Deeper Testing (2): Automating the Testing

Here’s an easy-to-remember little substitution that you can perform when someone suggests “automating the testing”:

“Automate the evaluation
and learning
and exploration
and experimentation
and modeling
and studying of the specs
and observation of the product
and inference-drawing
and questioning
and risk assessment
and prioritization
and coverage analysis
and pattern recognition
and decision making
and design of the test lab
and preparation of the test lab
and sensemaking
and test code development
and tool selection
and recruiting of helpers
and making test notes
and preparing simulations
and bug advocacy
and triage
and relationship building
and analyzing platform dependencies
and product configuration
and application of oracles
and spontaneous playful interaction with the product
and discovery of new information
and preparation of reports for management
and recording of problems
and investigation of problems
and working out puzzling situations
and building the test team
and analyzing competitors
and resolving conflicting information
and benchmarking…”

And you can add things to this list too. Okay, so maybe it’s not so easy to remember. But that’s what it would mean to automate the testing.

Use tools? Absolutely! Tools are hugely important to amplify and extend and accelerate certain tasks within testing. We can talk about using tools in testing in powerful ways for specific purposes, including automated (or “programmed“) checking. Speaking more precisely costs very little, helps us establish our credibility, and affords deeper thinking about testing—and about how we might apply tools thoughtfully to testing work.

Just like research, design, programming, and management, testing can’t be automated. Trouble arises when we talk about “automated testing”: people who have not yet thought about testing too deeply (particularly naïve managers) might sustain the belief that testing can be automated. So let’s be helpful and careful not to enable that belief.

8 replies to “Deeper Testing (2): Automating the Testing”

  1. Uouuu. Nice. I hope more testers to feel, understand, acknowledge and act accordingly to what you have said above.

  2. Hmm… I like this. Over the years of working on “automation” of testing I’ve come to the point where, like you, have told people that all we are doing is using a tool to aid in the performance of a task. I tell people that 99% of the time when they talk about “test automation” that all they are covering is the “execution” (actually just using an execution engine) of a “test”. Sound reasonable? Because yes, there is so much more that we, the human, do in performing the actions of testing.

  3. Hi Michael, do you think “manual testing” will disappear anywhere in the near future?

    Michael replies: I hope the term “manual testing” will disappear, since it is meaningless. Testing is neither manual nor automated. No one asks if “manual programming”, “manual management”, “manual eating”, “manual research”, “manual investigation”, or “manual learning” will disappear anywhere in the near future. We use tools in testing, just as we use tools in programming, management, eating, research, and investigation. Yet no one refers to “automated programming”, “automated management”, “automated eating”, “automated research”, or “automated investigation”.

    A more sensible question would be “Will automated checking replace the role of a skilled tester?” An exact equivalent to that question is this one: “Will automated grammar checkers replace the role of a skilled editor?” You know how to answer that one.

  4. Hi Jeroen, Well, automated testing can never replace the value of manual testing skills. Yes, we all knows that in the advanced era of tact’s and techniques automated tools and techniques are covering the gaps which are left while doing traditional approaches but there are several cases we follow there is a need of experienced eye for some particular cases. Yes, I believe that automation tools serve better and they ease the tasks and saves a lot of time.

    The point of this post is that there are no manual testing skills. There are no manual research skills, no manual programming skills, no manual management skills. There are testing skills, but testing is neither automated nor manual.


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