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Automation to Orchestration - test orchestration

All you Need to Know about Test Orchestration: How to Streamline Your Testing

This post is part of our Back To Basics series that looks back into the basics of testing to uncover some hidden truth that got lost on our way to full-blown DevOps.

Due to the influx of terminology, many overlaps, repetitions, and contradictions-in-term find their way into the everyday jargon of testing teams and create confusion, not to mention lessen the impact of what you’ve spent years learning. Sometimes it’s harmless, but in other cases, it can lead to communication blocks and an operation sprinkled with error and waste.

This is precisely the case with “automation” and “orchestration,” words that tend to get tangled and used interchangeably. Refining the difference between these two terms can help QA managers and testing teams as a whole get on the same page as they automate and orchestrate their operations.

Taking the First Test Automation Steps Can Be Hard

Automation in testing and software development is about taking a single, repetitive task and writing a script that will run it automatically. In most cases, automation requires preliminary code work. (Spoiler alert: TestCraft takes coding out of test automation.) Once the script has been written, it can be run as many times as needed, as fast as needed, simultaneously on various working environments and under different conditions.

Automation is an efficiency tool. It saves time, it eliminates human errors and frees these humans to perform more demanding tasks. The time-saving property of test automation is a crucial one. Not only can it speed up a specific task, but taken large scale, it can speed up the entire testing and development processes, resulting in shorter release cycles – the holy grail of agile DevOps.

Orchestration Can Be Even Harder

Compared to automation, orchestration offers a broader approach to testing. If automation deals with the single task, orchestration looks at the entire testing operation to figure out exactly where optimization can take place.

A testing operation is made of a series of tasks, whether these tasks are completed automatically or manually. When you combine hundreds, if not thousands, of processes, you get a computer program. Orchestration aims to take these individual tasks and streamline them in the best way possible to achieve a (hopefully) flawless testing process.

Orchestration can be the integration of manual and automated testing.

Orchestration can be using ‘task building blocks’ to achieve higher efficiency.

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Orchestration can be the utilization of automation.

Where Test Automation Tools and Orchestration Intersect

This is where we get to the core of things, where automation and orchestration intersect. Optimization of testing operations can’t be achieved just by using automated testing tools. Automation alone is purely technical, driven by code. It doesn’t necessarily require consideration of the big picture or weighing in on how a particular decision will impact an entire process. Not to diminish the complexity of a test automation framework, it’s simply straightforward.

With orchestration, there are many things to consider; not for nothing, the term is derived from the act of a single person responsible for the unison output of a large group of people and where precision and collaboration is key.

Orchestration is meant to optimize and streamline a process while considering many different causes and effects, actions and reactions, where automation is one of the methods or tools, to accomplish that. The goal is always the same: higher efficiency.

What Can We Learn From This?

We can learn that automation is never the goal, but rather the means to achieve the goal.

In today’s environment, where QA managers are bombarded from all directions with more and more advanced automation solutions that promise to solve all their testing aches, this is a distinction worth spending time on.

Automation isn’t a magic potion. If your testing operation is struggling to produce reliable test plans and reports, to achieve healthy defect rejection and leakage ratios, and to meet deadlines – automation isn’t going to make all this go away. (And remember? Automation can be hard to do.) Smart and resourceful orchestration, on the other hand, will.

Automation is considered complex due only to its reliance on code, which requires significant investments of time and labor. With the implementation of codeless test automation, we eliminate the setup and maintenance costs of scripting, and all of a sudden the road to automation looks short, straight and bumpless.

Implementing codeless automation frees QA managers to focus on orchestration, where the skills, knowledge, and insights of the manager can really make a difference.

Cover photo by Radek Grzybowski on Unsplash