Even though the pandemic accelerated a worldwide digital transformation, some companies still hesitate to automate their most time-consuming tasks.
While the adoption rates of digital tools like password managers, security software, and VPN solutions skyrocketed over the last couple of years, implementing automation is still something companies refuse to look into. Nevertheless, our guest today believes that in a few years, all repetitive company tasks will be automated and employees will no longer need to act like robots.
To discuss how technology can enhance business operations, we invited Jonas Menesklou, the CEO and Co-Founder at askui – a company harnessing the power of AI to automate various UI processes.
How did the idea of askui originate? What has your journey been like so far?
The idea of askui came from industry projects from our previous teams. Test automation was always a big point of discussion and we thought there must be a better way. After a lecture at university about computer vision and AI, it was clear to us that we wanted to deal with the topic and completely rethink the whole thing. We started as a no-code tool and have developed into a developer tool through customer feedback – our technology enables the automation of various use cases that were very difficult to automate with previous methods.
Can you introduce us to your UI testing solution? What are its key features?
Our client library allows you to interact with any UI element which is visible on your screen. All we need is an instruction about the action you are planning to perform in a human-readable way. We then take a screenshot of the operating system and match the instruction with the elements our AI detected. If there’s a match, we move the mouse to the position and perform the action.
As we are controlling operating systems instead of applications themselves, we can automate any use case on any UI technology out there. You can even reuse the same test steps for different operating systems. Another key point is that we are very robust to visual changes within the UI. As we do not require an object repository to work, we don’t care if you change the color or position of your elements.
What would you consider the main challenges development teams run into nowadays?
Delivering quality software on time is quite challenging. As release cycles are becoming shorter every year, it is hard to keep up with all processes involved in QA. This forces companies to automate as much as they can – and software testing is one crucial point there as it is still seen as the bottleneck of software development.
Another challenge is clear communication within the team. It is no wonder that there are so many tools for business communication out there. There is a whole discussion alone on the topic of asynchronous and synchronous communication. We have made huge steps with tools supporting agile development in recent years, but there is still a long way to go. Especially considering remote work as another factor in this formula.
How do you think the recent global events affected your field of work?
We were lucky that most of it didn’t affect us directly. We even started our company at the beginning of the pandemic and could implement a remote working policy from the beginning. Looking at the events in eastern Europe, I am more concerned. It is such a shame what is happening there. Two weeks prior to the start of the war, I was at a Ukrainian conference talking about software testing. Luckily, the colleagues are safe, but it was quite a shock hearing the news.
What are the best practices companies should follow when developing, and, when launching applications?
I think the answer depends on the size and industry of the company. In general, for smaller companies, the main priority should be to learn very quickly – which involves fast releases and short cycles. This could change if you are in a more regulated industry such as banking or healthcare. In larger companies, the quality and scalability of the product are more important as more users are likely to use it on launch day.
A common best practice is to set up processes that allow everyone involved to know what they need to do and what their responsibilities are at any given time. Therefore, implementing and living agile methodologies is key. Also, make sure you have a clear test strategy in place which covers the complete range from unit to end-to-end tests.
In your opinion, what kind of tests and checkups should every company conduct regularly?
I am a huge fan of Test Driven Development. A broad basis of code coverage with unit tests is surely a good start. But you shouldn’t ignore integration tests and UI tests as well. Identifying the most critical features of your software as a first step always helps. Depending on your resources, you should prioritize these and then start to design a test strategy for these features. A good example is the checkout process in eCommerce, which should be covered on every test level out there – as it is the most critical one when failing (besides the Login).
Talking about personal cybersecurity, what measures do you think everyone should implement to protect themselves from emerging threats?
The biggest security gap in companies is still the human factor. Most attacks today are social engineering attacks. Therefore, every company should have clear role assignments in order to be able to protect itself well against such attacks. Employee training is also essential – every employee should be able to recognize phishing emails directly.
What other company processes do you hope to see automated in the next few years?
Our vision is a world where humans are freed from being robots. This involves automating every task which is done more than once. I sincerely hope that we can achieve this goal within the next 10-15 years. A good point to start is the automation of repetitive tasks within businesses. Especially in document processing, a lot of tools are starting to evolve which provide real value. But we are still exploring what is possible.
What does the future hold for askui?
Right now, we are in early access and are gathering feedback. We have some promising results and will be going live on GitHub in June.
In the long term, our technology allows us to automate any process which is done on any UI – based on an instruction written with our fluent API. We are an AI-first company and are also strongly looking into the NLP space. We want to understand workflows and use that for automation based on a single context instruction, such as by providing the instruction “Log in”, our AI will be able to figure out the process by itself whether it's 2FA or a simple password.