4 Steps Towards Developing the Agile Testing Mindset for Successful Transition to Agile Process

Making the switch to Agile requires laying the groundwork around education, documentation, and metrics.

Agile development and testing is not a methodology – it’s a mindset. According to a VersionOne survey, 88 percent of businesses are practicing agile development, but many are struggling with the transformation, with failures generally attributed to “culture and resistance to change.”

If you fail to transition testers to the correct mindset before trying to tackle the process changes, then you’re setting your team up for failure.

Developing the Agile Testing Mindset

The adoption of agile techniques has traditionally been assigned to developers, but agile testing is a vital component of the process and deserves its fair share of attention. The challenge is that traditional methods of testing do not comfortably fit with agile methodologies.

If your team is thinking about making the switch to Agile or you are a tester struggling with the transition, you may need to broaden the focus from an agile methodology to an agile mindset.

So what exactly does that mean to your team?

Read more Agile testing articles here => Agile Testing and Scrum Guide

4 Steps Towards Developing The Agile Testing Mindset

Step #1) Education, Education, Education!

If you want your testers to embrace an agile mindset, then it all starts with education.

  1. Testers must educate themselves about what agile processes are going to entail. What will the new workflow be? What will be expected of them in their new role?
  2. The testing group needs to have a voice in the business. They must be empowered to educate management or the agile steering group. It’s important that they contribute to the adoption of agile and feel that their own requirements are being considered. This will secure buy-in at all levels.
  3. Testers must be proactive in educating themselves about each project. They must be informed and included from the outset of a new project; they must understand the business value and work to understand the needs of the end-user.

Step #2) Balancing Documentation

The traditional reliance on documentation is a habit that must be broken and the expectations surrounding its creation must be reset. Relying on requirements documents that were written before any development has started is no longer going to work.

Agile is all about adapting to a user feedback loop that hones the final product in iterations as you go along, and it’s a fluid process. That means any documentation you do rely on must be kept up to date as development and design evolves.

An Agile testing mindset means avoid bogging testers down in red tape and bureaucracy. The more time testers spend doing menial tasks like documenting test cases, the less time they have to do value-added activities like finding defects. Automatic script generation for regression testing that organically grows out of exploratory testing sessions is one clever shortcut you can take.

What’s required in an agile environment is smart documentation. There needs to be an acceptance that not everything can be documented and a focus on what’s genuinely needed to keep the processes going.

Striking a balance between documenting enough to allow for future knowledge transfer while keeping unnecessary work to a minimum can be one of the trickiest parts of implementing an agile process.

Recommended Reading => How to Test Smarter with less documentation

Step #3) Realigning Your Metrics

Perhaps the biggest attitude adjustment that’s required for a successful transition to agile testing comes when trying to replace the traditional testing mindset towards metrics. QA teams and Testers are used to metrics that track the completion of testing activities and the creation of defects.

Those metrics do not align with the value-added nature of agile development. This list of “Don’ts” might make testers accustomed to traditional metrics shudder, but it will drive the team to think of metrics that are aligned with the success of the business:

  1. Don’t focus on the overall defect count. The number of defects that a tester finds is not an adequate measure of their effectiveness. Focusing on quantity over quality is a mistake. If testers feel pressured to hit numbers then they are more likely to throw questionable defects over the wall. Feature requests, design gaps, and unclear requirements are not defects.
  2. Don’t focus on the number of test scripts executed each day. Each test is not created equal. The number is misleading and the focus should be on delivering quality.
  3. Don’t focus on overall pass rates for scripts. Whether individual test scripts ran without incident doesn’t tell you about how the product feels to use, or whether it is meeting end-user expectations. In the end, the tester is the greatest advocate for the end-user and should be concerned with keeping them happy.

The focus should shift to the satisfaction of the end-user and a way from activity tracking. If everyone in the company is aiming to deliver the best product for the customer and listening to their feedback, then success will naturally follow.

Step #4) Changing Attitudes

A willingness to communicate and collaborate is paramount to the success of agile. In the past, QA departments have often been able to succeed as an isolated unit – they would position themselves as gatekeepers of the product, feeling as though they work in opposition to developers.

That era is over – it’s time to bring testers into the fold. Educate them, empower them, and they will deliver much greater business value.

This is a two-way street. Empowering testers from the top down and taking responsibility for their development from the bottom up. It’s about aligning goals across your company so that every department and every member of your staff is pulling the team in the same direction.

Everyone must be focused on creating the best experience possible for the end-user.

About the Author: Kevin Dunne is a product specialist for QASymphony, a leading provider of test management platforms for agile development teams. He was previously a Business Technology Analyst for Deloitte in Atlanta. You may contact him at [email protected] 

Are you facing any challenges adopting an Agile mindset? Let us know in comments about your experience and queries.

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