The terms Test Automation and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are the two common terms within the field of software automation. They look identical as they both contain ‘Automation’ and offer the same features of reducing manual tasks. But these two are not the same as another. We will see in this article how they both are different even though they have some similarities. Let’s get started with their definitions:
What is Test Automation?
Test Automation is a method in software engineering that execute the test cases with the help of an automation tool. It further compares the actual results with the predicted ones. Test Automation helps developers and testers save time and increase test coverage by automating repetitive test cases. Test teams can reduce manual test efforts and eliminate bottlenecks. It is an important stage of a development process that is used to add additional testing that may be difficult to perform manually.
Advantages of Test Automation
Figure 1: Advantages of Test Automation
What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?
Robotic Process Automation or RPA is a term for a piece of software, or a ‘robot’, which carries out tasks and activities within systems, or applications, in the same way a human would. The term “Robotic Process Automation” imply visions of physical robots wandering around offices performing human tasks, the term really means automation of service tasks that were previously performed by humans. RPA is a practice of automating the business processes using software robots.
To get a brief idea on RPA and RPA tools, have a look at the article https://www.brainbox.consulting/blogs-news/software-testing-blog/robotic-process-automation/ .
Advantages of RPA
Figure 2: Advantages of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Difference between Test Automation and RPA
Now that we have looked at what is Test Automation and RPA, it is possible to think that they both are one and the same. Organizations use them to automate tasks, save costs and increase efficiency. Specially UI test automation looks very similar to RPA as both include automation of user interactions. But, however similar they might look, Test Automation and Robotic Process Automation are not the same. Let us see in this section how test automation and RPA are different.
Test automation is solely used for testing. Its main purpose is to check and verify if a software or hardware is working as it is intended to and to make sure there are no bugs and failures in an application’s operation.
Whereas RPA is not used for testing. It is used to automate business processes and does not include any testing. Its purpose is to improve the efficiency of processes in an organization and making it easier by automating repetitive business processes.
One of the main differences between Test Automation and RPA is the System under Test (SUT). Test automation can be applied only to a single software, application or product and its features.
RPA can be applied to the product as well as other business processes. RPA flows can run through different applications simultaneously.
Test automation is implemented across different environments (i.e., QA, Production, Performance, UAT).
RPA only needs a single production environment.
- Technology involved
Test automation can execute only what is coded in it. It just follows what it is instructed to do to test the System Under Test and does not do anything more.
Recent RPA tools use Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology that learn from human interaction with applications and imitate the same, improving the efficiency of process by learning from it.
- Domain knowledge and process knowledge
While performing Test Automation, it is very important for testers to have domain knowledge of application or System Under Test. This is needed to define efficient test scenarios and create test cases that can then be automated.
For Robotic Process Automation, it is important to have knowledge of the business processes involved. To know how the business processes are linked and how they interact with each other is important to automate the processes. However, RPA do not need in-depth knowledge of how the applications involved work internally.
- Programming knowledge
Traditional test automation requires knowledge of at least one programming language to automate test cases. Although now, there is more use of codeless and low code automation tools in the market, there is still coding involved in most of the automation tools.
RPA tools mostly use tools that have drag and drop features which are intuitive in nature. RPA allows user to automate processes through visual interface and it then generates the code accordingly. This makes programming knowledge not necessary to automate using RPA.
- Tools used
It may seem like we can use Test Automation tools for RPA as well. But as we saw in earlier points, even though they may seem similar, there are different tools available for Test Automation and RPA.
RPA tools use intuitive automation that takes user inputs through visual interface. UiPath and iRPA of SAP are two examples of RPA tools. It is not possible to automate business processes using Selenium.
There are multiple tools for test automation depending on what you are testing. Selenium is an important tool to test web applications.
As we have seen in the article, Robotic Process Automation does look a lot like Test Automation. Yet they are not the same. The main difference being RPA is used to automate business processes and Test Automation is used to test an application, software, or a product. They both hold their own ground in their respective fields. The similarity is, both Test Automation and RPA help in increasing efficiency for an organization.
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