25 Jul 2012

Self Service Checkouts vs Automated Testing

  • Testing

I’ve mentioned self service checkouts before and I’m not entirely sure why I keep finding myself in a position where they inspire me to blog but it has happened again.

These checkouts have been slated in the past as a means to ‘replace’ checkout staff with an automated machine that can do the same task. On the whole they have been a great success especially in busy places where people are only ever buying a few items i.e. train stations or express supermarkets in central London because you can squeeze a lot of them in a small space.


However the natural assumption to come to with this information is that human jobs are being replaced with machines (much like the manufacturing industry) with many people are losing employment as a result. While this is potentially the case it does not need to be; one of the best implementations of self service I have seen is at the DIY store B&Q.

They have fully embraced self service to the point where in recent years I have only ever seen a maximum of 2 people working on regular checkouts at any one time. This frees up their staff to take on more specialist roles; a great example of this could be more staff on the trading floor with the knowledge to answer any questions customers might have. The nature of custom at B&Q means that you are likely to get some people who are not fully informed about what they need or are unable to distinguish between two similar products. It is these situations where a specialist’s opinion would be greatly appreciated. This in turn might give the employee a greater sense of ‘worth’ because they aren’t just sat there scanning items all day.

B&Q have proved these machines can be used in combination with existing staff to produce a better shopping experience for their customers. Now to my actual point; what if we take this same theory and apply it to testing? Consider this:

  • Employees = Testers
  • Self Service = Automated Tests
  • Shopping Experience = Testing Process

Basically the same overall principle applies if you make the above assumptions. Testers could be using automated tests to increase efficiency of simple tasks, freeing them up to do the more specialised, important and useful testing in greater detail. By doing this you are providing your employees with the opportunity to skip over the more repetitive and mundane work and hopefully keep them better motivated for the remaining (and more interesting) work.

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