May 16, 2016

STAREAST Notes: Dorothy Graham detailing how planting a test automation framework is like caring for an orchard

Dorothy Graham ( @DorothyGraham ), a software tester for over forty years, spoke at the STAR East Virtual Conference, a TechWell Event broadcasted from Orlando, FL, Wednesday May 4th, 2016 during the Lightning Talks section, "Lightning Strikes the Keynotes". The following is a (mostly) accurate transcript of her talk, taken by T.J. Maher.

"Test automation is sooo easy.

"Let me rephrase that. Test automation seems to be really easy, at first. You can see your first demo, you write your first test [...] and it looks so easy!

"But if you want a long lasting asset for your company [...] that's a different matter altogether. It's like the difference between seeing some low hanging fruit, and picking the fruit off the tree and thinking, 'Wow, that was easy. This is so good!' and the other aspect: What if you want to build an orchard to grow enough fruit to feed a small town? It's an entirely different matter.

"First of all you need to decide 'What fruit am I going to grow? What sort of trees do I want?' You have to consider things like, what are the soil conditions like. What's the climate like? And also, what's the market like? Because you want to make sure that people will buy your fruit after you have grown it.

"In terms of automation, you need to decide which tools do you want, which tests do you want to automate, and what's the company culture like. And what's the market -- what's the value -- the automated test is going to provide to your business.

"Then you need to grow the trees, and that takes time. Automation grows faster, but that taks time, and while they are growing you need to prune the trees so they are stronger and healthier. If you don't do that, they won't provide as much fruit.

"With the automation, you also need to prune your tests, because they seem to get all straggly if you don't pay attention to that.

"And you might have some pests. Bugs! Does that got anything to do with automation? Bugs in the automation code? Bugs in the tools? Horrors! ... Yes, it does happen.

"And you might also have diseases. Your trees might get sick. They may not be producing good fruit anymore, so therefore you are going to have to do something about it. Maybe you'll have to chop down one of the trees. But if you don't, it will spread to the whole orchard and everything will be sick, and you will lose everything. And with the automation, sometimes you need to do something drastic. You may need to refactor your automation.

"Then you have to pick your fruit. Maybe you can get a machine to do that. [...] Testing tools can help, but they don't replace people. Test execution tools don't do testing. They just run stuff.

"And now we need to pack the fruit so it will survive the trip to the grocery store or wherever, and make sure the structure is fine so it won't arrive bruised. We need to make sure we structure our automation so that it will survive changes to it. It will survive changes to the application and changes to the tool, and run on different platforms.

"And what about marketing and selling? If we don't sell our fruit then we are not going to make money out of our orchard. We have different roles involved. We have to market and sell the automation and make the benefits visible to managers.

"And what about expectations? Maybe our local supermarket manager has heard somewhere that the fruit you are growing will cure all his diseases and will make him able to jump tall buildings in a single bound... Well, that's great! Your first sale will be really easy, right? ... But after that? It might be a little bit more difficult.

"So, if you are going to grow your own automation, remember that it does take time. Remember that there will be problems and you will need to deal with them. Remember that you're not just dealing with technical issues but also with people issues to do with managers as well as testers along with automaters.

"But there can be great results. So I hope that your automation results... are fruitful."

About Dorothy Graham

Taken from Dorothy Graham's STAR East bio: "In software testing for forty years, Dorothy Graham is coauthor of four books - Software Inspection, Software Test Automation, Foundations of Software Testing and Experiences of Test Automation: Case Studies of Software Test Automation - and is currently working with Seretta Gamba on a new book on test automation patterns. A popular and entertaining speaker at conferences and seminars worldwide, Dot has attended STAR conferences since the first one in 1992. She was a founding member of the ISEB Software Testing Board and a member of the working party that developed the ISTQB Foundation Syllabus. Dot was awarded the European Excellence Award in Software Testing in 1999 and the first ISTQB Excellence Award in 2012."

Dorothy Graham is also working an developing a Wiki on Test Automation Patterns. [ Website, Blog ]


Want More? Watch the Dorothy Graham interviewed for STAR East Virtual Conferences, talking about "Blunders in Test Automation".

Happy Testing!

-T.J. Maher
Sr. QA Engineer,

// QA Engineer since Aug. 1996
// Automation developer for [ 1 ] year and still counting!

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