According to the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report 2020, 50% of business leaders say that they’re planning to accelerate the automation of repetitive tasks within their organization. Gartner goes further, predicting that 69% of routine work currently done by managers will be fully automated by 2024. The overall tendency to automate is especially true in the world of quality assurance (QA) – but should manual testing be ignored completely? Read on to find out the roles manual and automation testing will play in 2022 and beyond.
Automation testing is on the rise
The global automation testing market size is expected to grow from $12.6 billion to $28.8 billion by 2024. Many organizations have used the challenges of the pandemic to spur on digital transformations, the success of which 97% of IT decision-makers chalk up to process automation. Automation is becoming so prevalent within software development that it is used in different types of testing: unit testing, smoke tests, integration, regression, API, security, performance, acceptance and UI tests.
Automation testing does not aim to replace people with technology. Quite the opposite, since it requires investing in skilled professionals to choose tools, configure them, write automation tests, monitor the running of tests and then analyze the results. Of course, detecting bugs, diagnosing issues and fixing problems are also essential tasks of an automation testing engineer. Investing in personnel that can effectively carry out these duties is a significant cost, but while initially this cost surpasses the cost associated with manual testers, in the long run, it will deliver a better return on investment (ROI). Furthermore, the institutional knowledge of an organization should increase as more experienced automation testers mentor, train and support more junior testers in automation testing practices.
This ROI, aside from dollars and cents, can be measured in the effectiveness of QA testing and the satisfaction of test engineers. Test automation ensures faster delivery and eliminates the long delays between developing a code, detecting a defect and fixing it. Fixing defects is one of the biggest costs in software development, as it includes not just the time and effort of engineers, but also the cost of missed opportunity by not launching software to the market fast enough. In increasingly competitive industries, reducing the time it takes to release software and launch products on the market is crucial.
Along with speed, automation testing makes it easier to find more bugs during regressions. Since automated testing relies on tools and scripts, it is not susceptible to testing fatigue and unable to commit human errors. Automation testing delivers other benefits, from guaranteeing that checks are always performed the same way, to running tests more frequently at lower costs and easily verifying if a drop in quality has occurred throughout the process. But just using the term ‘automation’ does not mean there are no human elements involved. Tests still need to be monitored and technology has limitations in this regard. Additionally, tests can sometimes be unstable or there could be synchronization issues, so augmenting automation testing with expert specialists is a cost companies can’t ignore. Nonetheless, the clear advantages of automation outweigh the drawbacks.
There’s still a place for manual testing in QA
However, there is still a need for manual testing, since not everything can be automated (yet). Moreover, while it is true that automation testing is faster, this applies to situations where cases are repeated, meaning that the same code and scripts are applied every time. But there could be a situation when this is not the case. Bear in mind that automation testing requires establishing test cases, programming them with selected automation tools and running tests – which can be time-consuming. This investment pays dividends when it can be re-used, but some projects might not require this repetition. Manual testing empowers testers with more flexibility, making it easier to quickly test through manual operations, get results and adjust the process. Automation testing does not allow for random testing, while exploratory testing is a big part of manual testing.
Additionally, automation testing, rightly considered an integral aspect of an organization’s digital acceleration, is a sizable investment that requires well thought out planning, making it a better fit for long-term projects. But for short-term projects, automation might not make sense as the upfront costs of automation would be too high to produce a return on value. Unlike automation testing, manual testing does not include the cost of setting up tools, maintenance and management, making at cheaper in the short-term.
Lastly, manual testing is essential when considering the usability of an application. As cutting-edge as technology can be, it does not (currently) have the ability to replicate human feelings or thoughts. A properly written automation test will catch all defects and identify all bugs in a code, but it will not be able to recognize how users interact with features and functionalities. Despite the wonders of modern technology, certain projects still need a manual tester’s eye, especially in terms of UI. Is the experience intuitive? Is the user journey rewarding? These are questions best answered through exploratory trial and error that manual testing facilitates.
QA specialists and test engineers look to automation for opportunities
Obviously certain tools are suited for certain projects, that’s why experienced software engineers understand that automated testing works best for regression and performance testing, along with any projects that require highly repetitive functional tests. For short-term projects, or any exploratory, usability or ad Hoc testing, manual testing is more effective.
But as digital transformation efforts continue unabated, along with the adoption of Agile methodology and DevOps, the demands on QA engineers to increase the speed of testing and optimize testing strategies have never been greater.
This pressure is counter-balanced with the exciting possibilities that automation testing offers. Given its increasingly important role, the investment, research and development of new tools is immense.
The shift to automation continues to gain momentum, with the 2020-2021 World Quality Report indicating that 68% of respondents have the automation tool sets they need and 63% confirming they have enough time to build and maintain automated tests. QA testers are drawn to automation testing because that’s what companies want, whether it’s because it provides increased productivity, accurate testing, automated support or increased testing coverage.
As a result, the field of automation testing is constantly evolving with new technology and tools. Take for example the number of automation frameworks. The most common are linear (otherwise referred to as record and playback), modular-based (very efficient but requires detailed planning) and library architecture (like modular-based, but with more flexibility). Having these different options diversifies the ways of working within automation testing. The range of tools is even wider, which poses risks and rewards, as tools need to be selected carefully. But a 2019-220 Capgemini report shows this does not always happen, as 60% of North American project teams reported struggles applying test automation at appropriate levels for Agile development.
There are many automation testing tools to choose from; what’s important is to find the right tool for a given project – do not use an automation testing tool simple because it worked before or because your testers feel comfortable with it. For performance testing, k6s and gatling are effective, while web application testing is best done with Selenium, WebdriverIO, Cypress and Playwright. Use rest assured when dealing with Rest Service and for test management, TestRail and Zephyr. Visual testing is best achieved with Percy and Applitools. QA testers and engineers are gravitating to automation testing in part to work with the latest technology and in part because companies are eager to implement automation and invest in talents.
Regardless of your goals, any automation strategies, or broader digital accelerations, require a tailor-made approach which reflects your organization’s visions and understands the market you operate in. Finding experienced, trusted support is essential – that’s why companies around the world are turning to Software Mind for the nearshore talents and dedicated engineering teams that ramp up software delivery, deliver disruptive solutions and drive revenue streams.
About the authorDamian Kowalik
Automation Quality Engineer
An Automation Engineer with over 6 years' testing experience, Damian is familiar with manual and automation testing methods. Currently dedicated to projects for the financial industry, his wide knowledge of testing tools and programming languages enables him support junior testers who are new to the field. A true believer in openness, Damian enjoys woking on international teams where new perspectives and methods are explored.