How can you do agile tests

Agile testing is at the heart of agile software development

Agile Testing - The New Normal

Agile processes have not only changed software development, but also the software itself. It is subject to ever more frequent and far-reaching changes. In order to develop a successful product, however, the testing must also adapt - this is where agile testing comes into play.

Agility has led to extensive changes in software development. The customers and their wishes are more at the center of the development process than is the case with traditional methods.

Instead of presenting a final result at the end of the project, agile teams involve their customers in the process and regularly provide them with new software versions that they can evaluate. However, it is not enough to recognize customer requirements early on - efficient implementation is at least as important. The software is therefore subject to frequent and often far-reaching changes. The advantages are obvious: short development cycles with rapid implementation success.

But in order to keep up with the high pace, testing has to adapt to agile working methods, as it has now become an indispensable part of agile software development. There has long been no discussion about whether agile methods should be used, but how they can be used correctly and, if necessary, scaled.

One of the best-known agile methods is Scrum, which implements the principles of the Agile Manifesto. However, neither the Agile Manifesto nor the Scrum description deal with test activities or test organization in more depth. Approaches of test driven development or continuous integration are recommended, but a systematic test procedure is not described. However, the test activities and the test organization play a decisive role in the success of agile methods and are described below.

Agile on all levels

Testing in agile development projects differs from classic methods primarily in that it is a preventive measure and that the tests have to be carried out much more frequently in so-called sprints. As a rule, the duration of a sprint is one to two weeks, at the end of which the tested software should be available, which is then delivered to the customer. The successes and problems are recorded and evaluated in regular retrospectives, which further increases the quality and the test coverage achieved.

For the success of a project, it is essential that all test procedures relevant to a project (unit, function and load performance tests) are planned early and implemented at all levels. This helps to identify and fix problems in a timely manner. By automating tests, it is possible to have them carried out several times a day. Regression tests ensure that new functions do not affect existing functions. Since the automated tests have to be adapted to the revised digital product after each iteration, it must be constantly weighed up how efficient the method is.

In addition to running test cases, automated or not, it is important to combine these with exploratory tests, in which the software is tested without a predetermined test plan. Human acumen and creativity are required to find both superficial and profound errors that cannot be planned in advance in the laboratory. The quality of the test activities ultimately determines the quality of the end product.

Clear view in the fishbowl

The focus of the team organization is the product owner, who keeps an eye on the big picture, defines goals and is the professional representation of the customer. In addition to him, there are the test teams themselves. The cross-functional organization and collaboration gives agile development teams the opportunity to work more freely and to think outside the box. Developers and product owners talk to each other regularly and exchange ideas directly with those responsible for the test. This enables quick adjustments and reactions if necessary.

Setting the goals gives the teams a clear idea of ​​what they are working on. Only if these are clearly defined can the teams test efficiently and successfully complete the individual sprints. Although testing is about quality assurance, the testers can never find all defects. The actual goal of testing should therefore be to continuously improve the software. Additionally, if developers want to implement too many features, the goals can be too ambitious. The result: The goals are not intended from the user's point of view and the teams test past the core of the problems. What use is an offer that nobody takes up? It is therefore essential to know your own users and, for example, to test them on devices that the target group also uses. How high is the CPU utilization, how much data volume does the app use and what loading times are acceptable? These and other factors should definitely be checked during testing.

This is where crowdsourced testing or crowdtesting comes into play. This type of quality assurance for a website, a mobile app or a connected device relies on a community of testers outside the company for testing. With crowdtesting, products are not tested in a sterile laboratory environment, but by real people, on real devices and in common everyday situations around the world. The results reflect the actual or possible user experience much better than would be possible with in-house or laboratory solutions. Another advantage of this method: It is compatible with the speed of agile processes, since many testers are testing at the same time and can thus generate hundreds of test hours within a single day.

Less is more

Test data management is often underestimated, but it is essential. The testers bring valuable information and insights to light. How many test cases were carried out, what is the error rate, etc.? All questions that provide material for extensive and detailed reports and are certainly of high relevance for the project manager and the product manager. But the question is: Who else could this data be of interest? Because at the heart of agile methods, everything revolves around optimizing work processes and only spending as much time as is absolutely necessary on reporting. It is therefore advisable to collect data that will also be useful for other departments. The preparation of the data in the form of best practices or cases can help to increase the performance of the teams and improve the development of the software.

Such extensive changes naturally present companies - especially management - with challenges that have to be mastered: The teams repeatedly encounter resistance at the interfaces to the traditional organization. A segmented planning method, the increased coordination effort or the reduced documentation often cause uncertainties. In order to counteract this, it is necessary to have full backing from the management, a clear definition of decision-making powers, time frames and budgets as well as the clarification of the interfaces with functional units outside of the agile process.

Agile testing: faster, better, further

Agile testing is the contemporary way to achieve faster and better results in modern software development. The switch to agile methods requires a rethink, but it harbors a lot of potential and frees up resources for other areas. In order to minimize or solve potential resistance in the implementation of agile processes, it is necessary for companies to understand agile testing as a holistic approach. The close cooperation between developers and agile testers is an absolute basic requirement: Individuals and interactions have priority over processes and tools. Developers need full technical and methodological support, testers must be involved in the respective processes as an essential part of sprint planning. Documentation is subordinate to the functionality of the software and reacting to changes at short notice is more important than following a plan.

No matter how beautiful a digital product is, if it doesn't work properly, users punish it and turn to other products. To be successful, companies need to test close to the user. Only a meaningful combination of exploratory tests in a real environment and a flexible automation strategy covers the diverse requirements of digital products. With a structured test design, the offers must also be developed as functionally as possible and provide answers to the high expectations of the users. Companies are therefore well advised to invest in agile testing and thus in the quality, security and user-friendliness of their digital products.

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