manual and automated testing – bringing it all together

I’ve heard the following on occasion “can’t you just start automating?” Well I could but I won’t.

What I want to do in this blog is to describe the symbiotic nature of both practices; yes manual testing and automation although different skillsets are very much related and both need each other to be successful.

Lets look at what manual testing is. First off, the term itself is terrible as it implies a rote, tedious and laborious activity (If you have a better term let me know!).  This is so far from reality as the practice requires:

  1. Subject matter expert level of knowledge about the business domain, application(s), data, architecture and of course the systems being tested
  2. Analytical skills to take a disparate set of documentation (use cases,tech specifications etc) and turn it into detailed and repeatable tests
  3. Discipline to document tests and keep them maintained release after release
  4. Methodical approach to running tests manually (oh that’s where its comes from!) and capturing results with the objective of creating useful and actionable bug reports

Why does manual testing need automation? executing thousands of tests manually would take far too long and be too error prone.  The trick to it is to have the correct balance between manual and automated test execution; leveraging the best of both worlds to deliver test turnaround times in a fast and efficient manner.

ok lets look at automation. Go ahead call an automation engineer a ‘scripter’ see the eyes roll. Creating automation is a development exercise and to be successful requires expertise and knowledge on par with a developer-developer (if you know what I mean).  In fact, I think thats why automated testing has failed many times and has somewhat of a bad rep that it does not get treated with the same care and attention as software development. Allied with vendors pushing tools “record & playback so you will never need to code” syndrome.

Why does automation need manual testing?  The manual tests provide the specification for the automation developer to follow when performing the initial implementation and subsequent maintenance of the automated test. Starting to automate without (well exercised) manual tests in place is not a good practice and leads to eventual abandonment. I look at automated tests as the tip of the iceberg and all of the preceding steps (requirements analysis, q&a sessions, hard won biz knowledge, test case creation and maintenance etc) that the tester performs.

So please keep this in mind when a tester is asking for clarifications or more information!


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