Unqork's Kory King and Karen Laiacona explore how modern enterprise-scale quality assurance relies on a combination of automation and human creativity.
As members of the quality assurance (QA) team at Unqork, it’s our job to ensure the quality of our platform—as well as the applications that Creators build with Unqork. We achieve this through a rigorous testing regimen. This wouldn’t be possible relying on human senses alone. To aid us, we’ve tapped into the power of automation to help us amplify our abilities and assure the platform and all Unqork-built applications always meet our high standards of reliability.
To test the quality of the platform as well as any Unqork-powered application, for example, we use six standard checkpoints for quality and an automation framework powered by CodeceptJS and Selenium to guardrail how Unqork users build applications and prevent them from making particular mistakes. Let’s say a Creator attempted to change a specific workflow (say, sending users to a specific page), but they did not anticipate the change this would have on other existing workflows. Our automated regression suite quickly and thoroughly tests all workflows/pathways in the application and identifies any unexpected behaviors. This would be extremely difficult for a person to do efficiently without any additional tools.
It’s clear that automation allows us to accomplish more with less manual effort. However, we don’t foresee a day where we will ever unintentionally automate ourselves out of a job. We believe that a robust, insightful, intelligent QA function uses automation to elevate the human aspects of technology, not erase it.
The Role of Automation in QA
Identifying repetitive aspects of applications is crucial to the QA process—because these are the aspects we’ll have to test again and again. This is where automation plays a critical role. Automation allows us to amplify the impact of our time and effort by taking over all of the rote, high-volume (but not necessarily high-value) tasks. These are the types of processes that are far better suited to machines—and frankly, these are the kind of boring, repetitive tasks that a human wouldn’t want to do. Indeed, there is quite a bit of research into the detrimental effects of high-volume repetitive work.
Imagine you were running a toothpaste factory. You could use a human-powered assembly line to screw a cap on every tube of toothpaste your factory produced, but it would be woefully inefficient and probably leave lots of improperly secured caps, simply because humans are imperfect (maybe someone was sick, tired, distracted—any of the fallibilities that make us human).
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This is why most mass-production operations—including toothpaste factories—have designed machines to automate the screwing on of toothpaste caps or any of the repetitive aspects of toothpaste tube production. Yeah, this takes some work away from humans (to reiterate: the work you wouldn’t necessarily want to do), but it frees humans to build value by applying one of the traits that make us uniquely human: Creativity. By partnering with automation, humans are freed to spend their time more productively, working to push the limits of machines.
Indeed, while machine-powered automation has taken away many jobs over the past 150 years or so, it also creates lots of new and arguably better jobs for humans. In the meantime, we all have access to better, more affordable goods and services and better working environments—most people today, for example, take the standard five-day workweek for granted, but it’s a relatively new innovation enabled, in part, by the manufacturing industrial revolution. (Indeed, as information age employees become more productive thanks to machines, there is increasing interest in transitioning to a standard four-day workweek.)
To help quantify exactly how much automation takes off our plates, let’s take a look at cross-browser and mobile testing. To ensure that everyone has a high-quality user experience, QA engineers test the platform under a variety of scenarios, which helps ensure a good experience for users on their personal devices. Accomplishing this requires a wide battery of tests including, but not limited to, cross-browser, cross-system, positive, negative, and null tests. This would be impossible to do efficiently without the help of automation. Machines, on the other hand, can do it perfectly—or as perfect as the scripts humans build for them will allow.
Since automation already does so much in regards to QA, some might argue that automation will eventually be able to take over the entire process—especially when you consider the explosive growth of automation in the software industry. According to Gartner, computational resources will increase 500% from 2018 levels through 2023, making AI a top driver for infrastructure decisions. By 2025, over 90% of enterprises will have an automation architect.
Automation streamlines and optimizes QA engineers’ important work, and human creativity makes automation better.
Statistics like these may seem jarring at first, but they should actually be seen as encouraging. The automation boom means that humans can take the time that formerly would have been spent on repetitive (i.e, boring) tasks and put it towards more creative testing. Humans will always be at the helm of QA, providing machines with inputs that maximize output, and continually finding creative ways to make the process even more effective. We see it as automating ourselves into a new, more important job—perfecting and diversifying our approach to QA.
Human Creativity Is Key
Automation streamlines and optimizes QA engineers’ important work, and human creativity makes automation better. From a technical standpoint, human creativity makes automation more intelligent, because we write the scripts, provide the tasks, and create the story that the machine reads. Only a human can strategize the coverage, location, and cadence of testing—and organize the test pipeline such that it gives the QA team meaningful results. Automation can tell you the “what,” but human creativity tells you the “how” and “why,” which makes all the difference.
In a different key, human creativity imbues automation with the diversity of thought needed to elevate it and make it more inclusive. There’s no shortage of articles about what happens when AIs are built by only one group of people. The results can be as harmless as a financial services application failing to recognize that a user who works as a farmer might want a tractor loan rather than a car loan, or as harmful as facial analysis software failing to correctly identify people of color.
A well-rounded machine is better able to capture nuances thanks to the human element, which is why it’s so important that the people behind automation have diversity in thought, industry, education, experience, gender, and race. As long as automation continues to evolve and grow more sophisticated, humans will never be obsolete in software development.
We believe that QA is the perfect combination of human instinct and technology. If you’re passionate about QA, we’d love for you to bring new perspectives to our team and help us make a better product. Visit our Careers page to see our open positions.
Kory King, Director of Quality Assurance
Kory is the Director of Quality Assurance at Unqork where she established the QA department and strategy. Her thoughtful leadership has matured the Unqork QA department into three divisions with over 60 employees. For the last several years Kory has built a career on establishing quality practices, procedures and teams to professionalize any software product. Kory has a regimented and proven software quality strategy which creates room for innovation at an unprecedented speed. Kory’s industry expertise enables Unqork to build systems that innately prevent defects and maximize quality.
Prior to Unqork, Kory practiced QA management and strategy on no-code building platforms with companies such as Squarespace, & Verst.
Karen Laiacona, QA Delivery Manager
Karen manages the QA division of Delivery at Unqork. Her main responsibility is to resource all projects with the appropriate team members in regard to their availability, skill set, and time zone. She manages relationships with 5+ SI Partners to maintain QA coverage on 60+ Unqork applications according to internal standards and expectations. As one of the founding members of the QA department at Unqork, she has seen countless opportunities to engage and improve the Unqork QA Process.
Before Unqork, Karen garnered a useful mixture of experience in both content development and insurance agency management in Virginia’s technology corridor.