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17 January, 2024

It’s 2024: Why Are You Still Doing Manual Software Testing?

are you still manual testing?

There are a few things we all know when it comes to software projects. A few of these facts are that technology is constantly evolving, software development is increasingly complex, time is an ever more precious commodity, and quality is more important than ever. Yet despite these universal truths, many companies still rely on manual software testing – and I struggle to understand why.

Maybe this doesn’t apply to you. It could be that your company has fully embraced automation. Perhaps your automation suite covers the majority of your test pack. If you are one of these lucky few, then great, but you are in the minority.

The majority of businesses still do little to no functional test automation.

Today, I explore some reasons (excuses?) why I think many companies still rely on laborious manual testing and are reluctant to switch to automation. I will also explore ways to get around these issues and provide easy-to-follow advice for anyone looking to get started with test automation.

Why Automated Software Testing Is Becoming The Norm

Before I get into manual testing, I want to discuss the alternative.

The 2023-24 World Quality Report states that,

“…succeeding in quality engineering and assurance requires embracing change, fostering a culture of quality, and leveraging advancements such as AI and automation. As organizations continue to evolve, a commitment to quality ensures sustainable success now and in the future.”

In particular, there are four main reasons why people increasingly rely on automation to deliver high-quality software solutions.

1. Efficiency and Speed

Automated testing significantly reduces the time required for repetitive testing. This allows for more frequent testing, crucial in agile and continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) environments.

2. Accuracy and Consistency

Unlike humans, automated tests perform the same steps precisely every time they are run, eliminating the risk of human error.

3. Scalability

Automated tests can be easily scaled to cover more features and can be run on multiple devices and platforms simultaneously.

4. Cost Savings

While the initial setup costs may be higher, automated testing saves time and resources in the long run, making it a cost-effective solution for continuous testing. It also does not charge overtime for overnight and weekend work.

Why, then, if automation provides so many benefits, do so many companies rely on manual processes for the bulk of their functional testing?

For Many People, Manual Testing is Known and Comfortable

It’s a fact of life that most people like being comfortable. That’s why we stubbornly cling to old habits and old traditions. People often fear the unknown, change and failure. Whilst these fears may not keep them awake at night, they are a factor in daily decision-making.

For many, especially those long-established in software development, there’s a level of comfort in manual testing – it is a known quantity. Manual testing is the oldest software testing method and is well-understood and familiar.

However, as I mentioned at the top of the article, technology constantly evolves. The ability to move with the times is vitally important in technology and software implementations. Sure, you can hang on to old practices for a while, but eventually, you must embrace newer methods or risk being replaced by someone who will.

There’s a common argument that manual testers understand the application under test and can provide insights that automated tests cannot. While it’s true that testers’ expertise is vital, this domain knowledge must be utilised to its maximum capacity and coupled with effective automation.

Making your experts plod through menial tasks is too slow, costly, and inefficient for modern software projects.

There Is a Persistent Myth that Manual Testing Is Cheaper

Perceived cost is another factor that keeps manual testing alive. There’s no doubt that automation requires additional tools, skills and time to create automation scripts. This does carry a monetary and effort cost, but the subsequent savings blow away this relatively small outlay.

To say that automated testing is fast and repeatable downplays just how powerful it is. I’ve seen companies reduce their regression tests from five people over four weeks to a single person clicking a mouse button at the end of the day. The full automation suite is completed overnight and ready for analysis in the morning.

Powerful, professional automation software isn’t very expensive these days. I like to use a general rule of thumb, if I’m going to run a test more than three times, automation will be more cost-effective than manual testing. This test run figure has decreased over the years as I‘ve seen professional automation software become more efficient.

Maybe You’ve Been Scarred By Failed Automation

I have spoken to so many people who tell me about their experiences, war stories, of trying to automate testing 5-10-20 years ago and how badly it went.

I’ve seen my fair share of bad automation experiences, but the most recent of those was over a decade ago.

Don’t let past failures stop you. We have already accepted that technology is constantly evolving, so go with it.

Knowing Where to Start With Automation Can Be Difficult

Like many things in life, just getting started with test automation can sometimes be the hardest part. Automation does present unique challenges, especially for those familiar with manual testing, but these are easily surmountable.

There is a learning curve when using new tools, but it’s not as big as you think. People often assume you need deep technical expertise, but this is inaccurate. Advanced test automation does require a basic grasp of programming, but AI solutions have opened script creation and maintenance up to a much wider audience.

When moving to test automation for the first time, it’s crucial to start small and gradually build up complexity. Build an automation plan that starts with simple, repetitive tasks and expanding the scope over time, as you gain confidence and expertise.

Investing in training is a good idea, and of course, choosing the right tools is essential.

Successful Automation Relies on Having The Right Tools in Your Toolbox

One of the main reasons that automation projects failed was that the tools were complex, not always fully formed and required programming skills. Sadly, many tools are still like this.

It’s easy to get suckered into using poor tools before you realise the long-term implications for your time, money and sanity. The wrong tool will cost you; see below.

Today, the more modern tools like UFT One have overcome this, and with the growing capabilities of AI in automation tools, scripting is easier and faster and maintenance costs are down.

Unfortunately, Poor Automation Tools Can Seem Compelling

There are many substandard test automation tools out there. Fortunately, they’re easy to identify. They’re generally the ones that claim to be free.

This can seem very attractive – but undertaking an automation project with one of these solutions and you will soon see that these free tools are only free at the point of acquisition. You end up paying way more to make up the technical shortfall, maintain them, support them, etc.

They’re often pushed by consultancies more interested in selling person-days than driving efficiency – so that’s another way to spot them.

Ultimately, these tools require more technical skills, meaning you must invest in expert resources. They will also take longer to do the same job, meaning you’re paying for the experts even longer.

Automation Should Always Yield a Return on Investment – Show Me The Money

It’s not enough for automation to just speed things up or allow your business to be more dynamic. These days, automation must also provide a cast-iron return on investment (ROI).

Fortunately, when done properly and with the right tools, automation will provide a rock-solid ROI. Successful automation will reduce your overall spending and provide time, effort, and quality benefits.

Once you decide to go down the automation route, I strongly recommend creating a business case to understand the potential cost savings. It will also help fend off those pushing you towards poor tools. Because at some point, someone will ask, “Why can’t we use free tools?” and it’s always good to be prepared.

People are much less likely to favour free tools once they realise the truth; they cost more, do less, and require additional effort.

Learn how to win over your budget holders with ‘Turning a No into a Yes – How to Build a Software Business Case.’

It’s 2024: Are You Still Doing Manual Software Testing?

The world is advancing at an unprecedented pace. Companies that cling to manual testing are incurring unnecessary expense and could be on a path to failure. Their development will be slower, less accurate, less scalable and more expensive.

You can improve efficiency, reliability, and speed by embracing automated testing.

Remember that automation is not yet at the point where you can automate 100% of your test cases, and I doubt it ever will be. Therefore, manual testing still has its place, particularly in exploratory and usability testing, but it must not be your primary testing method. It is 2024, and it is time to move forward and embrace modern technology.

What Is Your Experience With Automation?

Have you got any positive or negative automation stories?  Have you struggled to get automation to worked?

Let me know in the comments below or drop me a message if you would like to discuss this further, I’d love to hear from you

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Stephen Davis
by Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis is the founder of Calleo Software, a OpenText (formerly Micro Focus) Gold Partner. His passion is to help test professionals improve the efficiency and effectiveness of software testing.

To view Stephen's LinkedIn profile and connect 

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17th January 2024
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