Testers on Agile Projects

When I began reading articles and books on Agile Development and attended lectures by well-known experts in the subject, I was impressed. This style of development resonated with me, combining what I had learned from the Open Source world and aspects of successful projects I had been on. As a believer in W. Edwards Deming’s 14 Points, I felt that Agile Methods seemed be addressing many of the same issues.

I welcomed Agile Development, and have championed it now that I’ve experienced it. I didn’t feel a threat to my job as a tester, but I knew things were going to change. The only thing that bothered me was a new impression towards testers that seemed to be emerging. The attitude sounded like: “we’re doing testing now thank you very much, so we don’t know where you will fit in Agile projects”. This attitude is changing, but the role of testers on Agile teams is still emerging.

Since I am a tester working on Agile projects, I want to share my experiences. When I first thought about Agile Development not needing dedicated testers, my intitial reaction was to think of a writer/editor analogy. As my experience with Agile projects grows, I am less confident of the need for a dedicated tester. I still think there is a need, but I have to be willing to admit that there may be no role for dedicated testers on Agile Projects, even if I want there to be. The role may be a diminished one, or as Brian Marick points out in his blog series on Agile Testing Directions, testers may be specialists called in for certain tasks like Security or Performance testing. However, the agile testing role might evolve and change into something completely different from what we know of as testing today. My goal is to see if and where I fit in on Agile projects. I’m relying on my development colleagues to provide me with honest feedback which I will try to share here.

One aspect of the tester role I’m exploring is pair testing with developers. I can support the programmers and help them generate test ideas, especially if they are using test driven development. We can also test together on a machine to test the product – simultaneously generating testing ideas. A senior developer noted that pair programming with a tester provides a developer with someone to help them generate tests. After all, the testers see the world in terms of tests, and the developers see the world in terms of patterns or objects or algorithms. One creates code while the other creates testing ideas. It sounds like a good match. It will be interesting to see how this type of testing pans out.