Robotic Process Automation: Is it the Same As Test Automation?

  December 19, 2019

Automation is in every business leader’s mind these days. They strive to automate their processes to save costs, increase productivity and accuracy, and remove the burden of tedious and repetitive tasks from the shoulders of their employees. This is why Robotic Process Automation is gaining momentum among many businesses. But what is it? Is it the same philosophy as test automation?

In today’s article, we’re going to discuss two critical methods in automation: Robotic Process Automation and Test Automation. We will see what they have in common, how they’re different, and how the handy Robot Framework can help you get the best of both worlds.

What Is Robotic Process Automation?

Robotic process automation (or RPA) helps organizations automate business processes with virtual robots (bots) and/or artificial intelligence.

Workflow automation isn’t new, and traditionally, software engineers write code that communicates with a system via its API to automate tasks.

However, robotic process automation doesn’t require a person to write code. Instead, the RPA system creates a list of actions by watching a user perform tasks on an app’s graphical interface. Then, it’s able to automatically repeat these steps, freeing personnel of otherwise repetitive and time-consuming assignments.

Just like a human, the RPA bots use the keyboard and mouse – but they don’t need a screen and instead work in a virtual environment.

The main goals of process automation are to save cost, time, and to allow employees to work on other, more demanding things. Robotic process automation has proven to be of excellent help to businesses to achieve these objectives, but it can also cause other bottlenecks and problems if not implemented correctly.

The Benefits of Robotic Process Automation

You can utilize robotic process automation for tasks in accounting software, product management, forecasting, general back-office tasks, data migration, etc. Basically, almost all actions that are repetitive and follow a particular set of rules/actions can be handled by RPA.

In short, the advantages of robotic process automation include:

  • improves accuracy compared to human output and minimizes errors
  • reduces costs
  • increases productivity
  • frees personnel of tedious, monotonous tasks
  • creates space for innovation

Benefits of Robotic Process Automation

What Is Test Automation?

Test automation, when testing software and apps, is an essential part of continuous delivery and continuous testing. We talked about the necessity of these concepts in our blog at length.

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. Thus, paving the way for the continuous deployment of apps and software.

A typical test method is UI testing, for which testers usually use specialized frameworks. These frameworks enable them to automate UI interactions and validate the system’s behavior. If testers were to execute these tests manually, they’d never be able to test adequately, find issues on different platforms, and possibly overlook specific bugs.

Once tests are automated, testers can run them repeatedly in different environments, such as on various mobile devices, saving time and money.

Benefits of test automation include:

  • saves time and costs
  • increases test coverage
  • reduces manual actions
  • improves accuracy when compared to manual tests
  • shortens time-to-market

Are Robotic Process Automation and Test Automation the Same?

Now that we’ve looked at robotic process automation and test automation, it’s clear why they might be thought of as one and the same. Businesses utilize them to automate tasks, save costs, and free their employee’s time for other things.

If we look at RPA and test automation tools from a technical point of view, we can see other similarities. Especially UI test automation seems very similar to RPA since tools for both practices automate UI interactions.

To do this, these tools repeat the actions instructed by the user or tester. Thus, companies benefit from similar advantages for both methods.

However, robotic process automation and test automation are, in fact, not the same. Let’s discover why.

First of all, RPA is not necessarily used for testing, but for automating business processes. So it’s a much broader term than test automation, which is all about testing products. Additionally, test automation usually requires testers to write scripts using a programming language, while RPA doesn’t require code to automate tasks.

This discovery leads us to the next big difference: test scripts created for test automation depend on the system under test (SUT). Robotic process automation tools, on the other hand, do not differentiate in whether they automate data migration to an accounting system or flag your emails, for example. These tools do not depend on the software on which a process is running.

Achieve Test Automation and RPA with the Robot Framework

If you want to create your own robotic process automation tool and use intelligent test automation, you will find a suitable tool in the open-source Robot Framework. Typically, companies try to use as few tools as possible to save resources and keep maintenance and documentation to a minimum. Thus, the framework can be the optimal choice for any company, regardless of its size.

Robot Framework has mainly two use cases:

  1. You can automate acceptance testing, but you can also create data-driven and behavior-driven tests.
  2. You can automate business processes and integrate it with any other tool to create custom RPA tools.

As we learned above, RPA tools don’t work with software directly – the same is true for the Robot framework. If developers or testers want to use it for test automation, for example, they need to pick a fitting library that takes over communication between the framework’s core and the system under test.

Due to the big and active community of developers, Robot Framework is continuously maintained and improved. They also work on and manage the various available libraries, such as HTTP APIs, iOS and Android app support, database access, etc.

Another key benefit of the Robot framework is the use of keyword-driven implementation. Testers don’t need to be skilled programmers because they write these keywords in English.

As a result, test cases are not dependent on a specific language (similar to BDD), so teams can work on test cases very early. Additionally, tests are easier to maintain, can be reused throughout the project, and are understandable for most team members.

Get Started with the Robot Framework

No matter whether you are looking for a framework for RPA or test automation – the Robot framework is an optimal, future-proof solution to create both! You can find everything needed to start working with the framework on its website.

Of course, you can use the Robot framework for automating your mobile app tests as well! We’ve published a detailed blog post that describes how you can get started with the Robot Framework for mobile test automation in our Bitbar Cloud.

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