RPA Offers Test Automation Benefits
The technology market -- especially technology in large companies-- is stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. While implementing new technology solutions (and support business continuity requirements in the time of pandemic) technology organizations juggle the demands to support changing business, while also limiting issues and failures.
The challenge to meeting these conflicting demands impacts the technology team’s ability to deliver a robust, stable, high-quality solution that does not require a long tail of support. Both the technology AND the business teams are challenged supporting the velocity of changing demands and increasing disruption events. These teams cannot afford to spend a great deal of time stabilizing a technology solution after delivery because it significantly delays starting the next strategic priority, rather than go-live support activities. On top of all of the changing demands adding to market disruption, there remains a requirement to support business continuity requirements by delivering new technology solutions.
When challenges are coming from all directions (and during all phases) of an initiative it increases the pressure on team members at a time when they are trying to deliver faster. Many of the demands would benefit from a robust and highly-efficient testing program. Unfortunately, testing has historically been the step-child, treated without its due respect or support in most major technology initiatives.
The answer is not to ‘work smarter.’ Frankly, that is a contrite response. To address challenges a fundamental change to the testing practice – and to the entire delivery process - is needed to meet changing demands. The answer requires a lean perspective and focus on tools and process to reduce or eliminate redundant and non-value add activities from the initiative!
Within any technology initiative two phases -- development/configuration and testing -- provide an opportunity to reduce or eliminate redundant and non-value add tasks. Your greatest opportunity lies in testing activities including: test data generation and test scenario execution.
Reducing testing time should not be viewed as an opportunity to elongate development. Instead, testing should be viewed as an opportunity to deliver a more stable product (in a shorter time frame) so the business value can be achieved faster. Another benefit to delivering a highly-stable testing solution is the reduction in post-implementation support demands. This allows your technical and business resources to shift focus earlier towards the next implementation.
In 2020 we have learned that significant disruption and sudden change requires a speedy response. Our 2020 experiences should be viewed as the beginning of significant business cycle changes that will continue to require adjustments in order to respond to the velocity and size of the demands. These significant changes to the overall business strategic definition and delivery require fundamental change to the strategic testing quality methods to support the velocity of change, faster delivery, and higher quality.
The dirty secret of testing is that a significant amount of time is dedicated to re-testing that results from incorrect test data. This in turn, drives lost time in re-test and creating corrected data.
Taking a full life-cycle view of your challenge offers an environment rich with the key capabilities supported by RPA -- automation of redundant tasks. As we know, the testing process is full of redundant and mundane manual tasks that themselves are prone to error. Including an RPA initiative into your quality program can eliminate these manual and mundane tasks and thus, eliminate a significant amount of rework resulting from errors in execution or review of these manual tasks.
For example in less than a year, a major apparel manufacturer that took this testing approach to heart successfully demonstrated a significant improvement in both test duration and also stability of the delivery. This was accomplished by reviewing significant labor activities within the process that followed supporting major business initiatives.
Focusing efforts on low hanging fruit in test preparation and start-up, the concept was to reduce time and effort to produce test data. This proof-of-concept delivered a significant reduction in time and effort to create test data while increasing accuracy in testing results while reducing effort and duration in testing execution.
The next area of improvement is in testing execution and focused on automating execution of test scenarios and especially regression test scenarios such as pick-pack-ship. Automation delivers an increase in accuracy, a reduction in effort, and reduced test cycle duration. In addition, automation improves accuracy of execution and reduction in repetitive tasks such as defect retesting efforts. This enables a significant reduction in testing effort and duration.
Testing data production and execution automation are just a samples of the types of benefits and business value that can be delivered through a process automation strategy that is supported by a robust RPA tool!
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Tom Brouillette discusses supply chain trends and provides strategic business & technology advice to his followers and companies.