Harnessing automation to accelerate digital transformation

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Testing, quality control, checking for bugs, managing cybersecurity. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year. Being part of a quality assurance (QA) team is no easy ride. The aforementioned processes are often conducted manually and as such are time consuming, repetitive, and resource-intensive. According to one study, 26% of developer time is spent reproducing and fixing failing tests, which totals 620 million developer hours every year. Perhaps most concerning is that, due to their manual nature and the requirement to monitor and test almost continuously, these processes are also prone to human error.

About the author

Claus Topholt is CPO and co-founder of Leapwork.

Many businesses have been relying on manual software testing for years. And, (many!) years ago this was probably adequate: the business software market was in its infancy, only larger corporations with resources and digital skills were adopting software, and the pace of tech development was arguably slower. Today, this is far from the case. While the approach and workflow of QA teams may have remained the same, the digital economy and business landscape are unrecognizable.

Digital-first economy

Businesses are increasingly digital-first, with more software being built and customized into a company's infrastructure than ever before. Large enterprises which were founded before the online era are now undergoing digital transformation, which should be acknowledged as an ongoing evolution as opposed to a one-off turning point. Born-digital firms and start-ups, on the other hand, are entering the market with software-heavy businesses but struggling to find the tech talent to manage this infrastructure.

The covid-19 pandemic has forced enterprise organizations to accelerate their digital transformation strategies far more aggressively than they ever expected. Everything from work to leisure to education has moved online almost overnight. In fact, a McKinsey survey of executives estimates that covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation across business by seven years.

For end users this has clear benefits: we can engage with brands whenever, wherever and however we like. We can collaborate with colleagues, communicate with loved ones thousands of miles away, crunch millions of data points to reveal business insights,. etc. etc. etc. However, with this reliance on software, QA teams everywhere are faced with an impossible task – to continuously test everything 24 hours a day and prepare for releases faster and faster, while everything continues to change. And herein lies the problem.

Software fail

Most software failures and bugs can be traced back to manual processes and human error. The impact of this is huge. One study estimated that software failures are costing the enterprise market $61 billion annually. Failures are also reputationally damaging. UK bank TSB, for instance, suffered an IT meltdown which saw more than two million customers locked out of their accounts, followed by an embarrassing investigation, and the departure of its CEO.

It’s not just brand damage and bottom lines that are impacted. When the UK’s national health service experienced a computer failure, GPs found themselves unable to access critical blood and X-Ray results, and medical appointments were unable to take place, creating a backlog for care. Critical sectors like healthcare – as well as areas like utilities, heavy industry and smart factories – cannot afford to drop the ball on software testing. Businesses must find a way to allow their systems to continuously update not only out-of-box solutions, but highly customized software too. It's a problem that can’t be solved by adding more testers to the team, making test automation a fundamental requirement for all enterprises.

Automation for supercharged testing

The case for test automation really is a no-brainer. By leveraging test automation, companies can test greater volumes of software, while simultaneously removing the risk of human error and reducing application errors by as much as 90%. This approach can also cut down on the time spent on data testing preparation by some 80%, while feedback cycles are accelerated. Less repetitive, time-consuming manual tasks means more of a QA team member’s time is freed up to pursue tasks that deliver business value and job satisfaction.

Automation also solves another critical industry challenge: the digital skills shortage. A combination of stricter border controls, geopolitical tensions, restricted movement due to covid-19, and ‘the Great Resignation’ has resulted in many businesses struggling to find the experience and tech talent needed to prevent damaging software failures.

Can businesses rely on UK talent going forward? It looks unlikely. The UK government released a report last year which found that 72% of large companies and 49% of SMEs were suffering tech skill gaps. This is further illustrated by findings from Work Skills UK: 60% of businesses believe that their reliance on advanced digital skills is set to increase over the next five years. However, less than half believe that young people are leaving education with sufficient advanced digital skills and 76% believe that a lack of digital skills would hit their profitability.

The adoption of automation by businesses would tackle this, with automated testing platforms reducing the (ever-growing) number of manhours needed for testing, and removing the challenge of hiring additional talent. So why is it then, when the business case for test automation seems to be so straightforward, 85% of all testing is still done manually, according to the 2021 World Quality Report; the same number as 10 years ago?

Democratizing automation

The reason that most organizations are still relying on manual testing is trivial: The enterprise automation tools available on the market have not evolved to overcome today’s serious challenges. These solutions often referred to as low-code, are far too complex for business users, and typically require professional-grade coding skills to use.

To scale test automation it needs to be easy for businesses to implement automation at scale using their existing resources, allowing testers to build test logic based on real business processes. This is where only no-code test automation solutions has the power to enable organizations to democratize test automation. If enterprises want to successfully adopt and implement test automation at scale, they must listen to the needs of QA managers, test managers and testers, and adopt practices that regular business users can work with in the long term.

Because whatever happens, testing, quality control, checking for bugs, managing security is - and always will be – critical to a functioning digital economy. Businesses can innovate (and drive revenue) with the knowledge that their software is failsafe. Consumers and end-users can take advantage of digital services with the knowledge that their data is secure. The difference between pre-pandemic and today, is that these processes no longer need to be reliant on human input and at risk from human error. In fact, due to the current tech landscape and pace of development, they no longer can be.

Automating software testing utilizing a visual no-code approach will be the only way of futureproofing businesses, safeguarding users, addressing the tech skills gap and giving QA teams the opportunity to pursue more valuable tasks. All of which will support the growth of the digital economy while allowing new projects to be tested and new ideas to flourish.

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Claus Topholt is CPO and co-founder of Leapwork. An expert in business-critical IT, Claus has over 20 years’ experience across enterprise IT, software and consulting, founding three companies before developing the first ever Leapwork prototype in 2014. Today, Claus continues to steer the direction of Leapwork’s product development, leading the company’s product team.