IT people often refer to automated testing and test automation as synonyms. In reality, when it comes to how you should talk about test automation vs. automated testing, there are practical differences: The former typically has a broader meaning.
Automated testing is the process of executing tests in a repeatable way without intervention, as opposed to manually. Some software professionals think of automated testing as automated regression testing because they consider regression testing as basic verification. Automating that process enables testers to focus on more crucial QA tasks. Also customarily, test automation refers to the overall approach teams take with scripting tools to develop and execute tests instead of performing the tests themselves. Therefore, test automation includes not just execution but also the overarching strategy.
Whether you're talking about a specific test to automate or an overall strategy to reduce testers' manual work, the goal is increased test coverage and reduced test execution duration via automation.
How DevOps changes the lexicon
With the arrival of DevOps in software teams everywhere, the understanding of test automation vs. automated testing changed. DevOps involves better collaboration among developers, testers and operations, where code can flow from one stage to the next without holdups. This flow usually relies on an automated CI/CD pipeline, wherein completed steps automatically trigger code testing.
In DevOps shops, test automation doesn't always refer to the tests themselves, but rather how software professionals manage those automated tests throughout the CI/CD pipeline.
Although this distinction is important in the context of DevOps, it raises a new versus: test automation vs. continuous testing. The two are not synonymous. Instead, test automation is a critical part of continuous testing, which encompasses much more than automation.
With continuous testing, organizations primarily attempt to reduce business risk as well as make their test strategies more efficient. Continuous testing also factors in the user experience as part of the feedback loop. To be continuous, tests must integrate seamlessly into the software delivery pipeline and DevOps toolchain. Through continuous testing, QA receives actionable feedback appropriate for each stage of the delivery pipeline, rather than treating tests as a separate phase of development and delivery.
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