Agile software development is slowly but surely becoming the norm for many businesses, and for good reason. When done right, the ends result is a stronger application that respond more quickly to ever-changing consumer demands, and therefore has staying power in unpredictable markets.
Of course, doing agile right is much easier said than done. All teams must be involved in each phase of the project, and this includes testers. Ensuring that QA teams are up to the task of agile requires that testers have a certain skill set, or that they're willing to develop certain skills. These include the following:
1. Basic Knowledge of Programming
Flexibility is one of the core values driving the agile development trend. This includes fostering an environment in which there is a greater level of elasticity in what have been historically rigid roles. Testers are no longer siloed to the final stages of development, but rather, are directly integrated into everything that happens. In this tighter-knit, more collaborative environment, there is greater room for fluidity of roles, and this is even encouraged to ensure that everyone is truly working toward the same objective.
In an interview with TechTarget, agile consultant George Dinwiddie explained that while not necessarily required to be experts in coding, agile software development can benefit significantly if testers have some knowledge of programming, or alternatively, a willingness to learn. This is because agile development is inherently more objective-based, rather than process-based.
"In order for a team to act in an agile fashion, they have to get beyond the concept of 'this is my responsibility and that is not,'" Dinwiddie said. "Instead, they need to think 'we need to get all of this done.'"
2. Test Automation Talent
One of the most effective ways to speed time to market without hurting the integrity of testing is to automate potentially repetitive test cases. This includes regression tests, which in an agile environment must be run far more frequently than in a more traditional waterfall development life cycle. This is because regression tests, by definition, must run each time a change is made to a deliverable to ensure that the alterations don't impact the functionality of anything that came before it. Given the frequency and speed with which changes are made to a solution in agile test management, this means that these tests will have to be run often. Automating them can be a extraordinary time saver.
This is where some knowledge of coding would really come in handy for testers. According to Scrum Alliance contributor Dele Oluwole, not all testers have automation integration skills, but those that do are in a much better position to be of value to an agile, "cross-functional" team. While the ability to automate tests does not necessarily have to be regarded as a prerequisite to the job, Oluwole wrote that it is a skill testers must be willing to pick up on, and one that can save a lot of time in agile development.
3. Communication Skills
Agile testing methodologies simply cannot be achieved without strong internal communication. Working toward a shared goal rather than the completion of a siloed process means that everyone has to be on the same page at all times. The best test management tool for an agile project is one that integrates with a software development solution can help by providing real-time tracking for projects; however, this is not enough. Testers need to be able to work as part of a team, and this means they must be able to communicate effectively with programmers and developers.
As mentioned above, having an understanding of other teams' responsibilities can help dissolve barriers between traditionally siloed teams because it can foster better understanding of different roles. With shorter, more frequent sprints, testers will be more actively involved in development, and this means they will have to synchronize their efforts with those of other teams. To achieve this, they must constantly be on top of data organization and be adept at sharing it with the appropriate teams in a way that everyone can understand. They must also accept collaboration as a part of development, and this means ensuring that other team members have access to all of the information they need to perform their role with the end goal of creating the best possible solution for customers.
At the end of the day agile development is all about collaboration. The more testers know about developers' roles, and vice versa, and the greater the ability of these personnel to communicate effectively, the smoother the process and the stronger the final solution.