The Too Hard Basket: Test Automation

This week’s Blog is inspired by an email I received yesterday from one of our most famous technology companies – IBM Rational. IBM began to take a serious interest in software testing when they acquired Rational Software (for US$ 2.1 billion) at the end of 2002. US$2.1 billion is a serious interest in my book anyway. At this time, I should declare that I spent 2 years with IBM Australia from September 2007, during which time one of my jobs was to support the Rational software testing suite. One of my achievements in this time was to develop a storyboard to assist sales and marketing folks to describe how prospective customers could more easily switch from HP Quality Center to (the newly launched) Rational Quality Manager. The current level of penetration of Rational Test Management tools in Australia probably gives you an idea of how successful we were…

So, yesterday I received one of my regular industry updates from IBM Rational entitled “Software testing costs spiralling out of control”. Wow, now there’s a headline to grab the attention of every CIO around the globe, while also putting the fear of god into those of us who consider software testing our career of choice. But, wait there’s more – “Shorten release cycles. Test faster. Reduce Risk.” and “Discover how service virtualisation transforms software delivery“.

Now, I’m not one to be easily persuaded, so I keep on reading to see how one of our major software testing vendors is working towards the (perceived) holy grail of instant software integration into our ever changing and increasingly complex technology landscape. The email also includes links to a couple of YouTube videos (they won’t be going viral anytime soon) to show us how easy it will be to achieve software implementation nirvana; before finishing with an invite to a  breakfast seminar at the Park Hyatt in Melbourne or the Sheraton on the Park in Sydney (both in November), where we will be exposed to Agile Test Automation (Join us and discover the next generation of software delivery).

Now they’re really getting me excited – they’re linking two of the sales and marketing guys favourite silver bullets Agile and Test Automation. Only 19 sleeps to an early Christmas present – I can’t wait….

At this point, I get a little distracted by Jaffa (our burmese cat) who is chewing the corner of my How to Test Software in 60 seconds (or less) for Dummies eBook. While I am obviously enjoying myself here, taking a few potshots at one of our pre-eminent technology providers, I will return to the serious side of this debate – Why do sales and marketing folk continue to peddle snake oil and direct very unhelpful propaganda at our bosses in order to sell their products and undermine our capability when WE fail to deliver the promised nirvana?

Test Automation is a very effective strategic tool in our software delivery arsenal. Application and environmental virtualisation is another very useful string to our bow. Agile techniques are excellent if used in the right context, by suitably qualified personnel. But, None of these techniques are silver bullets leading us to a technology implementation nirvana. None of these techniques are effective without a strategic plan that includes recruiting or training professional technical personnel to implement and continuously improve these initiatives.

In August 2011 I presented a Keynote at the annual TAW (Test Automation Workshop) at Bond University on the Gold Coast entitled “Test Automation: A Story Lost in Translation” during which I talked at length about the (sales) promise versus the (implementation) reality that Test Automation has endured over the past 20 years and I was pretty tough on the software vendors for their part in this situation. I am a very strong advocate of Test Automation (in fact Rational Software awarded me a prize after I presented a paper at one of their User Group sessions in Sydney in 1999), but I am also a very strong opponent of the promises made by unqualified sales and marketing folk who set us up to fail in this arena.

We need to hear about the reality of Test Automation initiatives around the world and thankfully there are currently many excellent books that provide a far more balanced view of the Test Automation story. Here are a few of mine:

  • Experiences of Test Automation by Dot Graham and Mark Fewster
  • Implementing Automated Software Testing by Elfriede Dustin, Thom Garret & Bernie Gauf
  • Happy About Global Software Test Automation by Hung Q Nguyen, Michael Hackett & Brent K Whitlock

For too long, Test Automation has been put in the Too Hard Basket by too many organisations and my opinion is that this is due to the difficulties in finding good solid information regarding the HOW, WHEN and WHY with respect to Test Automation. My belief is that if we get the Test Automation bit right the majority of our challenges with respect to resourcing and costs will go away and it is also my belief that we – the Testing Professionals – need to take responsibility for this by taking the control away from the software vendors and driving the agenda ourselves. Open Source initiatives are taking us in the right direction, but are they being driven effectively – maybe we need a “Steve Jobs” type figure to drive the innovation and marketing!! If I had the backing and the time I’d be very happy to be at the forefront of any movement that put our industry ahead of profits to achieve the greater good.

I am still an optimist when it comes to Test Automation and I believe that it can play a far bigger role within the software implementation arena. I just need a little help convincing the people who fork out the cash to fund the revolution.

Any comments or assistance would be greatly appreciated…..


One thought on “The Too Hard Basket: Test Automation

  1. Pingback: ReadingLog: November, 2012 | What Folti thought...

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