A Guide to Agile Testing for Better Software Quality
Agile tests ensure products meet technical and functional needs. In this post, let's explore the A-Z of Agile Testing and how it helps deliver quality software.
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Flexibility and speed are where the essence of the agile development methodology lies. It promotes collaboration and iterations at every stage while ensuring faster development and speedy deliveries. But, the agile development process does not exclusively refer to the development phase. Testing is as much a part of the agile process as the development phase. If you are skipping Agile Testing, you are not mimicking the attributes of a truly agile team.
Testing helps check the quality of the software and whether it works as expected. With the Agile Testing solution, you can ensure that the testing process takes the course of the agile development approach and is treated as a recurring activity over being treated as a one-time task.
Agile tests ensure that the software product meets the technical and functional requirements and reduces the risk of cost and project timeline overruns. This, in turn, leads to a foolproof delivery.
In this write-up, we'll explore the A-Z of Agile Testing and how it helps deliver quality software.
What is Agile Testing?
Agile Testing takes on the principles and values of the agile manifesto to speed up the testing process while ensuring collaboration among the testers and developers working towards the common goal - quality software development.
In simple words, it is including software testing in the agile development process. Agile Testing bridges the gap between the development and the testing phase of the SDLC, thus nurturing the cross-functional agile team that leaves no one behind.
In this holistic agile approach, development and testing are performed incrementally and iteratively in the form of sprints.
Agile teams can be compared to factory setup, where one machine (developer) auto-fills the contents, and the other machine (tester) does the packaging. This continues until all the packages are auto-filled and packaged (incremental and iterative).
Difference Between Agile Testing and Traditional Testing
Here is a table that enlists the differences between traditional and Agile Testing for a better understanding.
|Traditional Testing||Agile Testing|
|1. Testing only starts after the development process is over. Here the development and testing phases are entirely independent of each other||Testing occurs as a recurring activity throughout the development process. That is, development and testing are done side by side|
|2. Developers and testers work independently without much collaboration.||Promotes cross-functional setups where developers and testers work together towards developing a quality product|
|3. Testers are not a part of the requirement gathering phase||Testers are a part of the requirement gathering phase. This helps in creating test cases in advance|
|4. Regression testing is only conducted at the end of the development process||
Allows running regression testing as and when a new feature or requirement is added
|5. Time spent is more on development and testing phases||Time spent is comparatively less on development and testing phases as they occur side by side|
Unlocking the Four Quadrants of Agile Testing
The following are the four quadrants of Agile Testing, as introduced by Brian Marick. It enlists the different types of software testing that fit the various stages of the development process.
Quadrant 1: Unit Level, Technology Facing
Intent: Helps support the developers
Nature of Conduct: Can be automated
A. Unit Tests
Unit testing is an Agile Testing process for checking the quality and efficiency of individual user stories, i.e., for a specific feature built by the developers. In short, it checks the user story from the design and technical perspective. The developers themselves can also run unit tests.
For example, if the code for the authentication and login user story is ready, the unit testing will be run to check if the login works as per the expectations.
B. Component Tests
Component testing in agile is a testing process where the individual objects or parts of the user story are tested individually. It can be done in isolation or in conjunction with other components that make up a user story.
For example, if we again refer to the authentication and login user story, checking the different components on the screen, i.e., options like login with email, Facebook, or even your phone number will be the various components that need to be tested.
Quadrant 2: System Level, Business Facing
Intent: Validates product behavior
Nature of Conduct: Automated or manual
A. Functional Tests
Functional testing is a type of black-box testing where the software system is tested to check whether it adheres to the specified functional requirements. The loopholes in performance are identified and reported to the developers. This test focuses on examining the basic functionality, usability, and accessibility of the application.
B. Story Tests
Story tests are run to check if all the user stories are accommodated as a part of the software. When the stories are created initially, the corresponding story test cases are also developed alongside that, in turn, act as story acceptance tests. Each of the user stories adds a new test to the story test stack.
C. Prototype & Simulation Testing
These tests are mainly conducted to check the design and the UX flow of the software. Any defects on the visible side of the application are identified and reported so that the prototypes can be reworked before the MVP is launched. These types of tests, if successful, also help attract seed funding for the product.
D. Pair Testing
Pair testing is a practice where two people work simultaneously and in the same space to test the software. This type of testing can be conducted by a tester-tester pair or even a developer-tester pair. Pair testing is foolproof and offers speedy results.
Quadrant 3: System or User Acceptance Level, Business Facing
Intent: Focuses on real-time scenarios
Nature of Conduct: Manual
A. Exploratory Testing
Exploratory testing is a type of testing where the test cases are not created in advance. Testing is conducted during the ongoing development process. However, the testers generally brainstorm about what tests they will perform before the process. These tests are mainly based on the experience, learning, and creativity of testers.
B. Usability Testing
Usability testing is a type of testing where a set of end-users step in to test how easy it is to use and navigate the user interface. These users are assigned tasks that they need to perform to see how the application works. However, testers might step into the user's shoes too to evaluate the product from their perspective.
C. User Acceptance Testing
User acceptance testing is conducted by the end-users or clients to check whether their requirements have been met, and pain points have been addressed. This type of test checks the wholeness of the software and its ability to perform as intended.
D. Alpha & Beta Testing
The tester conducts alpha testing before the software product gets launched in the market. All the bugs and inconsistencies are identified and fixed before the actual launch. In beta testing, the product is released to minimal end users who test and provide feedback. Such tests help mitigate product failure risks. In Agile Testing, alpha and beta testing should be conducted with every release.
Quadrant 4: System or Operational Acceptance Level, Technology Facing
Intent: Focuses on software ilities
Nature of Conduct: Automated testing tools
A. Performance Testing
Performance tests are conducted to test the speed, responsiveness, intuitiveness, and stability of the software product. In Agile Testing, performance testing can be checked at the end of each sprint that delivers a user story. This ensures a good speed of testing and timely delivery of high-performing products or fragments of the product.
B. Load Testing
Load testing is conducted to check the working of the software under specific load conditions. This type of testing is generally done to check the application's performance under normal and peak conditions. Automated Agile Testing tools are used for load testing, and should be performed at the end of every sprint to check the performance of every user story.
C. Security Testing
Security testing is a type of test that checks the robustness of the software system and its level of protection against intruders. Security as a part of Agile Testing should be conducted using automated tests weekly or monthly.
Agile Testing Principles for Testers
The different Agile Testing principles include:
1. Continuous Testing
Software testing is conducted at the end of every sprint. The testing team should collaborate with the development team to continue developing and testing along the entire cycle of the software development process.
2. Continuous Feedback
A developer delivers a user story at the end of every sprint. The developer then passes it on to the testing team. The testing team analyzes the user story and creates a test report. Next, the test report is rolled back to the developing team so that the bugs can get fixed there and then. This is called a continuous feedback process that follows the process - Develop, Test, Provide Feedback, Iterate, Repeat.
3. Adopting the Whole-Team Attitude
Agile development should be a result of teamwork. The testers should be communicating and interacting with the developers at all the stages of product development, and vice-versa. One of the most significant benefits of agile development is breaking the silos between distributed teams.
4. Quick Feedback
Agile is synonymous with speed. To ensure timely delivery of software, the Agile Testing team should ensure that quick feedback is delivered after every sprint so that the bugs can be fixed at the earliest. The more the delays in the feedback, the more time goes into foolproof product development.
5. Ensuring Software Quality
The objective of the Agile Testing team is to ensure high software quality. The code should be clean, iterative, and should have minimal cruft ( unwanted code). This is possible when testers plan and test at the end of every sprint so that their tasks stay organized, and they do not feel overwhelmed with testing millions of lines of code at the end of the development cycle. The easier the management, the better the testing, which, in turn, ensures quality.
6. Minimal Documentation
Agile teams often rely on exploratory testing to conduct code tests based on experience, creativity, and expertise. This means that they do not have to rely much on documented processes and test cases, which saves them time and effort while executing the planning process. Thus, in Agile Testing where new requirements can emerge at any time, exploratory tests should be given precedence.
7. Practice Continuous Improvement
As a part of Agile Testing, testers should demonstrate an agile mindset too. They should be able to take on challenges and risks that further help in learning from experiences. In short, the Agile Testing team should always be scaling up the learning curve, which also means adopting an agile mindset.
8. Respond to Change
Again, it all narrows down to an agile mindset, where the Agile Testing team should be prompt enough when it comes to responding to change. They should be able to conduct regression testing (automated or manual) to track changes and iterations at any level of the agile development process without any delays.
The agile test team should be able to create test cases post sprint planning. They should work with the development team in tandem to conduct testing at the end of every sprint. The knowledge of the Agile Testing four quadrants should further help them organize their testing roadmap so that everything stays on track.
10. Focus on People
Agile testers should have an understanding of the client and user requirements. This understanding alone can help them look beyond the code to see how the product performs. Sometimes the code might have zero errors, but it might still not be adhering to the user requirements. The agile tester should identify such gaps.
Decoding the Agile Testing Life Cycle
Here is how the Agile Testing teams apply Agile Testing methodologies to deliver a quality and working product in the end.
1. Sprint Planning
A sprint is a pre-decided time period within which the team working on the project needs to complete a user story.
Before a sprint kick starts, the product owner, developers, and testers discuss what needs to be accomplished in each of the sprints and the consecutive sprint goal. The daily standups are also a must among the agile teams throughout the Product Development process.
2. Building a Test Case Design
The testing teamwork maintains a cadence with the development team, i.e., while the development team is building a user story, the testing team develops test case designs. A test case design enlists how you will go about setting up the different test cases. These designs ensure that the quality tests stick to the laid down process.
The documented test cases are then handed over to the development team for review and also so that both the teams involved can decide the test cases that can be automated.
As soon as the user story gets completed on the development side, the testing team steps in - to quality check the software. The developers and testers work in tandem to execute testing in an agile environment.
This is done to identify early-stage defects so that the development team can fix the minor ones there and then, and the rest can be fixed in the following sprints on a priority basis. As for the automated test cases, they are run across the development process daily.
4. Ensure Product Stability
Agile is associated with iterative development, i.e., new requirements can be accommodated at any stage of the development process without adding to the complexities.
The testing team's responsibility is to determine when to stop the requirement flow and ensure product stability.
5. Manual & Automated Regression Testing
The manual and automated test cases are run to check the quality of the code after new user stories are added to the agile development process.
These tests ensure that the new requirement additions do not disturb the software's overall structure and functioning.
Agile Testing: Best Practices
To be tagged as a truly agile development team, following the best agile practices that educate how to improve the testing process in agile becomes imperative.
Here are some best practices that you should be following for the seamless implementation of agile methodology in testing.
What Are the Challenges in Agile Testing?
Agile development thrives on modification, documentation, and collaboration. Hence, the road to seamless, Agile Testing is not a cakewalk. There are different challenges that the agile team needs to address for the successful development of the software product.
Here is a quick insight into various Agile Testing challenges and solutions.
- Include testers and quality assurance managers as a part of the agile development team. Breaking the wall in between is the key to implement agile on a holistic level.
- Include testers from the initial stages of the development process, i.e., in the requirement and the design phase too, rather than incorporating them later.
- Testers should be a prominent part of daily standups to ensure the Agile Testing process aligns with the agile development one. This ensures that no loopholes and confusions exist.
- Testers should be suggesting improvements to the user stories in agile based on the test reports and their analysis.
- Automation testing should be a prominent part of the agile development process where regression testing is involved, i.e., where new features and requirements are added that need to be tested again.
|Challenge 1: Unexpected Changes in the Later Development Stages
Brainstorming around story possibilities in the initial stages and relying on exploratory testing
Challenge 2: The Existing and Emerging Communication Gaps
Daily standups for breaking the ice between testers and developers
Challenge 3: Keeping Pace with Continuously Adding up Testing Requirements
Work strategically, organize the workflow, and implement automated testing wherever applicable
Challenge 4: Testers are Sometimes Required to Mimic the Role of a Developer
|Introduce training and workshops across the organization for basic understanding of each other's roles and responsibilities
Here's a brief into each of the mentioned challenges along with the corresponding solutions.
1. Unexpected Changes in the Later Development Stages
The dynamic nature of requirements poses a challenge when planning for sprints and the corresponding test cases. This means that the test cases drafted in the initial phases might become obsolete in the later development phases.
As a tester, you need to be highly dependent on the developers to monitor every small progress/ change made in the code so that the test cases can be modified accordingly.
Attending the initial agile meeting gives more clarity on the complexity of the product from early on. That is, brainstorm around various story possibilities and the corresponding risk factors. Also, exploratory testing plays a vital role here as it relies on testing experience and creativity over referring to pre-designed test cases.
2. The Existing and Emerging Communication Gaps
The silos between the developers and the testers have existed for a long time. The agile transformation wave is an initiative to overcome this communication gap, but it can initially be a challenge to adopt and implement a change of this level.
Daily standups are a good starting point to break the ice between developers and testers. These meetings ensure that the product owner, the developers, and the testers are on the same page and do not hesitate to put forward their opinions and different perspectives.
3. Keeping Pace with Continuously Adding up Testing Requirements
Testing is not a one-time effort that occurs at the end of the development phase. Instead, it is a continuous practice that runs through the software development life cycle. However, sometimes keeping up pace with the sprint-to-sprint testing requirement can get taxing for the Agile Testing team.
Working strategically is the key here. The tester needs to organize the workflow so that the entire process stays on track without them feeling the burden. For instance, create the test use cases in the initial stages, and work on testing each user story as and when it gets completed. Also, refer to automated testing practices wherever necessary.
4. Testers are Sometimes Required to Mimic the Role of a Developer
Testers should have a basic understanding of a developer's role to see things from their perspective. This helps find bugs easily when the testers know the intent behind building a specific feature by the developers. But, the lack of knowledge of each other's responsibilities and expertise creates a gap that becomes difficult to mend.
Introduce training and workshops across the organization that encourages cross-functional setups. When teams have a basic understanding of each other's roles and responsibilities, better results can be expected as a part of their collaborative efforts.
What Is the Importance of Agile Testing?
The various advantages of Agile Testing include:
Agile Testing bridges the gaps between the developers and the testers by treating the latter as a part of the software development process. We can say that Agile Testing and Agile Development are the branched out versions of the parent tree - the agile SDLC methodology. It is the power of these two practices that ensure timely and quality software deliveries.
This write-up tries to cover everything about Agile Testing and how it adds value to the final product.
- Ensures timely delivery of quality software
- Gives precedence to automated tests that help in regression testing
- Agile Testing reduces the documentation work significantly
- Promotes cross-functional setup and collaboration among the teams
- Test reports can be discussed, and bugs can be addressed quickly with daily standups in place
The benefit of Agile Testing services is two-fold - on the one hand, it promotes cross-functional setups and collaboration among teams. On the other hand, it helps deliver quality software.
These are the upshots of Agile Testing you cannot ignore!
Published at DZone with permission of Anuradha Kapoor. See the original article here.
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