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Improving Quality in Agile Development: Tips for Agile Testing/
According to the annual World Quality Report by Capgemini, 42% of survey respondents reported a “lack of professional test expertise” as a challenge in applying testing to Agile development. While Agile software development allows for faster iterations, in some cases, this has come at the cost of quality. This issue is compounded by the competitive market pressures that teams face, requiring them to constantly deliver new product updates.
However, experts argue that Agile is not killing software testing but necessitates a shift toward Agile testing processes. Unlike traditional testing, Agile testing emphasizes frequent testing, less reliance on documentation, and more collaboration between team members, including developers and testers. In this article, we will explore some impactful tips to improve Agile testing processes.
Formalize a Release Test Cycle Process
One of the challenges with testing is the absence of a release test cycle, irregular testing requests, or no release schedule. This creates difficulties in the QA process, especially if testers are handling multiple projects. Many teams do a single build after each sprint, which is not ideal for Agile projects. To improve testing, teams should consider moving to once-a-week releases, gradually transitioning to multiple builds per week. Ideally, development builds and testing should happen daily, with developers pushing code to the repository every day, and builds scheduled to run at specific times. Teams can employ a continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) process to ensure that builds are successful before major releases. When CI/CD and test automation are combined, early detection of critical bugs is possible, allowing developers enough time to fix critical bugs before scheduled client releases. A formalized release cycle makes the testing process more agile.
Empower Testers with Deployment Tools
Having the code deployed to a staging environment is a common friction point for testing, particularly when it depends on technical infrastructure. However, if there is flexibility, tools can be created for non-technical people, such as testers or project managers, to deploy the updated codebase for testing themselves. For instance, a Slackbot with access to Git, deployment scripts, and one virtual machine can be created to allow testers to ping the bot with a branch name acquired from GitHub or Jira to deploy it in a staging environment. This setup frees up developers’ time, reduces communication waste, and minimizes interruptions when testers ask developers to deploy a branch for testing.
Experiment with TDD and ATDD
Test-driven development (TDD) and acceptance test-driven development (ATDD) are two popular software development processes that emphasize quality. TDD involves writing unit tests before writing any code that would complete a user story. ATDD, on the other hand, focuses on acceptance tests created before development in collaboration with developers, testers, and requesters. These tests help everyone on the team understand the client’s requirements before any code is written. Techniques like TDD and ATDD make testing more agile by moving testing procedures to the early stages of the development lifecycle. This minimizes unnecessary code creation and resolves any product uncertainties at the beginning of the development cycle.
Discover Inefficiencies by Tracking Task Card Movement
Task card movement tracking helps teams identify inefficiencies in the development process. Sometimes, developers rush their work in an attempt to get features out as soon as possible and “outsource” quality to the testers. This only moves the bottleneck further down the sprint. Many project management tools have the capabilities to track the movement of task cards on a Scrum or Kanban board. By analyzing what happened with a particular developer’s tasks and comparing them with other developers on the team, teams can identify inefficiencies and address them through conversations and pair programming sessions.
Add Test Automation to the QA Team Skillset
Testing in traditional non-Agile projects often includes test analysis, design, and execution, which require extensive documentation and are performed sequentially. However, when companies transition to Agile development, the focus is often primarily on developers, with less attention given to testers. While Agile methods abandon the extensive documentation that was a pillar of traditional testing, they still rely on manual testing, which can be slow, and struggle to keep up with the rapid feedback loops inherent in Agile workflows.
To address this problem, test automation has become a popular solution. Automated tests allow developers and testers to focus on other tasks while the testing code runs automatically in the background. Additionally, automated tests can cover more ground than manual testing, increasing testing coverage and overall product quality.
Automated tests consist of software code similar to the codebase being tested. As a result, technical skills are necessary for those writing automated tests. There are various approaches to implementing test automation within different teams. For instance, some teams have developers assume the role of testers and incorporate automated testing into their workflow with each new feature. In other cases, manual testers are trained to use test automation tools, or a technical tester is hired to automate the testing process. Regardless of the approach, test automation can improve the agility of the testing process.
Manage tester priorities
With non-Agile software development, testers are usually allocated on a per-project basis. However, with the advent of Agile and Scrum, it has become common for the same QA professionals to operate across multiple projects. This overlapping responsibility can create conflicts in schedules and lead to testers missing critical ceremonies when a tester prioritizes one team’s release testing over another’s sprint planning session.
The reason why testers sometimes work on multiple projects is obvious—there is rarely a constant flow of tasks for testing to fill a full-time role. Therefore, it might be hard to convince stakeholders to have a dedicated testing resource allocated to a team. However, there are some reasonable tasks that a tester can do to fill their downtime when not engaging in testing activities.
One possible setup is to have the tester spend their sprint downtime helping the client support team. By constantly facing the problems that clients have, the tester has a better understanding of the user experience and how to improve it. They are able to contribute to the discussions during planning sessions. Moreover, they become more attentive during their testing activities as they are better familiarized with how the clients actually use their software.
Another technique for managing tester priorities is to essentially make them junior product managers that carry out manual testing. This is also a viable solution to filling a tester’s off-duty time because junior product managers spend a lot of time creating requirements for the user stories and therefore have intimate knowledge of most tasks.
As we have previously discussed, manual testing is often inferior to automation. In this context, the push for automation can be coupled with having a tester dedicate their full attention to the team and utilize their spare time learning to work with test automation tools like Selenium.
Making testing more agile is an inevitability that a lot of software development teams are now facing. However, quality should not be compromised by adopting a “test as fast as you can” mindset. It is imperative that an Agile transition includes a shift to Agile testing, and there are a few ways to achieve this:
- Formalize a release test cycle process.
- Empower testers with deployment tools.
- Experiment with test-driven development and acceptance of test-driven development.
- Discover inefficiencies by tracking task card movement.
- Add test automation to the QA team skillset.
- Manage tester priorities.
Every year, the software is getting better and user expectations are rising. Moreover, as clients get used to high-quality products from top software brands like Google, Apple, and Facebook, these expectations transfer into other software products as well. Thus, the emphasis on quality is likely to be even more important in the coming years. These testing and overall development process improvements can make testing more agile and ensure a high level of product quality.