Be sure to allocate enough time for all Agile testing tasks

Agile Planning - Part 2: Agile Testing Tasks

Let's make sure your demo to the product owner is successful.

We continue our Agile planning tips with part 2: "Agile Testing Tasks". In part 2, Phil Lew identifies key tasks that you should include in your estimate so you don't run out of time. Hint: It's more than just writing test cases and executing them.

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Key Agile Testing Tasks

By Philip Lew, CEO of XBOSoft

In last week's newsletter, we talked about Agile acceptance criteria. In this newsletter, we're focusing on Agile testing tasks.

Agile Testing Tasks

One of the tenets of Agile is that each sprint or iteration has a velocity thereby quantifying the amount of work or delivered value within each sprint. As such, each sprint will have user stories as part of the delivered ‘working software’ for that sprint. Each sprint will have an estimated amount of work involved - which is where the poker playing Agile sessions effectively solicit team members’ estimates for how much work is involved in a user story.

Unfortunately, some teams often forget that all user stories should have a testing component, not just unit tests, but also acceptance tests along with many other QA related activities. Without this added element of work added to each story, many testing tasks often don’t get done because there just isn’t enough time allocated. It then becomes an afterthought which could result in your demo to the product owner at the end of the sprint being “Not done”. To avoid this, give testing activities the attention and focus they deserve. 

We’ve identified several key testing tasks that should be included in the Agile process:
  1. Infrastructure-related tasks such as tools, frameworks, and environment management. Especially with working remotely no longer an exception, ensuring that test environments and frameworks are allocated consistently amongst your team is critical to avoid incompatibilities and asynchronization.
  2. Test data generation and maintenance, and data organization and validation have become an essential activity as using data consistently is necessary to ensure the dependability and consistency of test results.
  3. Non-functional testing tasks should also be included such as static analysis, complexity analysis, performance testing, and security testing. By conducting these activities as development occurs, you’ll have avoided a huge ticking time bomb when you deliver your final product.
  4. Cross-functional or integration testing tasks, such as those that will cross from the new features for that sprint to old features, are essential as you must exercise the software as an end user would, not just the particular feature being delivered for that sprint.
  5. For acceptance tests, there are several sub-activities including determining priorities; considering normal, alternate, and error paths through the story; and story review, which means clearing up any ambiguities, clarifying story descriptions and user roles, and eliminating or delineating possible alternate interpretations.
  6. For testing documentation, this should be an explicit task with the level of detail dependent on your organization’s culture. While some proponents of Agile believe in no documentation, our philosophy is to document only what you want to remember. If you don’t care about remembering it, either as an organization or individual, or across individuals who may share a task, then don’t document it. While you don’t need or want a 20-page test plan, take the time to sit down with your teammates and think carefully about what you want to remember (and therefore document). 

As you can see, there are plenty of testing activities as part of the Agile planning phase. As testers, we need to think outside the box of just writing test cases and executing them. Agile planning should incorporate QA activities from the beginning as part of the work estimated with each iteration. This includes all of the above activities and more. 

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