Test automation ambassador needed

I need to define the role of a test automation ambassador.

What would a true, organization, test automation ambassador look like? Should it be a person with lots of experience, especially in the automation field, or can it also be a rookie, fresh out of college?

I guess it all depends on the organisation, right?

Imagine a sizable technology organization where several IT departments live, they all have their own product owners, their own business owners, their own development teams and thus also for a big part their own codebase.

Where does this all come from? We work with separate teams within the IT departments, these teams are completely separated. They have their own product owners, their own business owners, their own development teams and thus also for a big part their own codebase.

From the test automation side we have a unique position within the organisation, we have a helicopter view. We are separated from all these other departments and have our own thing todo: open up all the pieces of the platform to enable test automation with FitNesse and whatever drivers we need. This position creates a lot of perks, such as the freedom to work independently from any of the teams, we get to work first with new tools and toys since we are seen as a bit of a playground.

It of course also poses a potential problem. We are implementing test automation as externals, we are there to help, not to own. Where do we now place the ownership of test automation, and of the FitNesse part in particular, needs to have a place. In my view test automation ownership should not be laying within any of these separate teams, it should be outside of those.

Why does the ownership need to lay outside of the teams?

For one, the teams are competing for resources, another problem would be that they all have different agendas and deem their own part of work the most important contribution to the IT landscape within the company, in other words, their own piece of the automation pie will be well maintained, the rest will be neglected. Most importantly however, non of these teams have a clear overview of what the entire platform, i.e. all components together, look like from a functional point of view.

The owner of the FitNesse side of test automation needs to have this overview. This same owner however, also needs to clearly have some weight to put in the scales to ensure that all teams

  • use test automation effectively
  • maintain their part of the test suite (FitNesse test cases)
  • maintain and add their part of the custom fixture
  • do not break the overall regression, or smoke test or end-to-end test

Logically the owner of test automation would be within the group responsible for regression testing. This is exactly where the challenge is however. The team responsible for regression (let’s call them the regression team), is understaffed and fairly inexperienced, completely inexperienced when it comes to test  automation and how to successfully roll that out over an entire tech organization. The separate team members all have their own strengths and as a team do a very solid job in manually executing regression or smoke tests, but there does not seem to be one person strong enough to pull the automation effort beyond writing the testcases.

Ideally the ambassador of test automation (in this organization at least), and thus the owner of both the FitNesse fixture and the FitNesse testcases resides outside of all teams that have a use for test automation. This opens up the road to continuous development and maintenance on the automation suite, it will ensure independence of other teams and thus the ambassador will be able to make clear decisions based on what is good for the automation program first and think about the teams second, the individual teams are contributing to both the Fixture and the regression suite anyway, so their needs will be covered within sprint or roadmap.

I fear we will have to apply the polder-model here however, and find a way to make it work. What we have built thus far, both as a custom fixture and in terms of testcases, can already be of huge added value to the organization.

However I still hope we can find the prospect ambassador and coach, shape and train this person to have both the knowledge, skills and mental strength to take the next steps needed to get this organization closer to continuous testing.

Awareness of what test automation can do however is holding people back from using it.

– Edit –

So what skills should this ambassador at least possess ?

  • Affinity with testing and test automation in particular
  • Solid understanding of what can be tested automatically and more importantly what should and should not be tested automatically
  • Capability of explaining  to all levels within the organization what we can achieve with test automation
  • Presence and charisma to not just sell test automation within the organization to sceptics, but convince them and show them the added value of it and make them want to use it
  • Insight in how to maintain test scripts across the teams, how to deal with the inheritence from several teams into regression and how to organize this all into a solid, robust, trusted automated regression set
  • At least a base knowledge of programming in order to help maintain the FitNesse fixture and to be able to help new test engineers get started with the inner workings of the fixture
  • Know and understand how the organization works together and how you can get the several teams to contribute effectively to the test automation effort

One thought on “Test automation ambassador needed

  1. Pingback: Are we building shelf-ware or a useful test automation tool? « Martijn de Vrieze

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