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Agile Software Testing - A Beginner’s Guide

23 May 2019

Agile methodology guides the development process toward timely delivery of value. Best practices are its heart and soul. They rest on the foundations of adaptive planning, iterative delivery, and continuous improvement.

One particularly important practice is software testing. It forwards Agile goals and adheres to its basic principles. And it’s no separate phase of development, but integral to the process, just like coding.

These two are performed interactively and incrementally.

The main challenge is that adopting software testing isn’t as simple as it seems. One has to properly introduce it and then implement it within the organization. This could require team shake-ups and strategy revamping.

But, don’t fret— we got your covered. Here is how to stay quick on your feet and deliver working, high-value software to your customers.

A Paradigm Shift

Ensuing changes are far-reaching and far from cosmetic. Agile way of working is rooted in a different kind of business culture and environment from Waterfall. The same goes for agile methodology in software testing.

In a nutshell, organizations have to be more adaptive, collaborative, and flexible. Teams are encouraged to do frequent, iterative releases of software. Working in sprints allows for easy pivots and changes that may have been influenced by evolving circumstances.

Similarly, testing begins earlier and is expected to deliver value at regular intervals. This new business environment asks of testers to adapt. They have to change the way of testing, its timing, and the way they collaborate with developers.

We’re talking about something radically different from manual scripted execution.

The main problem is there isn’t much time to test everything. The way to overcome it is prioritization of requirements. It determines what gets done and when.

Importance of Communication and Collaboration

For Agile practice to take hold, members have to discuss their work much more often than before.

Tight collaboration with developers is paramount throughout the whole project lifecycle. Gone are the days of testing teams operating independently and relying on immutable documentation.

In Agile, documentation is light. Sticking to plan isn’t nearly as important as adapting to change. Open and constant communication between all teams guides the software development process.

Meetings take place every day and they generate invaluable insights. Ideally, the barriers between dev and ops are non-existent. The same goes for information silos between departments.

QA testers should be brought from the sidelines to actively participate in backlog refinement and Sprint planning. They provide insights on daily stand-up meetings and capitalize on hearing customer expectations and feedback directly.

One other thing to note is that Agile collaboration also involves customers. There is no contract negotiation to worry about. User stories set the requirements and their order of priority.

This all echoes one of the main Agile principles: people and their interactions take precedence over processes and tools.

agile software testing image

Major Testing Models

Furthermore, there are different ways of software testing you need to be aware of.

Since requirements change all the time, one can use them alternately for different Sprints. Your choice here depends on the type of Agile method you use (Scrum, Extreme Programming, Kanban, etc.).

Four common software testing methods are:

  • Behavior Driven Development (BDD)
  • Acceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD)
  • Exploratory Testing
  • Session-based Testing

They all have their pros and cons you would be wise to weigh.

For example, Exploratory Testing cuts the time between code delivery and test completion. It increases the chances of producing a code that really works. Testers have ownership of the code and are free to conduct testing as they see fit.

This type of testing is non-scripted and mimics what users would do in real life. It proves useful under time constraints, but it can sometimes backfire.

So, if you need more structure and accountability, you may be better off using Session-Based Testing. It doesn’t put that much faith solely in skills and experience of testers.

You’re Almost There

Once your testing method is selected, you have one key step more to go.

It entails aligning the testing process itself with Agile delivery and making testers part of the development as early as possible. Testing should be carried out frequently there’s little time to gather requirements.

But, this need for speed mustn’t compromise efficiency. That’s why teams have to make smart decisions regarding what and how they test.

And as the project develops, they tend to become more involved in other tasks. Code delivery and integration are among those cross-functional areas that may become part of their workflow.

This may already seem like a lot to handle and it is. But, fret not.

Use automation platforms to streamline testing and reporting. They can reduce the strain on the workforce and keep the burnout at bay.

And as we already indicated, it’s not like testers are left on their own. Quite the opposite: they tackle the objectives hand in hand with developers. This is the best approach to frequent and top-notch deployment in short timeframes.

The New Industry Standard

Agile software testing is more than a buzzword, it is a necessity for any agile development project. Make testers essential to development— they should be active participants every step of the way.

Besides that, you have to adopt the right mindset and refine your strategies. Integrate testing tools and practices that scale well with your company and fit its culture.

Empower team members with more resources and turn them into quality champions.


All images used in this post are illustrations by