.  But in doing so, we must be cautious not to create unrealistic expectations—after all, test automation is as much about the journey as it is the destination.

Test Automation: It's a Direction, Not a Destination

When you decide to automate, it’s not a one-shot deal.  You’re not simply done after purchasing your license and hiring someone to automate some scripts—
in fact, you’ve only just begun. 

“It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

If you happen be particularly fond of activities like hiking or road trips, that quote probably resonates with you quite a bit.  As a self-proclaimed trail junkie myself (who harbors an insatiable thirst for the open road as well), I see those words as a personal mission statement.  And in an age where instant gratification has become the norm, I couldn’t think of anything that’s more essential to living a fulfilling life in the 21st century.

But aside from being a brilliant credo, I think relates an awful lot to your IT department, too—especially when it comes to large initiatives like test automation.

When it comes to test automation, a lot of organizations tend to be seduced by the allure of instant gratification: expecting the highest returns while ignoring the time, effort and expertise it takes to get there.  While there’s nothing wrong with expecting a strong ROI, unrealistic expectations are dangerous—and can quickly sour upper management’s mood if a pilot project doesn’t deliver as fast as expected.

And deliver it will.  For the right company, the benefits from automation can be staggering—but they’re not overnight.

You see, when you decide to automate, it’s not a one-shot deal.  You’re not simply done after purchasing your license and hiring someone to automate some scripts—in fact, you’ve only just begun.

More than anything, automation is a mindset: it’s a full-scale commitment to the value that it can bring over multiple iterations and repetitions.  The more you automate, the more value you return on your investment.  That means hiring the right people, starting small, and ramping up responsibly from there.  This also includes cultural changes like rigid test documentation; but, much like everything else, they’re mere drops in the bucket compared to the returns you can see.

The bottom line here is that test automation only succeeds in the organizations that have fully committed to it.  Talk to companies that haven’t seen an ROI from it, and you’ll normally hear a similar refrain: they were so focused on the end result that they didn’t have a plan to get there. 

Now, please don’t think I’m trying to scare you out of automation or anything like that.  Believe me, that’s the last thing I’m trying to do.  I’ve written at length about it—and will continue to do so because I believe in its tremendous benefits.  But the point remains: this isn’t the kind of project you want to undertake for a few one-off tasks.

Instead, take some time to think about how you can maximize your investment by incorporating it into every facet of your testing organization—and then figure out how you’re going to get there.  We can help with that, too, if you like.  After all, there’s nothing better than hearing from those who’ve done it before.

Like the best road trips, the value isn’t in where you go, but in the process of getting there.  Just make sure you don’t get distracted by what lies ahead.  So long as you keep your eyes on the road you’ll be just fine.


Mike Hodge
Lighthouse Technologies, Inc.
Software Testing | Quality Assurance Consulting | Oracle EBS Consulting

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