I was a speaker at the 2019 Automation Guild Conference. As part of the conference, I participated in a live Q&A session, but we ran out of time before I answered all the questions. I decided to blog the answers to some of those questions.

For an organization that is in the beginning stage of the automation journey, automation seems to be test team focused. How do we bring the systems team in sync with the automation exercise so that requirement changes don’t lead to too much maintenance overhead (which leads to trust issues)?

There are two topics to unpack in this question. The first topic is the statement “automation seems to be test team focused”. In general, I don’t find this to be a problem. When starting a new endeavor, it can be strategic to limit the scope of some activities in that endeavor. In this case, limiting the scope to “applying technology to help the test team” seems appropriate to me.

The second topic is the phrase “bring the systems team in sync with the automation exercise”; for purposes of this post, I’ll assume “systems team” means something like “IT”, “Ops”, “computing infrastructure”, or the like. In general, corporate business goals set the direction and all the team members should be working in support of achieving those goals. Developers should be creating software that is in line with these goals; likewise, testers should gear their testing and automation toward achieving those goals. The systems team should also be aligned with achieving the business goals; that team is, of course, part of the company too.

The complication is that systems teams’ goals are not always directly aligned with corporate goals. Often, their incentives, reviews, and bonuses are tied to things like maximizing system uptime, reducing cost, and infrastructure standardization. These are not bad things to work toward but they are often at odds with delivering new software; the incentive for systems teams often revolve around minimizing change, but software delivery requires change by its very nature.

So, what to do? Talk. Talk to the systems team, let them know how you are attempting to achieve corporate business goals. Partner with them; work together to achieve those goals. Though I’m greatly oversimplifying the creation of the partnership, I’ve found it to be very effective in getting goals accomplished. This post may be of interest as well.

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