Software Testing & Buying stuff to create a new habit !

I enjoy reading and do not stop at software testing or technical subjects. My reading covers a variety of topics and sources which include other blogs, books, magazines, web sites, etc. Included in this category of content that I consume is - personal finance. Recently, while reading on this subject, i came across an article about "Buying stuff to create a new habit". It sure struck a chord and I could relate to what was being said in the article.

The article talks about a human tendency to buy stuff in the desire to create a new way of life or habit. For example, lets say that one day you feel attracted towards exercising. You decide to work-out at the gym regularly. You now enroll in a gym and the gym requires a minimum membership of say 6 months. At that moment, you are very passionate about exercising and pay up the necessary membership fees. You plan to get up early each morning and hit the gym for about an hour of fitness training and exercising.

Early next day morning you are all perked up and ready to begin a new routine. The first day at the gym feels great and you think you have made a good decision of enrolling. You think that this is something you want to do regularly from then on. If you are like most of us regular people, after a week or couple of weeks, you might find that it becomes harder to get off the bed in the morning and hit the gym. You find that you have a lot of tasks that require your attention and very little time to spend exercising. Or some other reason causes you to postpone going to the gym to another day. You might think that - "after all i am just skipping the gym visit for a day. I'll make up for it tomorrow; probably do a few extra sets of exercises." Before long, your passion and interest in exercising wanes and before you realize it you are busy with something else.

On hindsight, you might observe that you spent a significant sum of money on the gym membership (plus probably on other paraphernalia too, such as suitable clothing and shoes for working out at the gym) without really having used it much. You have actually lost a lot of money trying to chase a passing interest. Of course, there are exceptions and there are folks who continue to pursue such interests with sustained passion. On average, people tend to engage in similar activities (not necessarily exercising but could involve a range of other passions) that affect their financial well being without bringing in any real benefit.

There are many such examples and these are not hard to find. Look at your own lives and see if you can find such instances where you paid money or bought stuff in the hope that you would get better at something or be something /someone else or acquire a new habit ? For example, have you spent money on expensive sporting gear hoping that it would help improve your game ? Or enrolled for courses or programs in the hope that you would somehow be miraculously transformed into whatever you were hoping to be ? Or purchased some equipment or tools with a similar hope in mind ? I am sure that if we look hard enough, such instances would show up. This period of fascination with our new attraction is termed as the "honeymoon period". Due to our focus on this new activity or project we tend to think we will want to continue it for a long time to come. Consequently, we feel the urge to also equip ourselves for the long haul and "invest" in outfitting ourselves appropriately. 

If you are still reading this and wondering why I am talking about personal finance on a testing blog, worry not. I was just trying to see if I could draw a parallel to how organizations behave with regard to tools used in software testing and automation in particular. The organization may have set lofty goals for test automation and is looking to obtain a tool. It may be that a vendor has sold the decision makers with the virtues of their automation tool and convinced them about the extra-ordinary (probably bordering on the super-natural) capabilities of their automation software.

Sales pitches may expound the - "simple record and play" automation capabilities of the tool, ability to drastically cut down test cycle time from weeks or days to few hours, ability to reduce or even eliminate the need for human testers, ability to automate all of the tests, possibility of having a "one-click" automation suite up and running in very little time irrespective of the complexity and nature of the software being tested,  and many such entertaining comments. What happens next is that without much due diligence the organization pays significant sums of money to procure licenses for the tool and the mandate goes across the testing group to start automation using the shiny new toy. What are the chances that the tool will meet the requirements of the testing group, be compatible with the software being tested, have a short and easy learning curve, can automate the existing tests (web based, client server, GUI/CLI/API, etc), be able to handle the volume and load of real world testing, support the software requirements (such as multiple browsers and versions in the case of web based software, different OS platforms, different databases, various environments, etc), and satisfy many other details & needs that would determine whether the tool will really be of use or turn out to be a waste of money, time and resources.

From experience, i have come across instances where tools procured by various groups were either under-utilized or remained unused despite huge sums of money having been paid to procure them. Once realization dawns that the purchase was a mistake or not the right choice, it often tends to be a downhill ride from there for automation and usage of the tool. The impact of choosing an inappropriate tool can be the subject of another blog post. Suffice it to say that procuring a tool without analyzing your specific needs and requirements, evaluating various tools and vendors, performing due diligence, trying out a trial version of the tool against your product and setting the right expectations on automation, can be an expensive proposition.
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