RPA vs Test Automation: What are the Differences?
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RPA vs Test Automation: What are the Differences?

rpa vs test automation differences

Let's take a minute to get some high level context regarding the similarities and differences between test automation and RPA.

Intension of RPA:

The intention of RPA is to do work, and that means following a series of steps to get production work done.

And what I mean by production work is tasks that are responsible for the revenue of the business. To do so, RPA uses system features of the same business systems that humans use to get the same tasks done.

Intension of Test Automation:

The intention of test automation is to check systems, and that means to follow a series of steps to verify that a system feature works.

And interestingly, the system features that we're verifying may or may not be the same systems that RPA is using to get work done.

An Example to Understand:

For example, an finance company could use internal Web based workflow systems and mainframes to process premium payments that customers are sending in for loan finance policies. It's also possible that the same company could produce customer facing websites that those customers use to buy finance policies

So the test automation could be checking systems that customers use, while RPA could be using internal systems that customers never see. Or it could be a mix of both. So for that reason, your test automation scripts might or might not benefit from reusing RPA workflows and assets.

RPA assumes the task to succeed before starting

Test Automation don't assume but will check if it is success

Variation: RPA vs Test Automation

The maintenance of RPA is as minimal as possible. We want to use the same systems, same features, same configuration and same steps every single time. And we're assuming that the task is going to succeed.

And when I say same configuration, I mean even to the extent of which browser we use, the RPA developer might make a choice to use the Chrome browser because maybe it makes it easier to download files where the humans were normally using Internet Explorer.

The bottom line, though, is the RPA system will always use the same browser on every run. The variation for test automation is to try a maximum number of realistic possibilities to make sure the systems will work for all customers.

So in that way, we try the process on all plausible system configurations. And again, there we're talking about different browsers like Firefox, Chrome and so on. Each test automation test case will assert success.

And that just means that we gather up evidence after performing a series of steps and we compare it against expected results. If the output matches expected results, then the test case passes.Otherwise, the test is marked as a failure. 

Operators: RPA vs Test Automation

The primary stakeholders for RPA are the operations teams, which, like I said before, are performing tasks that have a direct correlation on the income of the business. And then, of course, support teams like Finance and Marketing and H.R., who do lots of busy work to ensure that the operations teams have customers and work to do, the stakeholders for test automation are usually the I.T. team.

And more specifically, the research and development department. And this may potentially be outsourced because some companies will outsource any tasks or efforts that are not deemed to be a core product of the company.

So, again, in the case of an finance company, they might consider their products to be the finance loan itself. So they would outsource all of the I.T. work to external vendors whose sole focus is doing technology work, whereas a company who produces a social media web app like Facebook or Twitter or Slack, the research and development is core to that business.

So the I.T. team and test automation folks would be internal to a company like that.

End Goal: RPA vs Test Automation

The output of RPA is a count of completed items and also a list of exceptions that human associates will have to perform manually. The output of test automation is an aggregated summary of all the passes and failures across all attempted configurations like different browsers or operating systems.

The questions that are asked of the test automation output are whether the threshold of failures is within acceptable boundaries. And more specifically, can we ship the product or are there too many bugs that need to be fixed? Also, will the failures break our robots?

From a relationship perspective, running test automation against the systems that RPA depends on can help us know whether changes have occurred in any of those systems that might cause the bots to stop working.

As I mentioned before, though, traditional test automation might have been focused on products that are produced for customers to use and not necessarily on internal tools that the operations team uses to do work, because those tools like maybe JIRA or a WD or Slack or teams, those tools might have been created by third party companies.

So why on earth would we create test automation scripts to test somebody else's products? So this is where we start to blur the line between test automation and RPA and start thinking differently.

Scope: RPA vs Test Automation

If we consider that RPA processes and test automation can share workflows, now we start thinking about an era where we can extend the scope of test automation to also test the systems that the operations teams and the RPA robots are using to do production work.

There are caveats, though. Like I mentioned before, since RPA is expected to always use the same configuration, especially the same browser, the workflows that were developed for RPA might not have been designed to allow the desired browser to be passed in at runtime.

So there is some chance that you may need to re architect or refactor the RPA workflows in order to reuse them in your test automation. So hopefully you can see there's a lot to think about here. When we tried to maximize the value of using the same tool for both RPA and test automation, we almost end up with three different categories.

The RPA itself, the test automation itself that might be focused on systems other than the systems used by the RPA bots. And then a third category where we develop test automation, specifically designed to make sure that the systems that the RPA bots are using remain functional.

There's a great argument to be made that if you simply run your bots themselves in lower environments like Dev or Testor stage, that the bots themselves will reveal any problems and you won't need any RPA specific test automation.

So that's some stuff to think about.

reference: futurerpa


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