New testing requires old tricks

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One of our test specialist, Tahseen Syed,  considers how traditional testing skills can add value in an Agile development environment

If you are a tester of the 90s then you will remember our reputation: trouble-makers. The ones who made developers sneer and project managers perspire. That was my role and I did what was expected of me. I joined at the end of the project and was asked to point out the mistakes in the system.


I joined the industry when this era was in full maturity, but ripples of change were on the way. The rise of rapid development, tighter timescales and tighter testing budgets meant that the tester could no longer afford to be the last to the party. Testers were asked to be present at design meetings and involved in early-sight testing during development. This enabled them to hit the ground running during the increasingly small window now afforded to the testing phase.


The Agile era now demands even more of the collaborative project tester. At present, many organisations will provide an Agile environment for software development, but then follow a waterfall model for testing and deployment. This results in the usual project pressures during the aforementioned phases.


To get the full value of agility, testing must be fully integrated into the Agile project. To do this testers need to feel equipped, and organisations need to be empowered, to make the move away from old methods and fully embrace the new.

So what can old-school testers bring to the Agile party?


Testers have historically been project jugglers. They are trained to understand a sudden change in a requirement, perform a last minute test in the development environment, communicate to the stakeholders, produce the legitimate and necessary testing documentation and then officially test before deployment. All the time you know full well the business are hoping and wanting you to say "yes your last minute change to the requirements slotted in seamlessly and here is your evidence"!


This in itself is agility. Testers can use these skills to bring value to a dynamic agile project and arguably provide more benefit than business analysts (who many consider to be an unnecessary overhead in an agile environment).


The key skills that experienced testers have are:

  • Analysis
  • Communication
  • Providers of evidence

Where do we need to adjust to bring more value in the Agile era?

  • Remember to work as a team with developers, don't work against the code but with it.
  • Develop scripting skills, to be able to script during a sprint and not from formal requirements in a predefined scripting phase.
  • Develop or enhance our automative testing skills.
  • Be prepared to provide feedback on a regular (daily) basis


As testers, do we lose any influence in an Agile environment?
The answer is no. Remember:

  • You can bring up issues on quality and process at any time
  • You can ask questions of the business or developers at any time.
  • You decide how long you will need to test each development sprint.
  • You make the decision on which tools are needed to perform your role.

We are no longer at war! Testers and developers are not adversaries. The No.1 hurdle we face as testers is understanding and accepting that our role had to adapt the most in the Agile universe. Developers still write code and the businesses still change their mind. But testers are no longer at the end of the chain being bearers of bad news. We must recognise our strengths and come to terms with the change in our role at the heart of the Agile team.


Contact Wisereach   to help you embed your test talent into your Agile team

Peter Weare

Industry leader in digital transformation. Passionate about delivering a frictionless consumer  experience. Regular commenter on getting delivery right.

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