How to Adopt an Agile Testing Methodology
What is an Agile Testing Methodology?
If you're trying to figure out how to get started with agile testing, you've come to the right place.
You are about to make some critical decisions about the process of transforming your software development process by moving from traditional to agile testing methods. Of course, you want the best agile framework for your team, the best process for shifting from a documentation-heavy process to a lightweight story card approach. And to make this happen, you want the best DevOps tools. These three considerations -- choosing the right agile framework, shifting your testing to earlier in the lifecycle, and using the right tools--will make adopting an agile testing methodology happen more effectively and efficiently.
The good news is that you can experience improvements almost immediately. What’s special about agile software development is that it is an iterative process. That is true every step of the way: you try it, shake it out, and move forward.
Thanks to this approach, the integration can be implemented in small steps as well (try, shake, and move) without necessarily integrating every type of agile testing tool at once.
This means you can integrate processes and tools that will grow and scale with your company along your Agile journey. At some point, you'll also want to incorporate automated testing in order to do frequent high-quality deployments.
Which Agile Testing Framework is Right For Your Team?
Before you can even consider automated testing, you need to determine which agile testing framework works best for your team. Agile teams are rooted in culture before they are rooted in testing.
First, pick the agile testing framework that works best within your culture. There are numerous agile frameworks to choose from, including Scrum, extreme programming, adaptive software development, lean software development and Kanban. If you're just getting started with agile, choosing either Scrum or Kanban is probably your best bet.
Scrum is a well-defined framework for structuring your process. Introducing Scrum is quite a change for a team not used to agile software development: They have to start working in iterations, build cross-functional teams, appoint a product owner and a Scrum master, as well as introduce regular meetings for iteration planning, daily status updates and sprint reviews.
Unlike the time-boxed approach that Scrum takes, Kanban is designed around a continuous queue of work, which goes through a number of stages of development until it's done. Kanban teams often use index cards or sticky notes arranged on walls, such as the Kanban Board shown below, to visualize workflow in a left-to-right manner. When work is completed in a stage, it moves into the next-stage column to its right. When someone needs new work to do, they pull it from a left-hand column.
Why choose Scrum?
- Scrum’s cadence is set in regular fixed length sprints.
- Scrum defines roles such as the Scrum master.
- Scrum discourages changes during the sprint.
Why choose Kanban?
- Kanban has a continuous flow.
- Kanban has a looser, more free-flowing style.
- Kanban’s approach is that change can happen at any time.
Looking at the characteristics of Scrum and Kanban above, you’ll have to look hard at your team and ask important questions.
- Do your team's priorities change often? (Kanban)
- Do you need predictability? (Scrum)
- Does your team thrive on last minute deadlines? (Kanban)
- Do you need to deliver incremental pieces in short periods of time (Scrum)*
- Does your team thrive on process change? (Kanban)
- Do you prize methodology and organization? (Scrum)
*Some experts believe that Kanban can also do this well--so it makes sense to look at the total picture of how your team works.
An integral part of both Scrum and Kanban is the daily stand-up meeting for everyone on the team to check-in for 5-15 minutes. The model is likened to a sports huddle, with each team member reporting on what they did, what they will do, and what their obstacles are. Keep in mind the stand-up is a planning meeting, not a status meeting, and more work happens beyond the stand-up.
Start the Agile Testing Methodology Adoption Process by Shaking Up Your Team
Teams that move to agile testing have to adapt to a new paradigm of continuous testing through automation and collaborative teams. That can only happen in an environment where there are no barriers between dev and ops. So step one is -- Shake it up! To improve communications, get rid of silos. A silo is a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. Silo smashing is essential when transforming your culture into a lean, mean DevOps machine.
Take a Shift Left Approach to Agile Software Testing
Shifting left in the testing world is the movement where teams are expected to deliver faster while also improving the quality--and reducing testing costs. This means testing activities are integrated with development, beginning sooner in the development cycle, rather than later as in traditional software development environments like waterfall. On a successful agile DevOps team, QA testers work together with development and operations, analyzing quality during every stage of development.
Add QA to Your Agile Testing Process
Quality Assurance (QA) should be an integral part of your process while building a streamlined continuous testing and software delivery pipeline. A good practice is to bring in QA testers from the sidelines and into the daily stand-ups from day one. You’ll reap the benefits by having them as part of your sprint planning. You may even consider bringing QA into your customer calls. When QA hears customer expectations directly, you’ll save lots of wasted testing time.
Once QA knows more about your process, they can test work on your backlog, the ordered list of everything that's known to be needed in the product, while your developers work on more immediate concerns. This eliminates the need for more retesting. QA will be able to manage their time more efficiently by performing the right mix of exploratory and regression testing, instead of solely focusing on verification and validation testing.
Find the Right Tool to Empower Agile Software Testing
A best practice to see what is working right, is to make changes one step, one tool, one process at a time and conduct team-wide evaluations after each implementation.
Every workplace has its own culture. Agile takes that into account by having an approach that’s not one-size-fits-all. By choosing the right framework, process shift and tools for your company, you’ll be well on your way to success. Once you’ve done that, agile makes it possible for you to build on what works for your culture and to be prepared to adapt your environment only when needed.
Moving from a traditional development process to adopting an agile methodology won’t be painless at first, but it will be worth it. Once you’ve experienced the success of doing efficient and collaborative teamwork that exceeds your customers’ expectations, you won’t go back.