Test Automation: Preserving Your SMEs’ Hard-Earned Expertise

We’ve said it a thousand times, “Test automation can cut your testing budget in half.” But while we’re so focused on value, are we forgetting the little things—like future-proofing your testing effort by preserving your SMEs’ valuable knowledge?

Test Automation: Preserving Your SMEs' Hard-Earned Expertise

A SMEs’s brain is a veritable library.
And if you’re not capturing their intimate QA knowledge with rigid documentation procedures, their cranium is the only place that information exists.  What happens when they leave?

Of all the tragedies of antiquity, few (if any) stand on par with the destruction of the Library of Alexandria.

When the ancient world’s single-greatest repository of human knowledge fell victim to a combination of religious zealotry and neglect, it took with it an incalculable sum of human progress, achievement, and wisdom. While war and conquest reduced once-thriving civilizations to history, the destruction of Egypt’s great library erased history itself.

The loss of that knowledge is still lamented to this day—a poignant testament to how fleeting our collective wisdom truly can be.

Granted, if you’re running an ERP system or business app, chances are you already know this well.

Due to the integrated, interconnected architecture of complex ERP systems/business apps, many companies rely on their subject matter experts (SMEs) to test individual modules every time a patch, release, or update comes down the pike. This is by no means the most cost-effective method of testing—SME’s tend to cost significantly more per-hour than software tester—but it’s oftentimes the only way of getting the job done.

Here’s the problem with that approach: you’re not just taking your SMEs away from profit-bearing initiatives; you’re putting your entire system at the mercy of their knowledge.

That’s because your SMEs’s brain is a veritable library. And if you’re not capturing their intimate QA knowledge with rigid test-case documentation procedures, their cranium is the only place that information exists.

Now, this is all well and good—so long as your SMEs stay put. But that’s not how the world works.

When those experts leave (and they eventually will), they’ll take that expertise with them—and you’ll be wasting time trying to rediscover the same processes and shortcuts they’d regularly employed. Soon afterwards, there comes a time—normally after the fourth or fifth call you make to your departed associate’s new workplace—that you’ll really wish you had all that knowledge handy.

Fortunately, there’s a way to ensure that that never happens to you—all while essentially freeing your SMEs from the costly shackles of testing altogether. What magic am I speaking of? Test automation, of course.

Although test automation promises a whole host of benefits like increasing testing speed, coverage, and accuracy, probably its most overlooked aspect is building a bank of your employees’ inherent knowledge. During the automation process, all your SMEs’ testing procedures will be captured, step by step, into a repeatable test script—ensuring your staff’s expertise isn’t just readily available at the mere press of a button, it’s preserved long after they’ve gone.

There’s no delicate way to put it: losing employee expertise is one of the largest banes to any organization—especially within highly specialized areas of testing. The last thing you want to do is see those people leave, but turnover is—like death and taxes—a universal constant. By automating your test scripts, you’re insulating yourself from the fallout of the inevitable while sparing yourself the expense of training replacements.

Think of how much could’ve been gained if the Library of Alexandra still stood—you’re essentially uploading your company’s equivalent to your very servers.


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

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