The Role of a Tester on Agile Projects

I have been dealing with this question for some time now: “What is the role of a tester on Agile projects?” and I’m beginning to wonder if I’m thinking about this in the right way. I’ve been exploring by doing, by thinking and talking to practitioners about whether dedicated testers have a place on Agile teams. However, most of the questions I get asked by practitioners and developers on Agile teams are about dealing with testing on an Agile project right now, not whether a tester should be put on the team. The testers are here, or the need for testers on the team has been proscribed, so they are looking for answers on how to deal with issues they are facing right now.

Has the ship sailed on the question: “Is there room for dedicated testers on Agile projects?” already? Is it time to rephrase the question to: “What are roles that dedicated testers have added value with on Agile teams?” followed by “What are some good techniques to deal with the unique team conditions on Agile projects?”.

I’m willing to accept that some methodologies may not be compatible with this notion. The question remains, what are testers doing on real-world Agile projects, and what methodologies don’t seem to be amenable to dedicated testers? Of those, are dedicated testers pressured out due to team development philosophy, or are dedicated testers simply not needed? Real-world experience is what we as a community need to keep sharing.

Have the “specialized testers” arrived already, and has the question of whether they should be brought on teams become academic, or are we answering the question by doing? The question will answer itself anyway as time goes on, and experience tends to trump theory alone.

I have been a bit reluctant to put a stake in the ground about the role of testers on Agile projects without more experience myself, but judging by the questions I am getting and the constructive criticism that I have recieved, I should probably share more of my own experiences. I think it’s time for testers on Agile projects to start talking about techniques and what roles they have filled on Agile teams. From that we can gather a set of values that describe the roles, techniques and mindsets of those who are testers on Agile projects. Answering the question by exploration and doing is much more exciting to me than an academic debate.