"Test Automation is no more a niche skill" – "any good business tester with right attitude can create test automation scripts".
Over the last decade test automation has undergone multiple facets of changes. Same vendors have introduced new tools, open source tools have come to stay, and still some vendors are marketing their products as the ultimate solution for Quality. CTOs of the organizations are convinced that automation is going to give them greater benefits in squeezing the cost and time over long run. Service providers have introduced several ultimate frameworks which save the effort of automation testers – right from standard data driven, Key-word, Hybrid to script-less frameworks whereby business users can create automation scripts without the hassles of Java of VB scripting knowledge.
This ultimately led us to the question if a dedicated automation test scripting community is required or the normal testers can do automation also? There are many articles stating that test automation should be group automation not a dedicated, aligned team working on automation scripts/projects.
When I was managing a test automation project during 2002, I was hunting for testers with development background to be part of the team as the tool created the code in a propriety language similar to "C". Any upgrade to the script is easily done by a tester who has the knowledge on the language. Then came the automation frameworks where the expertise in language helped the tester to write the "reusable functions" which are expected to save considerable time of the automation developers.
Secondly test automation developers were expected to convert the already written test cases into automation scripts; they are rarely expected to have the knowledge in the business to understand the same in right perspective before creating the scripts.
Test Automation as a preferred profession in Software Testing grew leaps and bounds over the next few years until the great recession struck us during 2008. Clients have started questioning the ROI out of the automation scripts developed over a period of time and the re-usage percentage of these scripts for the subsequent releases. They were really shocked to see that in many cases test automation has not yielded the desired result and scripts requires more maintenance to keep them LIVE to the current applications. Only very few clients where the technology is web centric have got excellent benefits in saving the cost and time due to Automation.
Test Automation – Current Status:
1) From automating the Regression test cases, automation is moving towards life cycle test automation. Clients have started exploring the various stages of test life cycle which can be automated with the right set of tools required for automating such manual work.
2) Automation testers are expected to have good business knowledge with the advent of model based testing. Clients can not hire separate testers for creating the model and automating the test cases.
3) Business Process automated test packs helps the clients to reduce the time to market for the standard, established applications and products.
4) Clients are unable to choose the tool vendors as there are multiple boutique shops which offer customized frameworks and script-less automation frameworks.
5) The Test Management tools have been completely integrated with the test life cycle and on the fly customized reports are generated.
6) Integration with different vendor tools sets in terms of requirements management, test management, test script execution, defect management are easily managed by the team which give more flexibility in choosing the appropriate vendors/tools.
7) Multiple customized utilities which helps the testers to reduce the redundant manual work has been created and promoted as differentiators by the independent testing vendors and some are even pricing them on the value client gets.
Let us come back to the question which we asked at the beginning if a dedicated automation tester is required or still automation holds key as a career ladder
While one can agree that test automation has become much simpler and manual tester with good business knowledge can pick up automation, the expectation from an automation expert has gone to different level. Anyone can execute the test automation scripts created by an expert, but still there are different skill sets with more technical knowledge which cannot be easily acquired by a manual tester overnight.
Test automation experts are expected to give the overall automation strategy for the entire product/application life cycle – gone are the days when they were requested to automate the already finalized test cases or scenarios. They need to identify the right set of tools for each stages of life cycle and given a seamless integration strategy which is cost effective. No client is ready to wait 6 to 8 cycles to get the return on investment. Apart from that, they are expected to define and develop multiple set of utilities which reduces the redundant manual testing work and test data generation work.
To conclude, Test automation experts will remain strongly as a technical professionals though the standard redundant part of test automation (sounds familiar ? – history repeats) may get merged with the group testing.