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Many people have tried to make this point in different ways (e.g. this is also the quintessence of the discussion about testing vs. checking, started by James Bach and Michael Bolton). But the emotionally loaded discussions (because it is about peoples self-image and their jobs) often split discussants into two broad camps: those that think test automation is “snake oil” and should be used sparsely and with caution, and those that think it is a silver bullet and the solution to all of our quality problems. Test automation is an indispensable tool of today’s quality assurance but as every tool it can also be misused.
For example, CUNA Mutual’ s pilot program focused on automating transactional activities for its claims adjusters. Not only did the pilot meet the strategic goal to increase capacity without increasing headcount, it also gave claims adjusters time to be more strategic in their assessments of claim payments and denials and allowed the finance team the opportunity to be more strategic in executing their process. This level of satisfaction is a rarity for many IT applications. Meeting expectations may be easier for automation and robotics given they often have a clear process to automate and a measurable business case.
Those who step narrowly find such niches and burrow deep inside them. They are hedgehogs to the stepping-up foxes among us. Although most of them have the benefit of a formal education, the expertise that fuels their earning power is gained through on-the-job training—and the discipline of focus. If this is your strategy, start making a name for yourself as the person who goes a mile deep on a subject an inch wide. That won’t mean you can’t also have other interests, but professionally you’ll have a very distinct brand. How might machines augment you? You’ll build your own databases and routines for keeping current, and connect with systems that combine your very specialized output with that of others.
Stepping forward means bringing about machines’ next level of encroachment, but it involves work that is itself highly augmented by software. A glance at Hamann’s LinkedIn page is sufficient to make the point: He’s been “endorsed” by contacts for his expert use of simulations, algorithms, machine learning, mathematical modeling, and more. But spotting the right next opportunity for automation requires much more than technical chops. If this is your strategy, you’ll reach the top of your field if you can also think outside the box, perceive where today’s computers fall short, and envision tools that don’t yet exist. Someday, perhaps, even a lot of software development will be automated; but as Bill Gates recently observed, programming is “safe for now.”
The move to agile has led many teams to adopt a pyramid testing strategy. The test automation pyramid strategy calls for automating tests at three different levels. Unit testing represents the base and biggest percentage of this test automation pyramid. Next comes, service layer, or API testing. And finally, GUI tests sit at the top. The pyramid looks something like this:
Kim Kadiyala, Marketing Specialist at Zapier, says: “We're in an exciting time where business process automation is accessible to everyone — even if you're not technically savvy or a programmer. Tools that connect your apps put the power of automation into the hands of marketers, founders, real estate agents, and lawyers. Anyone who is moving bits of information from one place to another can set up an automation and start saving some time. I like to say that there are some tasks that are better suited for computers and some tasks best done by humans. Automating the tedious parts of your work frees you up to spend more time on the more creative aspects of your job, like big-picture thinking and strategic problem solving.