Emperor’s new test automation tool – a modern fable

TL;DR; If you thought you could cure all your manual testing woes by simply buying a tool and some consultancy, think again.

[All entities in this piece, corporate or corporeal, are entirely fictional – any likenesses to reality are entirely coincidental]

“Emperor Software have been developing a very successful software product called Rome for almost ten years. Despite a loyal user base, or maybe because of it, recent releases have been light on new features and some expected functionality was missing. Reports from sources within the development team say that the product is difficult to test and consequently hard to modify. Shareholders and customers alike are hoping that Emperor’s new mobile, cloud-based product, Romeo, expected next quarter, is better at delivering on its promises.”

Josh threw the journal down with a barely suppressed sigh and swiveled his chair to look out the window. The chair and window came with the office that came with the job that came with the title: Software Development Manager. If Romeo got into difficulties he knew he could kiss all of them goodbye. Emperor’s founder and CEO, Nero Harrision III had been overheard saying “This Nero will NOT fiddle while Romeo burns – I will meddle and heads will roll.” He’d said similar things in the past and had been true to his word.

There was a knock on the door and Pippa popped her head in: “Ace Bugblatt is at reception. Shall I bring him up?”

“Yes, please, Pippa. Thanks.”

Ace Bugblatt was an account manager from the Catch Corporation, vendors of CATCH, a contrived acronym that stands for “Complete Automated Testing – Cloud Hosted.” Their strapline was equally corny: “No catches. Just total test automation for the enterprise.” And up to a point their product had delivered.

Josh had argued strongly for there to be an emphasis on automated testing in the development roadmap for Romeo. He’d seen first hand the pain caused by slow feedback from manual test cycles not to mention the cost of actually having all those testers running them. He’d been pretty happy with his choices during early iterations – quality had been good and the demos had wowed the stakeholders – but recently things had become less clear.

The test scripts that had initially helped the development team deliver quickly had done a Jekyll and Hyde trick and were now slowing them down. Mysterious failures plagued the Continuous Integration build; minor refactorings were accompanied by painful days of test rewriting; new feature delivery was being held back by unexpected failures in the regression pack.

The team said it was a problem with the tool. The tool made it hard to refactor tests. The tool was clunky and difficult to work with. The tool was worse than the manual testing ever was. Maybe, it had been ventured, we should go back to manual testing and leave all the heartache of broken automated scripts behind.

“How short are people’s memories?” he wondered. “Surely we can get things back on track.” Which is why Ace was coming in – to allay the criticisms of the team and suggest a way forward that would justify Josh’s confidence in the approach (and coincidentally secure his view, desk and job title).

“Hi, Josh! Glad you could make time to see me,” said Ace, as he strode confidently into the room.

Can Ace save the day? Will Josh see his share options vest? Will the early CATCH tests, deliver the worm? Find out in the next exciting installment of….







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