The Six Million Dollar Automator

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Summary:

Organizations expect software test automation to make software testing more efficient. But although test automation tools are gaining in popularity, automation itself remains relatively disregarded. With the Automation Body of Knowledge (ABOK), IT organizations will be better equipped to identify qualified automation resources and to offer their resources the benefit of a real automation career development track. In this week's column, Dion Johnson explains how automators may improve their skills and better market themselves to organizations of interest, even without access to the current fad tool.

Notice the following fill-in-the-blank problem:

If… (Proficiency in a manual test case repository tool) ? (Proficiency in manual testing)

And… (Proficiency in a test planning tool) ? (Proficiency in test planning)

Then (Proficiency in an automated test tool) ? (Proficiency in ___________)

The answer is "automated testing"! Clearly knowledge of a specific tool doesn't equate to expertise in the function that is aided by the tool, yet people have a problem filling in this blank. Test automation remains the only software quality engineering function driven by tool-specific knowledge. When an organization hires a manual test engineer, general testing knowledge—not knowledge of a specific test case repository—is the determining factor. Likewise, what a potential manager knows about management processes is more important than knowledge of a specific tool. Tool knowledge is a plus, but not the most important factor.

There are bodies of knowledge, classes, and certification programs that provide engineering or management skills that can be transferred to any tool. Test automators haven't had the same luxury. Their only option is to take a tool-specific class or get a tool-specific certification. But, such classes and certifications don't guarantee that an individual will be an effective test automator. In fact, without the proper skills these classes and certifications simply mean that an automator will be better at being ineffective. To resolve this problem we must rebuild the benchmarks that we use to assess the test automator, or we must rebuild the test automator himself.

We Can Rebuild Him
Maybe I watched too much TV as a child, but talks of rebuilding the test automator brings to mind the fictional character known as the the Six Million Dollar Man. Much like they reengineered a broken test pilot into the Six Million Dollar Man, we will rebuild the automator using automation bionics collectively named the Automation Body of Knowledge (ABOK). The ABOK is composed of the following bionic parts (skill categories): 

  • Automation's Role in the Testing Lifecycle
  • Automation Types
  • Automation Approaches
  • Automation Tools
  • Automation Framework Design Process
  • Quality Attribute Optimization
  • Programming Concepts
  • Exception Handling
  • Automation Analysis and Reporting
  • Automation Objects
  • Debugging Techniques

Let's begin the operation!

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About the author

Dion Johnson's picture Dion Johnson

As a senior test consultant and managing partner for DiJohn IC, Inc. and advisor to the Automated Testing Institute, Dion Johnson provides IT consulting services that focus on the overall system development lifecycle, with particular focus on the quality assurance, quality control, requirements analysis, and automated testing. He has presented at numerous SQE conferences and contributed to StickyMinds.com and Better Software magazine. In addition he is an editor for the Automated Software Testing magazine. Email Dion at dionjohnson@dijohn-ic.com or dionjohnson@automatedtestinginstitute.com.

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