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Tackling Testing Challenges in an Agile Transition

By Hemanth Yamjala

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Today, any software application needs to perform seamlessly across a plethora of devices, operating systems, browsers, hardware configurations, and networks. However, ensuring this by using a traditional waterfall model of QA testing is not possible, as there are too many variables and dependencies involved.

This is where the agile model of software development comes into play. Development and QA operate in close coordination on cross-functional teams working in small iterations or sprints.

Agile is all about being responsive to changes, whether they’re technology-related or based on customer needs. In this cross-functional and collaborative software development approach, solutions are created rapidly to achieve business objectives. Agile empowers teams to design the right product that is customized to the needs of their customers, all at a faster pace. 

Even though jumping onto the agile bandwagon is tempting for businesses, it is not always easy, and a transition to agile is likely to come with a slew of challenges for testing in particular. 

Testing Challenges When Moving to Agile

Taking the agile route requires a shift in mindset. In order for agile to enable delivery of quality products at speed, testing has to begin much earlier in the process than ever before. This brings some unforeseen challenges.

Changing mindsets: The benefits of testing early should be clearly communicated to everyone in the organization; otherwise, employees will not understand the importance of changing the way their testing is done. Quality should become the entire team’s responsibility. It is imperative that testing starts on day one of each sprint, not at the end. Any resistance to these practices will delay the delivery of software.

Inflexible staff: In a traditional waterfall model, every QA specialist knows what their role is. Testing responsibilities are clearly delineated, with no room for confusion. With agile, the goal is to execute all necessary development tasks in the most optimal manner possible. In such a scenario, roles are not so specific, and everyone is asked to help wherever necessary. This can lead to uncertainty about the work to be done and what role testers play. Without addressing this uncertainty, it can breed resistance and ultimately derail delivery. 

Lack of documentation: Since agile testing often involves automated testing, there is a propensity to skip needed documentation. But with a lack of documentation, important things and past changes cannot be sufficiently tracked. To overcome this, regular internal audits or test reviews should be done to ensure that the appropriate amount of documentation is produced. Test management tools that align with user stories should be used to track testing progress, too. 

Hurdles in achieving seamless collaboration across teams: An agile testing approach requires cross-functional teams to collaborate seamlessly every day. However, certain teams may not embrace cross-team collaboration as quickly as others and may still gravitate toward working in silos. Without developers and testers working together day to day and collaborating, quality and delivery will suffer.

Key Enablers of an Agile Testing Strategy

Battling these challenges and achieving a successful transition to agile testing depends on several things, but these are some of the most helpful practices.

Shifting left: Unlike the waterfall model, where testing comes after development, shifting left is about moving testing activities so they are done alongside development. This helps to identify defects quickly and speed up the development lifecycle. Here, the focus of testing shifts earlier, or toward the left, in the development cycle, leading to better identification of defects before the end of each sprint. With early testing, early bug detection and defect control become possible. 

Test automation: With the need to validate software on omnichannel platforms and to test quickly, agile testing specialists must leverage test automation to conduct repetitive tests like regression. Choosing the right tools and learning how to write maintainable automated test scripts is essential. 

Continuous testing and feedback: With shortened delivery cycles, it is not feasible to spend additional time on testing. In fact, within an agile software development lifecycle (SDLC), testing and quality assurance should be a continuous process that runs parallel to development. This requires friction-free collaboration between developers and testers, so that the end product meets all the requirements. 

Virtualization: In a dynamic test environment where there is a need to test software and APIs on various parameters across locations, service virtualization is essential. It virtualizes and simulates test variables and software for defects without needing to use the entire actual application. 

Integrating manual testing and automation: It is not practical to try to meet the tight deadlines of agile sprints solely with manual testing. For testing to run in parallel with development, manual and automated testing both have to be integrated into the SDLC. Automation comes in handy wherever processes get repetitive and mundane. Manual supervision should be brought in when the task at hand requires creative and analytical thinking. Doing so will help improve overall efficiency because automation will increase speed and accuracy, and manual testing will facilitate innovative approaches to fixing errors.

Making Your Testing More Agile

Establishing agile practices within software development and testing lifecycle requires active participation from every team member. The pace at which an agile cycle operates does not leave much scope for a separate testing phase, so testing should be continuous, automated, and in parallel to the development stages. It should be started early and performed at every stage of the SDLC.

This can only be possible with seamless collaboration between the development and testing teams. Silos must be demolished and there should be a continuous dialogue among team members. Without collaboration, agile testing cannot become feasible—all you will have is really fast legacy waterfall processes.

 

This article was originally published November 27, 2019, on StickyMinds.com.

Hemanth Yamjala

Hemanth Kumar Yamjala has 10+ years of experience in IT Services, predominantly Marketing, Branding, specializing in Digital. Currently a part of the marketing for Cigniti Technologies with functions such as leveraging digital marketing channels for lead generation and promotion.