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The brutal loop of automation testing and how to get out of it

Updated: Jun 3


man in a loop tunnel

The seasoned development department of an established organization embarked on an ambitious journey to implement an automation testing initiative. Tasked with this mission, a particularly driven and skilled employee took the helm. With a blend of enthusiasm and expertise, they conducted thorough research, selected the optimal tools, and carried out a comprehensive feasibility study. The result was a suite of tests that operated flawlessly, as if by magic. Upon showcasing the project to their manager, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

Capitalizing on this momentum, a dedicated team was assembled, led by the pioneering employee. Together, they crafted a robust suite of tests, signaling a promising direction for the project. Their collective efforts bore fruit, and the project advanced steadily, with the team diligently expanding the test repertoire in response to growing demands.


Several months into the project, challenges emerged. The team grappled with deciphering the root causes of test failures; the automated tests were riddled with ambiguities and instability, turning maintenance into an onerous task. In search of solutions, the team leader consulted with the manager, who was incredulous, citing a friend at 'Ecotech' who had achieved remarkable success with automation. After a discussion with his contact, the manager learned that Ecotech’s success was attributed to their use of 'Testblatt', a renowned tool in the realm of automation testing. Convinced of its potential, the team leader promptly integrated Testblatt into their workflow. Following a meticulous feasibility study, a new suite of tests was developed, operating with seamless precision. Yet, there was an air of déjà vu about the proceedings.


This narrative is all too familiar to those in development, QA, and automation management. It’s a tale that transcends time, resonating with many, whether it unfolded in the past or is unfolding presently. So, what’s the climax of this story? For the tenacious souls within an organization, this cycle might persist, enduring several iterations. I recall a conversation with a manager who, undeterred by two unsuccessful attempts, embarked on a third automation project. On the flip side, there are those whose resolve has been so deeply shaken by past failures that they shy away from initiating any new automation endeavors, having lost all confidence in the concept. Their disillusionment is palpable; they envisioned being the architects of the QA department’s triumph, only to witness their efforts dissolve into costly, time-consuming failures that tarnished their professional reputation.

 

While technology and tools are significant, they alone do not determine the success or failure of a project. Consider the analogy of mountain biking, a sport I hold dear. Can high-end, cutting-edge bikes transform you into a professional cyclist? The answer is a resounding no. True proficiency in mountain biking stems from rigorous training in riding techniques, building strength and endurance, accumulating experience, and cultivating mental fortitude—these are the pillars of the sport. Advanced bike technologies can certainly confer some benefits, but they are secondary to the foundational skills. Success hinges primarily on form and methodology. The selection of tools and technology should follow, enhancing rather than overshadowing the fundamental work methods.


Escaping the loop—or better yet, avoiding it altogether—begins with a shift in perspective.

A common pitfall for development managers is the underestimation of the automation project’s complexity. They often perceive the setup of an automation project as straightforward, especially when compared to their usual projects. The belief is that the right technology can bypass the need for meticulous planning. However, this assumption is flawed, as experience has shown.


The good news is that managers already possess the necessary tools for a triumphant automation project. The key is to replicate the management strategies of the organization’s most successful projects. This includes clearly defining roles, recruiting the right talent, and crafting a solid strategy. If these elements lead to success in product development, they can be just as effective in automation. Consider the structure of a product development project: it has an architect, seasoned developers, and a team leader with a relevant background. Why should an automation project be any different? Automation testing is a crucial component of the development cycle, pivotal for ensuring swift and high-quality releases to your customers. Surely, this warrants a more significant investment of focus and resources.


In closing, my hope is that you’re not caught in the relentless cycle of automation testing. But if you are, recognition is the first step towards resolution. Nearly every organization has the potential to execute a successful automation project. By allocating the proper attention and resources, you can avoid the costly cycle of repeated, unsuccessful attempts at automation. More practical tips can be found here on my LinkedIn profile.

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