The Pitfalls of Manual Testing

This is the third post in a six-part series on lab management challenges. For more information, check out the original post, “Top 5 Challenges of Lab Management.

Despite its complexities and drain on testing resources, manual lab configuration is still a go-to practice for many industry experts. However, service providers and network equipment manufacturers (NEMs) are aware of the potential pitfalls associated with only utilizing manual testing, and have integrated automated testing to their QA processes.

Errors that may arise from conducting only manual testing can also lead to poor product quality, and cause a company to incur additional, unnecessary expenses. However, manual testing can never correctly or completely address scale and performance issues. For example, just because a virtual environment can be brought online manually, is no guarantee that the environment can be brought online when directly requested in an automated environment. Similarly, just because a tester has manually tested a website, is no guarantee that the website can handle hundreds or even thousands of users accessing it all at once.

Throughout complicated testing processes, workflows must run smoothly to result in continued efficiency and productivity. Because manual testbed configuration is an intensive process for test teams to manage, manual testing poses several challenges that greatly obstruct a quality workflow — the greatest being time.

Manual testing suppresses innovation because of abundant time constraints. The test team is busy with simplistic tasks, and there is little time for imagination.

The Unorganized Workflow—Time is Money

The testing community has no choice but to evolve with increasingly complex product features and updates. Within the lab, workflows include the resources and technologies used, the test team, and the set process. If all are not harmoniously joined, an error-prone and inefficient workflow is hard to avoid.

Manual tests are not repeatable, which results in extremely high maintenance workflows. Testers and developers constantly repeat mundane tasks that could be simplified if automated. When testers and developers are consumed by test configuration, there is little time left for increased productivity or innovations with more impact on the bottom line.

Another detrimental issue to consider is the lack of organized, consistent documentation. Manual testing inhibits ease of testing documentation, which leads to inconsistent reporting. This also obstructs a transparent workflow. Minimal communication and reporting can cause confusion from one test team member to the next. Plus, if a mistake is made and documentation is incorrect, the team is prone to further error.

As a result, the product’s speed to market will continue to slow. This puts any service provider or manufacturer at a great disadvantage to competitors. In order to improve speed to market, a test team must establish the following: 

  • Consistent workflow 
  • Organized communication
  • Accurate and efficient test configurations
  • Accurate, documented reporting
  • Repeatable test cases
*(Source: Spirent Whitepaper: The Optimized Quality Workflow) 

Manual Testing Proves Shortsighted

Manual testing is at its best during the first round of product updates, which allows an interactive testing process and some creative freedom. This short-term solution, however, lacks longevity. A manual test cannot be repeated, and when the product is due for an update, testers are forced to regress back to stage one.

Pressed for time, the tester must activate manual regression testing to accommodate product updates. As the cycle continues, the workload grows and causes a backlog of tests. Concurrently, the time it takes to carry out manually built tests also increases.

Manual testing is also dependent on individual skill. The hours involved will depend upon each tester or developer’s expertise and knowledge. Furthermore, there are certain tasks that do not require creative thinking; excess time spent on these tasks reduces potential productivity even further. Examples of such tasks include testbed configuration and test repetition.

So, while the use of complete manual lab configuration may be the standard process within the organization, its complexity and time-consuming nature does not position the test team or products under testing for long-term success.

How has manual testing impacted the productivity and efficiency of your test team? Share your thoughts and comments below with other readers. Also, feel free to contact a Spirent representative to discuss how your organization can resolve these issues with iTest, the test automation solution.

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