The Past, Present, and Future of Test Automation

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I’ve been a software developer for many years. I’ve seen two major transformations: one is the transition between frontend and backend code. The other is in release cycles and speed.

Frontend-backend code – Those working many years in software development remember the eras of shifting code back and forth, from the server to the client and back. During the days of the mainframe, most code resided on the server, and moved to the client with the emergence of personal computers. It shifted back to the servers with the transition to web. In the last five years, we’re seeing code shifting back to the client side as Single Page Applications (SPA) become more popular (and I assume most of you have already heard of AngularJS or ReactJS or Ember.js or Vue.js, and the list goes bigger every day) as well as mobile.

Release cycles – In recent years we have seen a transition from waterfall development to agile. Waterfall cycles were long (e.g. Microsoft releasing a new version of Windows every 2 years), and QA teams would spend months manually testing the software. The short cycles in agile drive the need for automation and Test Driven Development (TDD). The road to automation is still bumpy so some organizations only test the backend via API, while most heavily rely on manual testing. Few claim to have sufficient coverage (both client and server) to release a version knowing it’s completely safe (AKA Continuous Deployment). Lack of proper coverage is risky given the renaissance of code shifting to the frontend and the focus on user experience.

The latter is the outcome of legacy tools for functional testing that haven’t taken advantage of technological evolution: improved computing power at a lower cost, cloud infrastructure & software as a service, real-time big data processing in microseconds, deep user analytics, and behavioral flows. Combining those technologies and thinking about quality in a different way can help us leapfrog to a future where tests are automatically created with every new feature. Reducing investment in testing yet improving quality and user experience is not a myth. If driving can be autonomous – so can tests. Over the next couple of blog posts I’ll describe the evolution of software development and quality assurance and why it leads to autonomous testing.

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