Agile Is All About Change—Why Does Testing Remain the Same?

While interest in and adoption of agile continues to rise, many engineering teams are still resistant to fully adopting it and restructuring their testing approach. QAsource's Anand Ramakrishnan looks at how to approach QA testing from an agile perspective.

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Agile is all about flux and change. It’s the ability to move swiftly, quickly, and easily. And in today’s software development landscape, agile QA testing is more important than ever. Without it, the highly responsive nature of development and testing just wouldn’t be possible. Product companies are able to iterate and innovate faster than ever, driving the progression of products customers know and love.

There’s no doubt that the agile way sounds great in theory, and also works well in practice. At its best, it prompts the collaboration of engineers who previously worked in silos, in fits and starts. It encourages teams to work together to clearly understand the testing requirements and create optimal solutions to any issues that arise. But why are some engineering teams still resistant to fully adopt it and restructure their testing approach? Well, the answer’s simple—going agile is difficult.

It requires optimization and automation at every step of the software development lifecycle. This means that DevOps teams, including product managers, developers, QA engineers, and everyone else, need to be highly dynamic and adopt an iterative, cross-functional working style. In most cases, teams must completely change their structure, existing processes, and daily activities. This is no small feat, as you can imagine, especially for teams who have been working in a well-worn groove for a long time.

But by all accounts, the initial investment of time, energy, and resources required to go agile is well worth it for most DevOps teams. And even if you’re working with a distributed or nearshore team, there are plenty of ways to streamline the transition process.

Thinking about adopting a more agile model for your software development and testing? Here is a quick overview of how your testing process will need to change.

Start from the beginning

Agile QA testing requires developers and QA engineers to be on the same page from the very start of a project—it’s the only way ongoing, continuous integration can happen. Requirements will gradually develop throughout the project, so it’s vital for both teams to be in the loop. Throughout the project, agile testers should keep their focus on functional, regression, and integration testing to achieve the common objective of high product quality.

Collaborate using shared tools

Today, there is a wide range of collaborative tools and repositories to help DevOps teams work in an agile fashion. Teams should lean into this technologies and get to know them well, as they can mean the difference between success and failure, especially for distributed teams.

For example, many teams keep a shared “Definition of Done” document which defines testing levels and indicates the broad test coverage area. Make it a habit for teams to check-in on these shared resources regularly to ensure that no team member is left in the dark about a new change or shift in focus.

Be ready to juggle

In agile testing, it’s normal for teams to be working on several stories or modules at any given time. If your team is used to focusing on one thing at a time, they’ll need to learn to adapt and divide their attention evenly between priorities.

In addition to the actual work of testing, you’ll also need to manage the timing of stand-up meetings and regular check-ins if you’re working with third-party QA provider offshore. But thanks to competent, experienced testing providers and recent advancements in meeting technology, this should be the easier of the two juggling acts.

Look for automation opportunities

Developers and engineers will be looking at the requirements for requests to automate—but as the two teams work closely together on given stories and modules, ad-hoc opportunities for automation may emerge.

Though some engineers are used to working very methodically and by the book, it’s good to acknowledge the advantages that come with working on the fly and discovering possibilities you might previously have overlooked. See how automation can add value to your QA testing.

Plus, by working together so closely, QA engineers will know which test cases are high priority—so they can expedite the automation of them immediately. 

Learn to love continuous integration and see continuous improvement

In continuous integration (CI), developers merge their code on a regular basis into a central repository. Following that, automated builds and tests are run by the QA engineers. This keeps the build/test process humming along smoothly, so teams can react quickly to results. Learn more about continuous integration and how to manage agile teams.

Your agile testing team will have complete control over the build development, allowing them to tailor it specifically to the project’s needs. Plus, it allows your test engineers to run regression tests at any time to see if the new build has broken any existing functionality.

Don’t forget about standards

Though agile testing prioritizes speed, efficiency, and continuous improvement, performance standards for the product should not fall by the wayside. For products in certain spaces (think legal, finance, and healthcare industries), strict adherence to performance and compliance standards is necessary, and QA engineers should be mindful of this. Ensure that requirements are clear about any part of the product that requires authorization, authentication, confidentiality, availability, data integrity, and non-repudiation.

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In conclusion

Though agile development has been taken up by the software industry, there’s still not much awareness about agile QA. Companies are often slow to implement agile QA because they have limited experience with it—they’re worried about the change management required to switch from their existing process to a new one.

Fortunately, there are many third-party QA partners that can help. Look for a vendor that can offer years of agile experience, and who has worked with clients in your space. This guarantees a short ramp-up time, and a close dev-to-QA working relationship right off the bat.

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