A year or so ago, there was a tweet that appeared on my timeline multiple times across many weeks…or maybe it was months…I’ve slept since then. Clearly, my memory fails me on the specifics. What I do remember is that the question posed by the tweet was something like the following: is automation sufficient without a strategy?

This question caused me to remember one of things I’ve found when I come upon struggling automation initiatives: an often overlooked aspect of an automation initiative is strategy. Undertaking an automation initiative with no real idea of how this initiative will help us meet our goals is likely a ticket for a ride on the fail boat; our needs and expectations will likely not be met.

When discussing strategy, I like ask two broad questions:

What do we want to accomplish?
How do we plan to accomplish it?

The “Whats“… these are our goals

Every organization has business goals. Clearly, product development must be in line with the goals, meaning testing goals must be in line with them as well. For instance, are we:

  • trying to reduce defects in a product?
  • trying to release faster or more often?
  • adding support for a new operating system to a product?
  • trying to gain market share?

Our testing strategy must be consistent with these goals, thus our automation goals must be as well. If the are not, we’ll just be doing the wrong thing faster. Having a good relationship with our extended audience, in this case “the business”, can help us have a positive impact on achieving these goals.

The “Hows“… these are our methods

Now that we have goals, we must decide how we plan to achieve those goals.

  • Do we need a small, fast, shallow smoke suite of tests that are executed on each deploy to each environment?
  • Are there some some areas of our product that are difficult to test?
  • Could humans benefit from applying technology to these problems?

Regardless of the methods we choose, we must be sure they are in line with our goals.

It’s important to note that the thoughts expressed above are not automation-focused; they focus on business strategies and testing. This focus is intentionally away from automation specifics to help ensure that automation is supporting our goals; automating is not a goal, it’s only a means to an end.

So, back to the question of “is automation sufficient without a strategy?”; clearly, my opinion is “no, it is certainly not sufficient”.