How to Optimize the Agile Testing Processes

If you’ve decided to use an Agile approach for software development, no doubt you like the idea of producing incremental versions of a product that can adapt to your client’s needs.

To make forward progress using the Agile approach means the software must undergo an ongoing testing process that works symbiotically with design and development.

This Isn’t Your Father’s Software Testing

Agile testing is very different from testing in a traditional, structured approach (such as Waterfall). With Waterfall, testing is only done at the end of the entire process. Waterfall testers follow heavily defined procedures and interact with developers only when bugs need to be fixed.

Not so with Agile testing — testers are absolutely critical at all phases of Agile development, and commonly these testers direct the designers and developers on what features to work on next. When hiring an Agile tester, it’s best to pick someone who is detail-oriented and who knows the lingo of the designers and developers.

Communication Is King

The entire Agile method revolves around constant communication within small teams of designers, developers, business experts and testers. So it’s no surprise that your No. 1 job in managing Agile testing is to foster and monitor team communication. When a tester isn’t in close communication with developers, known bugs can find their way into the latest version, a situation that’s not all that different from the Waterfall development process.

However, unique to Agile testing is the potential problem created by a tester who is out of touch with the product’s customer or business expert. The great benefit of Agile development is an increased ability to meet client needs, but if the tester isn’t in tune with those needs, the designers and developers could be working on the wrong features.

It’s also true that too much communication can be, well, too much. Be careful of team members using the Agile “constant communication” mantra to waste time chatting the day away or nitpicking other team members to death.

Let’s Go, Team!

Along with communication, team camaraderie makes Agile testing work. No longer are testers a separate group; they’re a crucial part of everyday activities. When designers and developers trust their testers, they’ll embrace the changes and direction that arises from Agile testing. Consider taking a few hours between product revisions to complete a team-building activity; the closer the team, the better the Agile testing. And the better the testing, the better the end product.

Make Sure Everyone Is Staying Agile

Testing and development must go hand-in-hand when using the Agile method. But it’s not always easy for a supervisor to see whether testing is truly part of the development process. Your team can fall into old patterns where testers wait passively until the engineers are finished with the product.

Again, communication is key, as is having the right people on the team. You can optimize the Agile development process by knowing what every team member, from developer to tester, is working on — without suffocating team members’ creativity and their natural desire to produce great stuff.

Shhh! Consider Using Some Documentation

As a general rule, Agile development eschews heavy documentation, though documentation should still exist. The Agile Manifesto emphasizes “working software over comprehensive documentation.” But you might consider establishing some basic written procedures that help remind everyone that testing needs to be addressed at every step of the process. Even a simple checklist can help keep the Agile testing process running smoothly.

What are your best practices for managing Agile testing? Share them in the comments section.

Tags: Career RX