Demystifying intelligent automation
26 May 2022
Organisations are increasingly embracing intelligent automation to deliver efficiencies and free up resources. These solutions are applied to various tasks across industries, with artificial intelligence (AI) providing vital brainpower.
Automation aims to create processes that think, learn and adapt independently, and the technology replaces humans carrying out repetitive tasks with intelligent software robots.
AI-assisted automation will deliver tangible business benefits, and in a digital-first world, the need and demand will continue to grow. By 2024, Gartner estimates organisations will lower operational costs by 30 percent by combining advanced hyper-automation technologies with redesigned operational processes.
One area that intelligent automation is transforming is software testing. To learn more about intelligent automation, we asked Dr. Gareth Smith, Keysight's General Manager of Software Test Automation, to share his thoughts.
What is intelligent automation?
Intelligent automation applies innovative technologies like AI, machine learning (ML), and robotic process automation (RPA) to scale and streamline decision-making and processes to deliver operational efficiencies. The AI assists in the automation of processes to deliver better and faster results.
How is intelligent automation transforming software testing?
Intelligent automation uses technologies like AI to evaluate systems and auto-generate previously resource-intensive assets (such as scripts), analyse the results to predict bugs, and adjust the automation logic to improve test coverage and overall quality. This is a profound change from the testing environment of a couple of years ago.
Then, software testing was perceived as a box-ticking activity to ensure that a product or system passed pre-defined and largely static tests.
Manual testing provides the "intelligence" but is too slow for modern systems and isn't comprehensive, making it obsolete – and there are more effective ways to use your workforce. Similarly, legacy test automation didn't incorporate intelligent technologies and relied on running the same script every time software was released.
These approaches fail to spot new bugs, do not proactively find weak points in a system, and lack the brains to identify what is critical to test from a user's perspective.
In a digitally dependent world, it's no longer sufficient to rely only on verifying that a system meets the requirements. Instead, organisations must also be able to validate that their solutions meet users' needs; it's essential to understand and gauge the digital user experience. This requires continuously testing real user journeys across all touchpoints, browsers, devices, and systems. And the only way to do this is by integrating intelligent technologies that automate testing from the user perspective and garnering insights to optimise the experience.
Intelligent automation is like unleashing an army of AI-powered bots onto applications, websites, and processes that behave like real users and explore (and experience) the workflows (or user journeys) as real users would. The automation needs to encompass more than functional testing and blend in performance and usability aspects. This accelerates the release of high-quality software because you find meaningful problems and defects in those real-world flows. The result is a smarter, more cost-effective way of continuously testing software and apps.
What is the role of AI in intelligent automation?
AI enables testing to move beyond simple rule-based automation. It utilises algorithms to efficiently train systems using large data sets (and there is a lot of data available in the testing world). It can mimic human behaviour through the application of reasoning and problem-solving and works by executing automated test routines that reflect the actions of real human users. The AI hunts for user interface errors, bugs, and performance glitches and then auto-fixes issues before they can impact the user experience.
The automation increases coverage by considering every potential user journey and predicting and identifying any bottlenecks that may affect performance. As the AI algorithm learns, it continuously improves the quality and performance of systems and software, providing a competitive advantage.
Tell us more about how intelligent test automation helps organisations deliver a seamless experience that meets user expectations?
Intelligent automation enables companies to understand software exactly as a user does, below are a couple of examples of how organisations are harnessing the power of this technology.
NASA uses intelligent test automation in the Orion space programme to ensure that onboard software and equipment work as expected and don't have any faults. By deploying intelligent automation, NASA can accelerate the delivery and quality of its complex, mission-critical software system.
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is world-renowned for its excellence in healthcare, training, and research. It uses IA to support with regression testing, populate training domains, appointment scheduling and add patient observations. The reliability, predictability, and consistency of the automation has helped the hospital improve productivity and accelerate the pace of testing.
Do organisations need more IT/technical resources to manage intelligent automation?
Another benefit of intelligent automation is that it’s easy to use. Many of the solutions are low code/no code, so they don't require a programming background to run and manage automation efforts.
What are the overarching benefits of intelligent automation?
There are many benefits that organisations, irrespective of industry, can expect from integrating intelligent automation.
Some of the primary advantages include:
• Reduces costs: by automating systems and processes, it's easier and quicker to scale
• Increases accuracy: the AI guides the decision-making and provides a consistent approach to routine tasks removing human constraints
• Enhances the digital user experience: the intelligence improves the quality of products enhancing the user experience
How does intelligent automation help once software and applications are released?
Once software is live, organisations need a way to continuously monitor the performance in order to identify and resolve issues that occur. Intelligent automation can extend into production to test those environments just as they do in development but now bring back insights from the outside world.
An obvious place to start is to look at the parts of the system that work in the lab but not in production. The AI can garner and understand real customer journeys – highlighting the most used and highest valuable elements and user journeys (flows) through the production system. This can then be used to prioritise and direct testing to improve the overall experience and quality for those real users.
What can we expect from intelligent automation in the coming years?
Very few systems or organisations are getting simpler or slowing down. The growing range of facets to any digital organisation is increasing in number and variety. On top of this, the need to be faster and more agile means that an intelligent automation platform is the only way to keep up with innovation and deliver a quality experience to users and customers. Those organisations that don't adopt it will struggle to remain competitive.
Intelligent automation will evolve to provide a platform for future organisations to optimise their available resources to meet the increasing demand for high-quality, differentiated offerings and become more relevant to the overall business.
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