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Posted December 21, 2021

100% Test Automation is Not a Good Goal

If you have ever seen the 1976 movie ‘All the President’s Men’ you may remember the phrase “follow the money.” The idea behind this is that political corruption could be exposed merely by looking at financial transfers between parties. In testing, I like to give a slight tweak on this phrase and say, ‘follow the revenue.’ What does this mean? Plainly, we should focus most of our testing efforts in the ways that we will see the most positive return.


One hundred percent test automation is a nice thought in theory, but it might not even be possible. Some code is too difficult to write automation for, some code frankly isn’t important enough to write automation for. We need to leverage a risk-based approach to test automation that focuses on the most important pieces of the software, this is how we generate the best return on investment. Let go of the pipe dream of 100% automation. We need to acknowledge that we will never have enough time to make this happen to a product that is constantly in a state of change. The better goal is to focus on that ROI, things that are going to make your boss and CEO happy. What level of coverage do you actually need? Well, that depends on your appetite for risk and the type of software we are developing. We want to deliver a premium user experience and provide digital confidence for our customers, but remember all bugs are not created equal. A small typo is not going to change the user experience in the same way a full-blown crash would.

For more on test automation and how we should approach it within our overall testing goals check out this video.

Come back next week for our penultimate episode when I dispel the rumor that testing stops once we get into production. Spoiler alert: we’re never done testing.

Photograph of Marcus Merrell.
Test Strategist
Dec 21, 2021
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