As QE leaders, we all know how important automation is, particularly when it comes to test. But year after year market research demonstrates that we still have a ways to go when it comes to greater adoption.  

In fact, in the Capgemini “World Quality Report: 2021-2022,” they found that only an average of 15% and 20% of tests are automated, with regression testing making up 15% to 20% of this band. Despite the fact that 24% of companies see an immediate return on investment on automated testing (source). 

One of my favorite projects we worked on recently — that evidences the supercharge effect of test automation — was with a major mental wellness provider services provider. They brought us in because they were experiencing major velocity and quality challenges in their software delivery processes.  

One example? Releases for a core system were stuck on four per year, with each release consisting of over 400 steps that required over 96 hours to complete. What’s more, they were testing and developing at the same time which left them in a dilemma: 

  1. Wait months to develop anything until testing was done — which would mean their dev teams would sit idle OR… 
  2. Start the next development cycle based on top of a code base that hadn’t yet been verified 

You can only imagine the chaos that ensued! They were receiving regression errors on the code upon which they were building. They were drowning in emergency builds, and the environments upon which devs were building kept changing. Their test-release cycles were overlapped, and they were falling woefully short from driving velocity.   

We came in and implemented a test automation framework that replaced their manual effort of 50 tests requiring four hours elapsed time by eight testers with an automated test running 12,000 tests executing in less than 20 minutes. The power of test automation immediately changed their whole schedule, saved them time, kept their teams busy, and proved their testing environment was fit for use. And suddenly, they were able to know everything over night that they used to have to wait two months to know. The power of test! 

The principle around test automation is that everything should be automated because it’s what puts the velocity in digital velocity. Therefore, any minute spent in manual test bogs down teams and businesses because you are moving at the speed of a human.  

But despite us knowing this… despite us knowing the ROI, time savings, team morale boost, and best practices gains… quite a lot of companies and QE leaders are still not realizing test automation.  

But there are quick ways we can change this. Consider the following when leading your teams: 

  • Pick a place to start: Don’t overthink the notion of test automation. Instead, pick a safe space to start and have your team start working towards it. Remember how DevOps revolutionized our world in that we no longer had to worry about environment build and management being the biggest barriers to release? Test automation can give us that same immediate lift. In many ways, it’s the last barrier we need to solve to drive true velocity. 
  • Prototype early: And often! Historically, the same thing happening in test automaton and implementation also happened in software development Developers used to take a big bang approach where the user didn’t get to see the product until the whole product was built. In QE, we want to avoid the big-bang reveal and prototype early and often. Identify the low-hanging fruit that will enable you to buy back time as you are building automation. Every time you can do something that saves you 30 minutes a day, it starts to add up. Get something small and skinny up and running right away. 
  • Right now versus right: Similar to pick a place to start, be OK with beginning test automation right now, versus worrying whether it’s the right time. The reality is that with manual test, it’s analogous to us continuing to drive an old car. No matter what we do with the car — spruce it up, change the paint color, take it in for service — we can’t make the old car move any faster. With manual testing, we will always only move as fast as the human. Opt for a right now mindset to get moving forward and be OK slowing down to speed up.  
  • Think like the devs: The reality is that QE came up from the super user community of quality assurance, meaning it’s only been in the last few years where the industry has progressed in terms of its technological prowess. Today, the QE community is equal that of the development team in terms of our ability to impact the SDLC. So take charge and lead your team forward! 
  • Continuous education: Ensure your team is continuing to stay abreast of all things test automation — participating in online programs, taking courses, and connecting with other QE leaders. You will want to make sure your team is up to seed on coding skills so that they are more prepared to do test automation.  

Test automation is not an innovative concept anymore. In fact, every day it becomes more and more commonplace. So… what steps can your team take today to leverage greater automation in your SDLC? 


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