Automation will not replace us: sketch notes

Review this visual and written guide to explore the timeline of automation and learn how we’ll work alongside automation rather than be replaced by it.

A great keynote should challenge and inspire the audience. As speakers we’re often looking to break preconceived notions and introduce new and novel ways of thinking or ways of working. Andy Knight definitely understood the assignment in his keynote Reimagining Automation at Agile Testing Days.

Download PDF for screen-reader accessible version.

Andy came back from the future, visiting us from the year 2033 to share where we’ve been and where we’re going as an industry. His talk opened with a brief history of automation and testing from the 1990s to today.

  • 1990s: The era when Kent Beck popularized the concept of unit testing, object-oriented programming (OOP), and xUnit.
  • 2000s: The new millennium ushered in the era of automation, with many companies adopting automated systems to improve efficiency and productivity. *Some things refuse to die *cough* COBOL
  • 2010s: By the 2010s, the concept of continuous testing had taken root, and testing became an integral part of the CI process, leading to the rise of the SDET role.
  • 2020s: With the advent of the 2020s, automation tools are becoming more intuitive and user-friendly, providing faster feedback and improving the overall user experience.

After looking at the past, Andy reflected on the current state of automation and drew parallels from lessons learned in the past to how we work in the 2020s. Andy sees value in the potential use of generative AI, specifically using bots to learn from observability data, artifacts, and humans. He believes this will provide valuable insights into what should be tested and how. 

Some additional insights shared by Andy are:

  • What’s Old is New Again! The Rise of Replay: Replay tools that play back tests have made a comeback, providing enhanced functionality over early Selenium solutions.
  • Gaps Start to Close, These Systems Improve: As these tools and systems improve, we see the gaps in automation start to close.

After reflecting on the past and where we are today, Andy gave us insights from the future (he was back from the year 2033 after all). In the future we’re likely to see autonomous tools that will help our teams work together better in asynchronous environments and free up more of our time for meaningful collaboration and less process overhead. Some examples of these future tools are automatic journaling, Zoom recaps, automated knowledge bases, automated ticketing systems, async demos, and automated daily digests. For some of these solutions such as Zoom recaps we’re seeing early versions of these tools today!

Andy believes as autonomous systems become more advanced, they will upend conventional software development approaches. This will ultimately lead us back to the roots of Agile, with SCRUM falling out of favor, Kanban gaining popularity and Waterfall making a comeback, albeit as “Whiterwater”.

Keynotes have an obligation to challenge and inspire and Andy did so by reminding us what matters most in the past, present, and future of quality.

  • Quality is Still Human Oriented: Despite advancements, the quality of software is still largely human-oriented. AI will never understand context or meaning the way humans do, the goal is to leverage AI to avoid wasting human intelligence on menial tasks
  • We Must Be Truth Seekers, Not Script Writers: As we continue to navigate the changing landscape of software development and automation, we need to evolve from being mere script writers to becoming truth seekers. We need to constantly question our assumptions, seek better solutions, and strive for truth in our work.
  • Be Creative and Build the Future Together!: As we move forward, let's remember to be creative, collaborate, and build the future together!

Keep up with Andy:

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