3 Test Automation Limitations Technical Leaders Should Know About

Test automation should be a part of your software quality strategy, especially as your organization and product grow in size and complexity. Implemented thoughtfully, test automation speeds up quality feedback accelerating time to software improvements, overall reducing the time to deliver high-quality products into the hands of your customers.

Yet test automation does not magically lead to quality success. A successful test automation strategy contains a range of hidden costs, from hiring quality engineers to script and manage tests, to maintaining the environments in which automated tests run. It's important to consider the biggest limitations of test automation before biting the (not-so-silver) bullet.

Test automation isn't necessarily the nirvana people think it is when they're looking for solutions to QA. - Derek Choy, COO of Rainforest QA


Rainforest CTO and co-founder, and Rainforest COO Derek Choy recently sat down to discuss the limitations of test automation that technical leaders should know before building automation into their strategy. Here are 3 limitations that should not be ignored:

1. Automated test cases must be designed for repeatability

Many people implement test automation for fast product quality feedback whenever they need it. You write the tests once, then can run them over and over and over again with a quick click of a button or a simple command. At least that's the idea. right?

This works only if automated test cases are setup with repeatability in-mind. Automated test cases often require hours of your technical team's time to set up, and even more time to troubleshoot and maintain. If it can't run repeatedly after you've spent resources building it, you won't get faster feedback or actualize the value of test automation. The key to effective test automation is to optimize for ROI by prioritizing repeatability when building your test automation strategy.

2. Automated test cases work best when products are stable

Technical leaders often turn to automated testing to effectively scale product quality processes, and for good reason! When done well, it can accelerate and streamline development cycles. But that's not to say it's without pitfalls.

Leaning too hard into test automation is a common pitfall people face when scaling agile QA processes. Not every test case is a great fit for automation. You'll find scaling success by taking a balanced approach between automated and manual testing.

If your product is evolving quickly, with many changes to a large part of the product sprint-over-sprint, you'll have to allocate a lot of time and resources to maintaining test scripts. Keep this in-mind before kicking off your automated testing strategy to prevent bottlenecks when scaling.

3. Automated test cases require technical skills and expertise

Test automation is not plug-and-play. The reality is that it requires a high level of technical skills and expertise to write and maintain test scripts. Technical expertise is very expensive, and likely one of your most limited resources.

This is perhaps one of the biggest limitations of test automation. When creating your strategy, you will need to consider the pros and cons of using technical talent for testing vs. new feature development.

Learn More about How to Create an Effective Test Automation Strategy

With these three limitations in mind, it is not to say that test automation is not a worthwhile investment. To learn more about how to create an effective test automation strategy, listen on demand to What Technical Leaders Should Know Before Biting the Bullet. Our resources page is also available to you for more information about how to effectively incorporate test automation into your software quality strategy.

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