Sunday, March 31, 2013

Role and responsibilities of QA/tester in scrum/Agile world; How Agile improves the testing of software.

In traditional software development model QA/testers were actively involved in only certain phases of the project. After development finishes the coding the entire project was handed over to QA. In many cases QA and developer wouldn’t even know each other. All the communication will be through email or bug tracking system. I remember one instance when my project manager relocated the entire QA team to another building!!! He didn’t want the QA and development team to communicate face to face. We had different competency centers for QA and development teams with different career objectives and career ladder.   The QA team had a separate identity, a feeling of ownership over an entire phase of product. They were called the gatekeepers of quality.


Don’t fear the change


But in scrum apart from the sprint cycles there are no definite phases. In scrum there is a big change in the way team operates and interacts. In scrum there is no differentiation between a QA and developer. Scrum just treats them as two separate individuals with specialized skills who work together to deliver a quality product after the sprint.

One team (mostly collocated)

In scrum QA and developer are part of the same team and collocated (mostly). This helps in a better communication and team bonding.  They learn from each other. More focus is given to communication and knowledge sharing.

Many say that in scrum there is no place for QA/testers. This is not reality. We still need QA; not the old QA but the smart agile QA. It’s not about the number of bugs anymore. It is all about the quality of application which is delivered to the customer.

A much bigger role


A tester in agile world has a much bigger role to play. He has to wear multiple hats and every day the old beliefs and practices will be challenged. Don’t oppose it, embrace the change, It is for good. A QA in no longer limited to writing test cases and creating bugs in bug tracking system.



Some Additional roles and responsibilities.


Requirements

Be an expert in the application domain. Testers should help the team and PO write COA’s for user stories. Testers should be able to challenge the existing COA’s and propose a better one. Help the team learn some industry standards like Gherkin for COA’s.

Pair Programming

Pair with other team members to discuss the PBI or bugs. Don’t expect the developers to fix a bug or finish a PBI and then provide a build to test. Don’t create a mini waterfall in sprints.
  • Talk/discuss upfront about the possible impact of the change
  • Create test cases & update your documentation
  • Create test data or scripts
Developers are poor testers; help them to improve the testing skills. With the close interaction of testers, the unit testing will be improved. If the build is delayed, pair with the developer and test the fix in dev. machine. If you find any issues, later on it will save a lot of time in writing and explaining the new bug.


Test first approach


When team starts a new feature development, a tester can wear the customer hat and create acceptance test cases. I have seen in few projects where a new feature was introduced in release cycle and another PBI/bug was created to remove that on next release cycle!!!.  A proper understanding of the customer requirement would have prevented this situation (PO and other stakeholders should have handled this but that’s another level of discussion)

 

Design product suites


In big products multiple teams work on same products which are in turn linked to many other dependent products. I have seen few cases where the lack of cross product knowledge in teams has caused serious problems and issues. Testers can take this role of designing the features across the suite. If a feature was proposed for X product does it makes sense to move that to Y for a better customer satisfaction?

Improve metrics


Ask questions about the quality of the application. What is the test coverage of the features? Are there any performance issues? If the product has issues, then the QA engineers should always bring this to Product Owners and Scrum Masters attention. Work with them closely to reduce this technical debt.

Automation

The manual testing should be less than 10 % of the total testing.If the team is spending more than that then testers should learn any automation tools to automate the test cases. Without automation the life will be miserable. There is no value in doing the repeated work day after day. By automating the test cases the velocity of the team will increase drastically.

Exploratory testing


All the bugs cannot be found by automation tool. Always be ready to do exploratory testing with the new interfaces and products.  The unique skills of the QA will help the team to find and fix hidden bugs. If there is a pattern in these bugs, update the unit test cases or automation scripts.
In short a tester in an agile world is much powerful. A tester needs a change in identity – need a change in mindset to release software with a high quality each sprint. There is no glory in creating bugs in tracking system. Only thing which matters is zero defects with customer (if you can).There are no we testers and you developers.


Get in touch
Are you a tester /QA in agile world? Write to me about your challenges and your experience. I would love to hear from you. .

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