In today’s dynamic technological environment, some manual testers are voicing concerns, sometimes leading to strange and polarizing statements. But as the demarcation between human and machine capabilities continues to blur, manual testers should embrace the change and redefine their roles.
“Only humans can truly test.”
“Automation is just checking.”
“AI in testing is unreliable.”
“Engineering teams without human testers are risky.”
… are destructive to the testers themselves, and their field. These sometimes cringy statements are reflective of concerns from a section of the testing community that isn’t open to adapting, or understang how to collaborate in this modern world of software testing. However, top-tier manual testers are too engrossed in adding value to engage in such debates. Many of them are finding ways to adapt and remain relevant.
The rapid advancements in automated testing and AI have undeniably raised questions about the role of manual testers. As the pace of software development quickens and AI becomes more integrated into all other aspects of software engineering and company operations, there’s a pressing question: “Why isn’t AI handling most of my testing?”
The Evolution of ‘Manual Testing’
The term “Manual Testing” itself has been under scrutiny — by manual testers themselves. There have been attempts to rebrand, by strangely redefining other diciplines or common words such as “testing” and “automation” which are used widely — even outside the software testing world. The community could consider alternatives like “Human Testing” or “Live Testing”, but that’s really a non-starter, and would only add to the confusion. Still others attempt to redefine other types of testing as “checking” — but that is pretty transparent, and appears desparate. A simple name change, or verbal gymsastcis won’t solve the perceived problems or eliminate the underlying concerns.
The Path Forward for Manual Testers
Embrace AI and Automation: Rather than viewing automation as a threat, or an us-vs-them situation, testers should see it as an opportunity to enhance their work. With generative AI, it is embarassingly easy to incorporate AI to improve manual testing processes (An example of exploratory testing with AI). Recognize the areas where automation excels and leverage it.
Highlight Human Uniqueness: Manual testers possess unique qualities and the community should be highlighting these areas, exploring these areas more deeply, and articulating that uniqueness vs bashing the inevitable.
Evaluating undefined software behavior.
Judging software’s aesthetics and user-friendliness.
Undertaking Negative Testing.
Grasping business contexts.
Exploring edge-cases and more
Breadth of Coverage
Summary / Articulation of quality
Quick, Hot-fix checks
Quick, Interactive Iteration with Developers/PM
Emulating humans/users expectations
Collaborating with product and engineering
More fun to have lunch with–-if they have a good personality.
Articulate the Value of Manual Testing
Immediate Feedback: Manual testers provide instant feedback before automated tests can be written or executed.
Cost Efficiency: Not every test needs to be automated, especially for infrequently-changing, or lower-risk regression areas. Human testers offer flexibility.
Accountability: While it’s hard to blame algorithms, human testers can provide reasoned explanations for software behavior — and can take the blame (aka Testing is Insurance).
Talent Availability: Recruiting and retaining manual testers is often more straightforward than sourcing automation specialists.
While AI and automation are reshaping the testing landscape, there remains definitive space for human insight and intuition. Rather than resisting change, manual testers can seize the opportunity to reinvent themselves, merging their uniquely human touch with the efficiencies of automation.
The future might see fewer “manual testers” in the traditional sense, but those who adapt, who bring their human skills to the fore and merge them with technological advancements, will be invaluable — transcending labels, and truly epitomizing the essence of testing.
— Jason Arbon