Story behind Robot Framework: How an inspiration created an exceptional concept

Mar 10, 2021 / by Qentinel

Pekka Klärck is the main developer behind Robot Framework, the open source test automation and RPA framework. Pekka shares how he was inspired to start developing exceptionally usable automation framework valued by thousands.

1. How did you get introduced to the world of testing?

I have Master of Science from Computer Science at Helsinki University of Technology, nowadays known as Aalto University. I started my studies at Mechanical Engineering and was reading Computer Science as a minor, but at some point I decided I wanted to study it more and changed the department. At the same time in 2000 I thought it would be good to get work experience as well and was able to get a job at F-Secure doing testing. My closest boss was Kalle Huttunen who’s nowadays a manager at Qentinel. Thanks Kalle for the first real job and for introducing me to the testing world!

2. What did you see that you got inspired to work on Robot Framework?

I got into automation very early in my career. I first wrote some simple Perl scripts but over the years created some custom automation frameworks using data-driven and keyword-driven approaches. When it was time for me to write my Master’s Thesis, I decided to study automation frameworks more and read pretty much everything related to it I could find. That literature study and my own experiences were the bases for the prototypes I did for my thesis and Robot Framework was then created based on those prototypes.

3. What is the core problem that you were trying to solve?

In my thesis my goal was to identify and also implement generic components that could be used when creating custom automation frameworks in different domains. I was thinking we could perhaps have a generic parser and maybe a logger, but it turned out we can actually have a generic automation framework that can be extended with libraries.

4. How and where was Robot framework born?

Robot Framework was born based on the aforementioned prototypes. A colleague from some earlier automation project, Petri Haapio, had joined Nokia Networks and they needed an automation solution. He asked would I have ideas related to that, and I proposed creating a framework based on my thesis concepts. They bought the idea and we started developing the framework for Nokia Networks in 2005.

5. Who were the people that helped you build it?

When Robot Framework project started, I worked for Qentinel myself and the first person to join the project with me was Juha Rantanen also from Qentinel. The team working for Nokia slowly grew to 5-6 persons. We had people from different consulting companies and at some time in those early days I also started to work as an independent consultant.

6. What happened after the initial days of Robot Framework?

The usage at Nokia Networks grew organically and the framework was taken into use in different business lines. Our team was helping users and often this helping meant adding new features.

7. Where did the idea of open-sourcing Robot Framework originated from?

I was thinking about that from the very beginning. Petri agreed it would be a good idea and was somehow able to get a permission from Nokia lawyers as well. This happened in 2008 but our team worked for Nokia still after that.

8. When and why was the foundation formed?

The framework became popular in Finland pretty quickly after open sourcing. At some point consulting companies selling services related to it became worried what would happen if Nokia would not anymore sponsor the core development team. The foundation was founded to mitigate that risk in 2015 and it was less than a year from that when the direct Nokia sponsorship ended and the foundation took the main role in paying for development.

9. When did you see the first mass adoption of RFW?

That was already at Nokia. Then after open sourcing the adaption in Finland was pretty quick. Most likely ex-Nokia people introduced the framework in their new companies. Nowadays we have users around the world and numbers are raising all the time.

10. What is your role in the foundation?

I was in the board the first few years but when we got more members I decided to step down. Foundation pays me and there’s less conflict’s of interest that way. I’ve been active since then too, for example, organizing the RoboCon conference.

11. Tell us something about the future of Robot Framework.

We are very close to get the big Robot Framework 4.0 release out with great new features such as the SKIP status and native IF/ELSE support. The ecosystem is also growing all the time with new libraries and tools. RoboCon 2021, an online edition this time, is coming soon as well!

12. How do you see the future of software testing?

I think it’s slowly improving all the time. In the automation field we get new and better tools all the time but there’s always room for manual testing as well. I hope that in the future most if not all scripted testing is automated and manual testing is exploratory. In the automation domain my wish is that systems are designed with testability in mind making it a lot easier to automate them. Automation is also finding more usages in process automation and RPA.

Check out Qentinel's QWeb open source library which makes web automation rapid, robust and fun and read more about Robot Framework.

What is Robot Framework?


Topics: Software Testing, Test Automation, Robot Framework, Software Development, Test design, Test architecture


Written by Qentinel