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HCL Technologies’ RPA Initiatives for Software Testing


NelsonHall has commented several times on how vendors have been introducing AI into their QA/software testing activities; for example, to enhance defect analysis and prediction.

We have talked less about the use of RPA because it did not seem to bring much innovation on top of what testing software products already offer. Testing software products have been around for over 20 years and are gradually expanding their automation capabilities from test script-based automation to new areas including service virtualization and test data management. In this context, RPA tools, which also tend to work at the same UI level as testing software does, seemed too generic and not specific enough for testing.

But the adoption of RPA in the context of testing is changing: we see clients experimenting with RPA workflow tools to complement or even replace test execution software. We recently talked with HCL Technologies about its RPA initiatives in the context of testing.

Using RPA workflows in the context of testing services has several prerequisites

HCL Technologies posits that there are prerequisites for using RPA in testing:

  • First, around volume. As in test automation, the cost of implementing automation only has a business case if the tasks are performed often
  • Second, around the nature of the tasks. HCL has identified two main options: labor intensive tasks or end-to-end testing services.

Also, it helps if the client already has license rights and can incorporate new bot usage in its existing license agreement.

Automating labor-intensive test activities

An obvious use case for RPA in testing is automating labor-intensive tasks such as test environment provisioning, job scheduling, test data generation or data migration. As HCL Tech highlights, data migration from one format to another, and subsequent testing, is a very good candidate for RPA-based automation, largely for volume reasons.

Some of these labor-intensive tasks can be automated using non-RPA workflows, and RPA is only one of the options for automating them. What matters is that the client can use its existing RPA license agreement and therefore automate these labor-intensive tasks at a limited extra cost.

End-to-end testing

A second use case is around end-to-end testing (E2E), also called business process testing. HCL Tech highlights that E2E testing often requires testing different applications based on different technologies (web, mainframe, client-server) and for which popular test execution tools such as Selenium won’t work. In this case, an important element of the HCL Tech’s automation strategy is around RPA software, initially looking at workflow use cases.

In one example of supporting a client that has business processes involving websites, client-server, and mainframe applications, the testing activities use two different test execution tools (Selenium, and Micro Focus UFT) and manual testing. HCL Tech implemented Automation Anywhere, taking a UI approach, for conducting business process test execution.

An added benefit of E2E testing is that UAT is another use case for RPA scripts.

Another example is for specific technologies, such as Citrix and virtual desktops.

HCL Tech will deploy RPA across testing clients

Looking ahead, HCL Tech wants to deploy RPA across its testing clients; it currently has about seven clients that have adopted RPA for their testing needs.

HCL Tech expects to develop further RPA use cases for test automation. A recent example is HCL Tech’s Zero Touch Testing (ZTT), which combines an ML and MBT approach. ZTT helps to convert UML diagrams into manual test cases and then test scripts using ML and RPA to capture objects from the applications.

Will RPA replace testing software products in the long-run? Probably not. Beyond the cost of license, what matters is the investment made in developing test scripts. Clients will need a very strong business case to scrap their test scripts and redevelop RPA scripts, unless vendors create an IP for automating the migration of test scripts into RPA scripts. The positioning of RPA tools therefore is in orchestrating different test execution tools across multiple applications in different technologies.

The tool ecosystem is also changing, with several RPA ISVs moving into the test automation space and test automation ISVs expanding in the high-growth RPA software market. The nature of tools in the testing space is likely to change and NelsonHall will be monitoring this space.

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