Fast Automation

Remember that fable about the tortoise and the hare?  The steady plodding tortoise beat out the speedy but inconsistent hare.  I think when we read that parable we respond with yes…but there is another option!  We get the point that being consistent is more important than being fast, but can’t we have our cake and eat it too?  Can’t we have both speed and consistency?

That’s the promise many test automation vendors give.  It’s the selling feature for why we should invest in test automation efforts.  It will let us have the speed without the burnout.  It will let us be consistent with our delivery, but not slow.  We believe that technology allows us to deny the very premise that you have to choose between speed and consistency.  But is it true?  Was Aesop wrong, or are we the ones deluding ourselves?

I think we can prove old Aesop wrong on this one, but when we want to go showing up a master we better not go about thinking it will be easy.  This fable has held up for many years because it represents a fundamental reality that is very difficult to get around.  It is very hard to be both fast and consistent.  We try strapping some automation onto the tortoise so that he can go a bit faster, but we end up loading him down so much that he actually goes slower.  Now what?  Well it would seem that we should just get rid of that automation, but no we are eternal optimists so we try to fix it. We get the tortoise to go faster, but now he gets tired more quickly.  Wow good job.  We’ve manged to turn the tortoise into a hare.  Not quite what we were after is it?

Yes, we can be both fast and consistent.  We know we can, because we have seen some companies do it, but let’s not fool ourselves here.  Much more often that we would like to admit, Aesop is right.  Our automation often ends up making us inconsistent or sometimes even worse, slower.

So the moral of my little story is to just give up and not do automation right?  No!  The point of this post is that doing hard things is hard and to pretend that hard things like test automation are simple is just silly. Combining the speed of a hare with the steady consistency of a tortoise is not an easy thing to do.  Don’t pretend that it is.  Be very careful about how you approach and think about automation.  Make sure your automation solutions are doing what you need them to do.

And if you find yourself in a mess?  If that automation suite you tried to strap onto the back of your tortoise is starting to slow him down even more?

Well, stay tuned for a post about how to create genetically hybrid automation and clean up your automation so that it can help you move at a fast and consistent pace.

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