Did you know that 89% of development models used are Agile or similar? This ultimate guide will explain what the Agile testing method is, how you can implement, and when you should use it.
Agile testing has become a critical part of application lifecycles and has had a significant impact on software development, testing and quality assurance. It has also gained widespread acceptance as a crucial driver for the delivery of high-quality products. In this article, we take a deep dive into the world of Agile testing to better understand how it works and how it can help you.
In order to understand agile testing, it’s important to understand what the Agile development methodology involves. It’s an umbrella term, encompassing many practices that are quite different from traditional development techniques.
Let’s start by looking at the key principles of agile software development. The four core values are:
As the name implies, an Agile methodology is focused on responding to change. There are many frameworks teams might use, such as Scrum or Kanban, but at the center of it is a collaborative approach.
A traditional development approach might separate team members based on the area they’re working on, and slowly add pieces together to create a finished product. With Agile, continuous integration is key - the whole team collaborates and new features are added as they work. It creates a completely different software development life cycle - which is why teams need to implement agile testing methods to help.
Agile testing operates under the philosophy that continuous testing is a crucial part of development, on a par with coding.
In Agile, testing is integrated directly into the development process so that bugs are discovered as early and as often as possible. As a result, testers can identify problems at every point in the development process, moving the product quickly towards release.
To keep things from breaking in the customers’ hands, testers attempt to break it first - and then have it fixed.
In the traditional waterfall method of development, the sequence of events is:
Requirements > System Design > Implementation > Integration and Testing > Deployment of System > Maintenance.
There are three simple benefits to adopting Agile testing: a happier team, a higher-quality product and faster delivery. But that trifecta is worth the effort put into developing an effective Agile testing framework.
Agile enables testers to detect more defects earlier in the development process.
One of the Agile principles is ‘continuous feedback.’ The doctrine of starting testing concurrently with development means that bugs can be eliminated soon after they are created. Each iteration of the product is thoroughly tested and debugged as it’s created, rather than waiting until it’s finished. Testing also involves every member of the development team, so the skills of both developers and testers are leveraged in the pursuit of a perfect product.
Another outcome of continuous feedback combined with early and frequent testing is testers developing an intricate knowledge of the product. Depending on the methodology of testing used, they can combine that knowledge with customer input to help developers create a superior product.
With waterfall testing, the initial stages of development and eventual release onto the market are separated by months, if not years. As a result, features or the entire product can be completely irrelevant by the time it reaches customers.
Agile testing methodology both compresses the development cycle and constantly provides customer feedback, ensuring the product adapts to the market during development and reaches customers as soon as possible.
The last principle on the Agile testing list is no mistake: enjoyment. Agile testing necessitates close interaction between all members of a team, creating a happier, more enjoyable, and more productive workplace. Developers, testers and customers work side by side to create the best product and the most value possible.
Crispin and Gregory say it best:
"A team that guides itself with Agile values and principles will have higher team morale and better velocity than a poorly functioning team of talented individuals."
However, no system is perfect. Improperly implemented, Agile testing can weaken team structure and product development, preventing a viable product from ever being released. Even when properly used, all Agile methodologies have their weaknesses. For example, exploratory testing can lack the structure necessary to ensure a product is comprehensively tested; ATDD accounts for customer feedback, but not for business outcomes.
The emphasis Agile testing places on people can also be its downfall. If Agile testers are excluded from the team that they need to be closely integrated with, they are rendered useless. If a single skilled Agile tester leaves, it can prove to be a major setback for the development of the product.
Finally, since everyone in the team performs testing, the muddied hierarchy could lead to confusion and conflict. Methodologies like Scrum attempt to circumvent this by having ‘scrum masters’, but this has the potential to fall back into a more traditional method rather than staying truly Agile.
With dedication, each of these pitfalls can be overcome and the three powerful benefits experienced. The first step towards successful Agile testing is determining when Agile testing should not be used. Blind adoption of Agile testing can result in a weak, crash-prone product.
Here are a few guidelines for cases in which Agile may not be the best way to test:
Once you have determined that Agile testing will benefit your team, your product and your customers, you should spend as much time as necessary to pick the right methodology and to create a process for testing using the four-quadrant model.
To counteract the possibility of testers' exclusion, testers should work in as close physical proximity to the developers as possible. They should meet with them often to see what they are currently working on and to give them a chance to review the tests that have been developed. Taking an iterative approach here, as well as in the testing process itself, can help connect the teams early and help with later collaboration.
Testers can open doors for themselves by providing useful feedback based on interactions with both developers and customers. In short, they should make themselves indispensable to developers in order to be able to perform their job well.
The greatest thing that can be done to ensure the success of Agile testing for a product is to hire people who have the essential characteristics of an Agile tester, and to build a culture of self-organisation and independent thinking in the entire organisation.
That environment will naturally result in ‘stable infra’ without sacrificing speed, resulting in happier workers delivering a better, more valuable product - faster - to a satisfied customer.