Does AI replace or assist?

Does artificial intelligence (AI) replace software testers, or assist? To find out what effect AI has on tech-savvy individuals, Test Magazine reporter, Leah Alger, receives vitalising views from an array of software testers

We have witnessed the mobile and computer revolution – now similarly – artificial intelligence (AI) is unrolling its potential; not only by the way we live, but also within the majority of industries, including software testing firms.

Technology is being implemented within development teams and tools to catch bugs earlier, automatically assessing and correcting code. According to Cognifide, we need to accept that, within the next two years, AI techniques will fully dominate IT, with Amazon, Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft being one of many signs.

“IBM and Google aren’t the only companies applying AI techniques. Within the past year, AI in software testing has also become feasible. Software testing must evolve in response to the shift to agile and DevOps. No matter how many testers you employ, it’s simply not possible for manual testing to provide agile developers immediate feedback on whether any of their constant changes impacted the existing user experience,” wrote Tricentis in a blog post.

‘Catching bugs earlier’

According to QA Financial, Test Plant believes there is “a lot of talk” when using artificial intelligence to test, yet no one is using it in a “useful way”, because of testers involving it straight into testing processes, instead of using it to plan beforehand.

Senior test manager at Allied Testing, Stas Milec, agreed: “Tests do not make software any better. Your product might be working well, but if it’s not something a customer expects, then it’s the wrong product. It’s important to get people involved in the validation process throughout.

“My strong believe is that AI will start playing a significant role in testing – we should see AI dynamically generating test cases, while building knowledge about the software developer ability, whilst learning how customers use a particular type of software.”

Analytics India revealed that AI has made its way through software testing through a lack of infrastructure, and the need for faster deployments, involving three main aspects – testing in real-world customer environments, user acceptance testing and manual testing.

“A lot of things are going to change in the testing field with the entry of AI. Almost 70% of testing is repetitive and AI can quickly occupy that space. The 30% left is questioning the system, and that’s what testers need to focus on. AI is the next big thing in testing, but it won’t replace humans. The testers working alongside AI can quickly revolutionise the way we test today,” added Vijay Shinde, founder of Software Testing Help.

‘Helping experts test effectively’

Mark Roberts, head of test at Capita IT, added: “In the software testing industry, automation and AI provide support to the individual in the workplace, with automation allowing individuals to focus on more meaningful, higher value activities.

“However, companies such as Blue Prism have produced automation tools that go one step further and successfully automate full testing business transaction across multiple platforms, allowing for successful automation of back office business processes, which will effectively lead to a reduction in the administrative work force.”

A report by Transparency Market Research found many companies are operating in the fields of IT robotic automation tools and IT robotic automation services. It appears the market is rising in competition, and witnessing wider changes, especially those firms with development budgets, tight training and cost-effective solutions, such as: Blue Prism, Be Informed B.V, Appian, IPSoft, Tata Consultancy Services Limited, Infosys Limited, Sutherland Global Services and UiPath Srl.

Robert added: “AI is relatively new; it is starting to aid defect diagnosis, and is the root cause analysis, which very much relies on existing test data. However, I feel that as we get to grips with this technology, it will become more powerful and likely start to replace much of the analysis that is done in testing.”

‘A robot is not coming to take your job’

CEO of TestPlant, John Bates, said to the SD Times: “There’s a lot of talk currently about test automation. However, in reality, we’ve only automated one key element: test execution. AI and analytics will be the catalysts to deliver true test automation that recommends the tests to carry out, learns continuously, enabling it to predict business impacts enabling DevOps teams to fix issues before they occur. This will help teams to keep up with user expectations and the pace of DevOps something they are struggling with today.”

During test execution the test manager should monitor the progress as per the test plan, and if required, he/she needs to take control actions in terms of objective and strategy.

Bates added: “Software testers have a very key role. It is absolutely important to understand AI isn’t a robot coming to take your job, but is a smart assistant instead. The software tester is still responsible for modelling the workflow that you have, and setting up the environment and tooling.”

“They are just the ones reviewing the results and looking at the interface to provide recommendations from the systems and the feedback to the development team and to the business.”

Johan Steyn, senior manager for enterprise software quality at Nedbank, agreed: “From the point of view of software testing and quality assurance, I see a definite trend and a push to bring automation into the software testing trade. Technologies around cognitive tools, artificial intelligence and machine learning enable testing teams to test smarter and faster.”

It appears that AI assists, and does not replace peoples’ jobs. Software can’t be released quick enough, playing a large role in innovation and technology. Consumers need to assess how AI can help achieve larger outcomes by involving AI straight into the testing process.

 Written by Leah Alger