<sigh> Automation…again

I think this is the first time I’ve blogged about automation since writing…or, to be fair, compiling The A Word.

But yet again, I see questions among testers about the value of automation and whether it will replace testers, etc.. For example, this post from Josh Grant asks whether there are similarities between automated trucking and automated testing. Of course, I think most testers will go on (and on) about how much brainpower and critical thinking software testing needs, and how test automation can never replace “real testing”. They’re right, of course, but there’s more to the story.

Software testing isn’t at all unique among professions requiring brain power, creativity, or critical thinking. I challenged  you to bingoogle “Knowledge Work” or Knowledge Worker”, and not see the parallels to software testing in other professions. You know what? Some legal practices can be replaced by automation or by low-cost outsourcing – yet I couldn’t find any articles, blogs, or anything else from lawyers complaining about automation or outsourcing taking away their jobs (disclaimer – I only looked at the first two pages of results on simple searches). Apparently, however, there are “managers” (1000’s of them if I’m extrapolating correctly) who claim that test automation is a process for replacing human testers. Apparently, these managers don’t spend any time on the internet, because I could only find second hand confirmation of their existence.

At risk of repeating myself (or re-repeating myself…) you should automate the stuff that humans don’t want (or shouldn’t have) to do. Automate the process of adding and deleting 100,000 records; but use your brain to walk through a user workflow. Stop worrying about automation as a replacement for testing, but don’t’ ignore the value it gives you for accomplishing the complex and mundane.


  1. The only bad review I received from my STPCon talk in San Diego this year was from someone who really didn’t like my statement that the traditional role of a software tester (ie: V&V activities) was going away with the rise in instances of Specification by Example, Test Driven Development, and Continuous Deployment … all of which rely heavily on automation. Some people really don’t like the idea of aspects of testing disappearing as they are made redundant or completely obsolete.

    It’s really sort of sad because that’s where the industry has arrived. There are plenty of companies still doing the old V&V sort of stuff but they remind me of the accounting firms that refused to use spreadsheets because the trusted their ledgers.

  2. You are automating away the actual Manual testing. Reading a test script requires very little valuable brain power. please by all means automate away button pushers. Now some automation is difficult and may still be cheaper to do manually. But this is an engineering problem.

    I hope no one interprets your post as automation eliminating the value of a QA. I like to define QA as the art of determining how to spend the next unit of resources in the most valuable way to find out how the software application will fail. This requires much more brain power and is much farther away from being automated.

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