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The Pros and Cons of Using Automation in Software Testing

by Thijs Kok, on November 5, 2020

Automation in Software TestingAutomation is everywhere. From self-driving cars to automated assembly lines, the growth of global automation over the last two decades of the 21st century has scaled exponentially—with no signs of slowing down. Like any historical disruption, the ripple effect has yielded positive and negative results: more free time for humans, but significant job loss in many sectors. 

In the world of software testing, automation has grown to occupy a specific niche with pros and cons. Like any tech-facing decision, a choice between automated and manual testing tools can prove frustrating. So with that in mind …

What Is Automation?

Use of automation is on the rise. A 2015-2016 World Quality Report 2015-16 notes, “The average percentage of test case automation has increased from 28 to 45 percent year-on-year.” 

Like most automated processes, automated testing is both quick and dumb. Quick because it operates with efficiency, accuracy, and speed, far outpacing any human operator. Dumb because automated systems can only operate within a set of predefined values and will falter in any task that deviates from those parameters. 

Automated testers are basically robots, artificial intelligence constructs designed to test specific systems. AI programs are executed with the help of tools, scripts, and software.

Common Uses

Because automated testers are dumb, they’re perfect for testing projects that require no human brains. Auto testers lack the intelligent agility of a human brain and cannot make midcourse corrections. Of course, that can be useful in scenarios where such flexibility is unnecessary.

Because they lack these vital cognitive abilities, auto testers are limited and yet ideal for several types of testing. Key among these is building verification testing as part of the DevOps cycle, especially because DevOps relies on faster speeds and smaller, more frequent releases. Other examples include: 

  • Performance testing
  • Load testing
  • Stress testing
  • Spike testing
  • Regression testing
  • Network virtualization
  • Image and voice-related testing

The Pros

As already mentioned, auto testers are the Fast and Furious team in the world of testing. An auto tester can execute millions of tests in the time it takes a human tester to take a bathroom break. And speed leads to agility, the ability to take multi-tasking to a superhuman level.

Although an auto tester may not be as intelligent as a human tester, the robot blows people out of the water when it comes to a lack of errors. An auto tester has no concerns about COVID-19, nor does it care about politics or the news. Because of all this, they are reliable in code- and script-based environments. 

An auto tester can compare millions of lines of conversion data without making a mistake. And thanks to this amazing level of precision, an auto tester finds more bugs than a human tester.

Auto testers are amazingly practical when tests are repeated over a longer timeline. Your team can run the same test with an auto tester, leveraging different datasets over and over. For example, an auto tester can run virtually unlimited regression testing sessions or installations. Automated testing may be ideal for projects in which human reasoning and midcourse corrections are not necessary. 

The Cons

The things that are pros for automated testing can also be cons. An auto tester is a Ferrari on a predictable, straight track, while a human tester is an all-terrain, utility vehicle on a treacherous mountain road. 

An auto tester can only drive on a single track and must be trained constantly to perform correct comparisons. That means auto testers require testing professionals who possess programming skills. In short, an automated tester will only produce effective results if given useful variables and instructions: “Garbage in, garbage out.”

Due to these limitations, automated testing systems cannot perform random testing and are subject to increased crashes as scalability issues grow. 

This may surprise you, but automated testers are not human. If a testing process lacks a human, then it lacks the human touch. An auto tester can’t effectively invoke user-friendliness or a positive customer experience. 

These unhuman limitations also negatively impact debugging and maintenance. A new software release requires the rebuilding of chunks of script, a time-consuming process. 

The Manual Advantage

Automated testing is OK within the narrow confines of what it can do: repetitive, agile, swift testing. However, for a testing paradigm that actually thinks with human cognition, manual testing offers the clear advantage.

As we’ve all learned from the tumultuous events of 2020, global trends can change on an almost daily basis. The same goes for testing projects during these turbulent times. Although automated testing can be efficacious for narrowly defined testing scenarios, manual software testing leverages the power of the human touch, depending on real people to deal with unforeseen factors and provide a higher level of confidence to keep the project on task. In addition, manual testing outperforms automated testing when it comes to exploratory, usability, and ad hoc testing. 

A top-level, test management tool like TestMonitor optimizes testing efficacy across the board. Our platform supercharges requirement and risk-based testing with an advanced test-case design that supports thousands of cases. 

In addition, our UAT tools offer multi-tester runs and milestone cloning, as well as comprehensive result tracking, integrated issue management, smart reporting (including filter and visualization options), simplified user integration and third-party integration for Jira, DevOps, and Slack.

If your team is ready to move beyond the limitations of a robot tester, take the next step by launching your free 14-day trial today.

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