An often debated question is whether “manual testers should learn programming and be able to code”. While there is no unanimous answer to this question, I look at this debate slightly differently. While at the very core we will continue to need both manual and automation testers and each of them bring in their unique value propositions, it is definitely going to be beneficial to expose both groups to what the other group is working on. Doing so, is helpful in several ways including:
1. Ramping up one group to take on relevant portions of the other group’s work – when the two groups of testers work in isolation there is a lot of wasted effort, disconnect and more importantly lack of a concerted testing effort in building the right test coverage. If the manual testers are exposed to what the automation testers do and vice versa, apprehensions if any are reduced and in the process, they are learning newer things they can take on, on their plate
2. Load balancing the team’s tasks – The ramp up we talked about in the previous point, whether or not is helpful on an ongoing basis, definitely comes in handy in situations where one team is overworked. For example, typically a lot of the automation heavy lifting may be done earlier in the testing cycle, while in the later stages, they are being run in an unattended mode calling the tester’s attention primarily for results analysis. In such situations the automation tester who is trained to help with manual testing as well, is able to bring in much better value to the team and to the product under test
3. Developing a sense of appreciation for each other – Cross ramping of testers, if not for anything else, should be done to build appreciation for each other’s role. Automation testers, sometimes tend to look down upon manual testers, while manual testers may have their own inhibitions about test automation. Such a cross exposure, builds a great sense of appreciation for each other promoting better collaboration in the testing team
With the increased acceptance of Agile in the software development world, the lines between a developer and tester, a manual and automated tester are all blurring. While one may not completely gobble another, it is becoming increasingly important for one to understand and train on the other, to step in as and when required. As for the manual tester, automation is no more a long shot. With versatile frameworks that are shaping up (both as commercial out of box solutions and customized open source solutions), test automation is well within the reach of manual testers, who have no prior experience with programming. Their functional product knowledge with an appreciation for test automation can easily help them take on test automation, ably supported by the automation engineers. When this happens, there is no longer the debate of whether manual testers should learn programming or whether automation is reserved to a select few. Manual testers have now expanded their impact and taken on relevant portions of test automation still letting their automation counterparts, drive tasks they are best at. So, let’s shatter any inhibitions and make it an open swing door that exists between manual and automated testing.