All posts by Stephen Janaway

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Automated Functional Testing – A Test Activity?

If you are a functional test automation expert then times are good. There’s big bucks to be made in the contracting game, companies are desperate for candidates to ‘automate everything’ and to get to this oddly perceived test automation nirvana that those who are either mis-informed or have hidden agenda’s seem to feel fit to promote.

This has made me think. Primarily about how we have got to this state? Is it because, as the testing community, we have wanted to own test automation? Is it because those outside of the test community see test automation as less important than the production code that it tests? Is it that we just built up an expertise and then protected it just for the money?

Some might say that what has actually happened is that we now have a situation where second rate developers now have a great way to stay in the development game. There is a danger, in the apparent supply-side crisis that we find the industry in, that companies merely employ anyone who says they know something about test automation, without doing the same due diligence that one would do for a development position. This would be a mistake.

In my mind there is a solution to all these problems, and that solution comes from treating test automation just like production code. And that means primarily using developers to write it. Sure, you may choose to have testers involved as well, where they have the skills and expertise, but let’s not try and force skills on people who don’t want them, and let’s not accept second rate people just because they can ‘do some test automation’. One advantage to using developers is that test automation becomes a team thing, and you are less likely to spend time playing catch-up when development slips. One downside; it’s going to look like the team has slowed down. Believe me, it hasn’t. It’s just got more effective, and is playing to the right skill-sets.

Don’t believe me? 🙂 Here’s a couple more examples from Rob Lambert and Amy Phillips which show where continuous or more frequent delivery has been successfully rolled out at New Voice Media and Songkick. The common thread – in both cases the test automation is a development activity.

Testing As An Activity

Recently I’ve started to come to the belief that we can solve a lot of our problems if we just start to think differently about testing. If instead of thinking about software testing only as a distinct discipline, we instead to start to think about it as an activity. After all, testing is just that, an activity. It’s something we do. Something we’d love others to do more. James Bach likes to define software testing as a performance, and what is a performance without some activity to perform?

Once we start to think of testing as an activity then it matter less that it’s not always testers who do it. Everyone in a team should test, it’s just that the tester role can be where the expertise lies, and where the test coaching comes from.

Think of all the problems we can solve if we think like this.