Manual software testing has been the cornerstone of software testing ever since software testing was set up. All test engineers and software QA staff, developers and programmers test their code manually, at least to some degree. Though it is a critical element of software testing, it is certainly not the be-all and end-all. Furthermore, it is not synonymous with quality assurance. Just as in software development, the quality of the results of manual software testing can vary widely depending on many factors.
Major Shortcomings in Manual Testing
It is true that manual software testing is not only a necessity but also an unavoidable part of the software product development process. How much testing one does manually, in comparison to using test automation, can make the difference between a project’s success and failure. The five major shortfalls seen in manual testing are-
Manual testing is slow and costly
Since manual testing is labour-intensive, it takes a long time to complete tests. By accelerating testing, you may increase the headcount of the test organization. This increases the labour as well as the communication costs.
Manual tests don’t scale well
As the complexity of the software increases, the complexity of the testing problem also grows exponentially. When the tests are detailed and required to be performed manually, performing them can take some time and effort. This results in increased cost of testing and time devoted for the purpose. As the complexity goes up due to the exponential growth rate, there is an increase in the time and cost.
Manual testing is not consistent or repeatable
For several reasons, variations in how the tests are performed are broadly inevitable. A tester may perform a particular test in a different way than another, leading to different results for the same test, as the tests are not being performed identically.
Lack of training is a problem
The staff should be well-trained in the different phases of software testing, such as
- Test design
- Test execution
- Test result evaluation
Testing is difficult to manage
There is greater uncertainty in testing than in code development. Though modern software development practices are well-structured, unless you have a sufficient structure in testing, it will not be easy to manage. For instance, consider a case in which the development phase of a project schedule gets delayed. Since manual software testing takes more time and resources and is costly, that schedule slip can be difficult to manage. A delay in acquiring the software and delivering it to the test team on schedule can lead to a significant wasting of resources. Manual testing, as well as badly designed automated testing, are also not agile. Hence, changes in test focus or product requirements make these efforts even more difficult to manage.
Certain ways in which the above shortfalls of manual software testing can be avoided are given below-
- Be thorough in test design and documentation- In the case of manual testing, a lot of factors influence the efficacy of the tests, some of them including (i) completeness of the test cases and (ii) the thoroughness of the documentation. Thus, while designing the tests, there should be agreement among the business staff, product and project managers, developers and testers on test coverage. This can also be documented as test requirements in a test plan. Further, have the test requirements and test cases peer-reviewed in a manner similar to software design reviews.
- Automate the turnkey tests as much as possible– Several test automation tools are available in the market which is cost-effective and time-efficient. Automation makes testing less burdensome and is less likely to be skimped on when under pressure.
- Manage the test activities well– One should do this closely and after a set procedure is established. Ensure that there are sufficient resources and time allocated to testing in order to avoid getting a short shrift.
- Ranking test cases according to the order of importance or based on the impact on quality, by risk, by how often the feature tested is used or some other metric– The goal of test automation is to run all important test cases. However, in circumstances where resource constraints prevent all test cases from being run, then the ranking will act as an enabler for important test cases to be run. Doing this would ensure that there is the maximum impact of the testing with the available resources. There must also be an agreement or sign-off procedure on the ranking and the coverage of the tests.
Besides the above shortcomings and suggestions, it is important to understand that even when you have a good test automation program in place, a certain amount of manual testing is necessary. Manual testing is not the solution for high-volume, short-cycle test challenges and a proper balance of manual and software testing should be an ideal aim for every QA tester.