Conventional Testers on Agile Projects – Getting Started

At this point, the conventional tester says that they can really identify with the values, understand some of the motivations behind agile methods and are ready to jump in. “How do I get started? What do I do?”

Testers Provide Feedback

I’ve talked about this before in the Testers Provide Feedback blog post.

A conventional tester starting out on an agile team should engage in testing activities that provide relevant feedback. It’s as simple as that.

I’m hard pressed to think of any activity that doesn’t tie into the tester as service role, ultimately helping the tester provide feedback. What activity that is depends on what the needs are on a project, right now.

Testing is what I do to provide good feedback on any development project. What is relevant depends on what your goals are, and what the team needs. This can be risk assessments, bug reports, a thumbs up on a new story, all sorts of things.

To have confidence in that feedback, we can engage in many activities to gather information. Exploratory testing is one effective way to do this, another is to use automated tests. There are lots of ways that we can gather information by inquiring, observing, and reporting useful information. What is key to me is to figure out what information the team needs at a particular time. What are some things that have worked well for you? Please let me know.

Personally, a testing activity is useful to the extent that it helps me get the information I need to provide useful feedback to the rest of the team. Sometimes it involves working with a customer and helping identify risks. Other times it’s a status report on automated tests that I give to the team. It may involve manual testing when on a bug hunt, or another useful testing mission where I need to do testing activities beyond automated tests. Other times it’s real-time feedback done when pair testing with a developer. Other times I am working with a customer helping them develop tests. The kind of feedback needed on a project guides what kind of testing activities I need to do.

Providing information is central. As James Bach says: “testing lights the way”. If I am not able to provide more feedback than the automated tests and customer are already providing, then I need to evaluate whether I should be on that agile team or not. If a particular area is not being addressed well and the team needs more information, then I should focus activities on that area, not focus slavishly on what role I think I should be filling.

Doing what needs to be done to help the team and the customer have confidence in the product is central. That means stepping out of comfort zones, learning new things and pitching in to help. This can be intimidating at first, but helps the tester gather more information and helps me learn what kinds of feedback the team needs. It’s a challenge, and those who enjoy challenges might identify with this way of thinking. Doing what needs to be done helps testers gather different kinds of information that can be used to provide the right kind of feedback.

More Information for Testers

In The Ongoing Revolution in Software Testing, Cem Kaner describes the kind of thinking that I am trying to get across. Testers who identify and agree with what Cem Kaner has said should have few problems adjusting to agile teams. This article is worth reading for anyone who is thinking about software testing.

Continue reading the series >>