Think about it: I watched her spend three-quarters of her time for a manual test just dealing with the data and one-quarter running the test. And she was lucky she could even find an account with all of the conditions necessary; no doubt in some cases a test could not be run simply because the data did not exist. This is especially true for test cases that are specific as to time, for example the posting of interest or dividends that occurs only on a particular time schedule.
So whether she ever automated her testing or not, just providing data stability would improve her manual testing productivity by a factor of 4X! That's huge.
What I should have been telling management is that they needed to get control of their test data whether they automated or not. Improving manual test productivity, and therefore reducing costs and cycle time, by 75 percent would have no doubt made a compelling business case without introducing automation into the picture at all.
This doesn't mean I am giving up my automation lobbying, because automated tools are an ideal way of loading test data and performing other high volume, mundane tasks needed to create and maintain a test environment. But it does mean that the business case for controlling test data is even more important than I used to think.
What about you? How does your test data environment affect your productivity?