How Proper Methodology Can Make or Break Agile

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The road to agile looks remarkably different for each business based on what tools they decide to leverage and what agile testing methodology they use to reach their goals. For this, numerous approaches have been developed to ensure that teams can use whichever one or whatever combination makes the most sense for their needs. However, organizations can't just choose a solution based on its past successes. However agile have numerous considerations to make to determine if an approach will be most favorable for their workflows.

Due to the variety available for agile teams, picking a methodology can seem easy, but there are some fundamental mistakes that many teams make that could lead to their downfall. Let's take a closer look at why proper methodology is so important for agile initiatives and how it can impact team operations.

Be sure to adopt iteration
One commonality across methods is iteration - or developing a product a little bit at a time. Why is this so integral to the agile workflow? Iteration enables teams to break down monolithic projects into pieces that are easily manageable. This ensures that they are able to fully test and deploy deliverables frequently, rather than needing to wait on other elements to move through the approval process. Simple Programmer contributor John Sonmez while explaining agile development process noted that rather than trying to build a feature in a single iteration, it should be allowed to develop over time. Quality assurance teams can then ensure that it consistently meets user expectations at all times and can quickly adapt to any changes.

"A feature shouldn't be pushed into a single sprint or iteration and then be done," Sonmez wrote. "A feature should start out small and develop and evolve over time as feedback is received and customers or the product owner tries it out. Don't try to ship a completed feature at once, let it evolve over time."

Create comprehensive plans
With agile, many are under the impression that planning isn't very important - however, this isn't true. In fact, a PricewaterhouseCoopers white paper noted that failing to plan is planning to fail. Teams must clearly define boundaries and sequence sprints in logical building order. This will help improve efficiency and enable better decision-making across the board. While it's true that organizations must be prepared to handle any changes that may emerge, planning sprints prior to its beginning will help reevaluate upcoming work and add in any necessary adjustments. By considering planning as an integral piece of the project, teams will be one step closer to ensuring that their agile efforts are a success.

"Planning is critical from the outset of the project," the PwC white paper stated. "If the sprint plan is weak, you may suffer from challenges with resource allocation. Make sure that you have solid buy-in to the high-level design of the product that you will deliver."

Use lean to drive value
While the first two items were  essential to agile operations, lean methodologies may not be right for everyone. As a subset of agile, these two practices go hand-in-hand, but lean has additional considerations that must be addressed. Software company 7Geese noted that lean strategies help create value and eliminate waste by monitoring what activities are the most beneficial for progress. For some organizations, this method make sense, but it may not be viable for others. Teams can also invest in an enterprise test management software to help eliminate waste while still preserving overall work functions.

"Many organizations are working hard on at the wrong things and wasting so much human potential and resources as result," 7Geese stated. "Moreover, if we focus only on being efficient without a clear vision and following continuous processes of learning, we are destined to fail. We must continually test our assumptions and look at all setbacks as learning opportunities to grow as an organization and as individuals."

Legacy approaches lead to issues
Some QA teams make the mistake of keeping certain legacy workflows, but this could lead to other problems down the line and will not appropriately support agile initiatives. AccuRev noted that long iterations inherent in traditional methods hide problems and can often lead to feature creep. These are both issues that put considerable pressure on QA teams and can easily cause issues in the final product.

With long iterations, the main problem is that feedback is relayed late in the cycle, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for teams to make any considerable changes. Going agile, teams can break up work into shorter iterations, ensuring that any vulnerabilities are eliminated before the other sprints are affected. The decrease in time between sprints will also help mitigate feature creep, as the more functionality that's added, the longer it takes to get things done. By breaking down the number of features in a release, organizations can better focus on the elements they're deploying and can easily make any essential changes.

"The delays associated with process problems being detected late in the cycle occur every release, which is why so much time is reserved for the end game," AccuRev stated. "It isn't the qualification of the release that takes so long - that still takes only two days. It is the process of getting the release to the point that it makes it through that two-day gauntlet, without any problems, that takes so long."

Although there is no one correct answer for how to approach agile software testing, organizations must leverage the methodology that makes the most sense for their needs. By understanding how your methodology can impact your functions, you'll be able to better determine which one will be the most beneficial for your team.

Learn more about the challenges that enterprises face when trying to plan and scale agile development in the forthcoming Atlassian session-Managing Scaled Agile at Rosetta Stone.

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