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How will test automation shape the future of QA?

Like many tech endeavors, QA has undergone radical evolution over the past decade, and to keep up with the competition, dev teams are looking toward the future of QA. Now, perhaps more than ever, consumers hold a critically high bar for their web and mobile apps. This means, of course, continued investment in efficient, high-quality testing to stay competitive. But what about the A word? 

Company leaders must ask themselves how they will adapt to the new paradigms in QA. It’s not a matter of “if” innovative dev teams will implement automated testing; it’s a matter of when. And how. The journey from discovery to implementation can be complex and fraught with complicated questions. But take a peek into the future and how we theorize test automation will shape manual testing.

Evolving the role of the manual software tester

Today, automation is already shifting human testers’ day-to-day responsibilities. Since machines can do low-skill testing, dev teams are looking for expertise and complex skill sets. As automation becomes normalized in QA, the demand for skilled QA personnel overseeing automated tasks and taking on more complex testing will increase. In contrast, demand for low-skilled testers stands to decrease.

If you remember one significant piece of information from this post, take this with you: automation will NOT replace a critical need for manual testers in QA. On the contrary. Automation at its best frees people up to do more involved work – work that’s better done by talented and highly trained QA and QE experts. 

With matured QA strategies comes the need for mature QA talent that can take quality to a new level. The role of a manual software tester will evolve to mean a higher level of skill in test automation development, strategy, and management. Manual software testers will need to know what test cases to automate and which to manually test, in addition to creating test cases and managing execution for both. Unit tests, API tests, and UI tests that typically were managed by humans stand to become nearly fully automated, with manual fallback.

Again, it’s NOT about eliminating manual testing. It’s about striking a powerful balance between automation and human testing, creating the best possible scenario for robust, efficient QA. 

Flexible staffing requirements

COVID changed the game for traditional staffing. Most companies are flexible with work requirements, location, education, and time off. In the tech world, expect that flexibility to continue with the development and implementation of automation. 

If traditional outsourcing and crowdsourcing meant cobbling together a staff of testers worldwide and utilizing device farms, the future of QA is heading elsewhere.

For companies new to automation, strategy is a crucial component from the get-go. Companies that are ready to invest in long-haul QA strategies may hire full-time QA teams and automated solutions in-house. But building that team is costly and requires engineers and team leads that can be hard to find. 

Even still, some companies may opt for automated solutions in-house while relying on burstable manual testers to fulfill the human side of the equation. Will you hire a new QA team, retrain current QA personnel, or go in a different direction? 

The advent of low-code test automation

Automated testing can be pretty sophisticated, utilizing AI and machine learning to empower testing processes and improve accuracy and speed, even taking advantage of predictive analytics to anticipate user needs and fuel improvement.

Already, this kind of sophistication can be overwhelming. Then add in a hard-to-find, even harder-to-retain workforce, and something has to give. The future of QA found a solution in no-code, low-code test automation platforms. Even when you’ve got internal workforce developers, they don’t necessarily want to shift into developing QA. The path to advancing into these areas without retraining is difficult. With low code test automation, you’re removing many of the complex technical aspects of test automation and opening it up to more workers who can learn within the framework.

“Even when automation is introduced to an SDLC or a quality pipeline, the end game isn’t that manual testing and support disappear. It’s not a one-or-the-other scenario. The ideal QA scenario is a well-architected and total automation solution with real people behind it; people who determine where, when, and how to automate,” Sawyer said.