The act of automating tests can show you three significant problems that are hard to spot.
1. Testers that love to check
Checking can be a comfort zone for under challenged test teams. When automation arrives to replace checking for regressions manual testers can be thrown out of this comfort zone. This can manifest in a number of ways. One way is that despite having time freed up the increase in new tests is minimal. Another, more harmful, manifestation is that testers reject automation and continue to check manually. A good resolution of testers liking to check rather than test is training those testers in automation or less rigid test techniques like exploratory testing.
2. Developers and testers play for different teams
Commonly there is an invisible wall between test specialists and development specialists. By sharing tools automation can make this wall visible because automated tests don’t have to be written by development specialists but they do have to be compatible with the technology choices development makes. The visible wall forms around the quality of the code in the product versus in the automated tests. Quality in automated test suites is a cost saving exercise – good quality means less maintenance – however quality can be revenue generating in product code. This is not always understood. Developers then either repeat the work of automated testers, because it didn’t meet their high quality standards, or discourage testers from creating automated tests all together. A good resolution to this is introducing strong agile concepts like respect, putting the business first and the value of simplicity through agile coaching.
3. Overloaded decision makers
Automated tests provide answers. Fast. If your decision makers are used to a thoughtfully compiled report delivered once every few weeks, the reality of a dashboard of information being constantly available can be disconcerting at best. At worst your decision makers are overloaded already and the new flow of information is ignored. This often manifests in a traditional thoughtfully compiled report being demanded which burdens the team more and more as automation gets better and better. A good resolution of automation revealing overloaded decision makers is the continuous delivery pattern.
So even when automation is acting to surface these problems it is benefitting your testing process. Once these problems are resolved automation has its intended benefit of eliminating low value tasks like checking to give the testers the time they need to expose risk in the system in the same time period as the development of the tool.