Agile Australia Then & Now (AgileTODAY)

AgileTODAY is a publication associated with the Agile Australia conference. In the May 2018 edition I was invited to reflect on one of my past presentations and how it stood the test of time.

Craig spoke on “The Speed to Cool: Valuing Testing and Quality in Agile Teams” at Agile Australia in 2011. Craig is an Agile Coach and Director at Unbound DNA and works as a Trainer and Consultant at Software Education.

In 2011, my talk highlighted the need for a greater understanding of the changing role of testing in Agile environments and the need to build quality into our solutions from the beginning.

Fast forwarding to 2018, the community is improving in this space but still has a long way to go. The rise in popularity of DevOps has helped immensely in this area, although it astounds me how many teams and organisations I work with still do not have some of the basic building blocks in place (like continuous integration or sometimes, worryingly, version control). Many organisations still have a large focus on manually testing via the UI which becomes increasingly riskier and slower as the importance of digital continues to rise.

In my talk, I spoke about what is now referred to as the “three amigos” concept. In the ‘conversation’ around a user story, three key principles outline how to actually implement the work:

  1. When developers and user representatives collaborate we get a better understanding of the specification or the requirements.
  2. When testers and user representatives collaborate we get a better understanding of the acceptance criteria and how we will meet our agreed definition of ‘done’.
  3. When testers and developers collaborate we get a better understanding of quality, but also get the value of pairing on automated testing.

Approaches such as Behaviour Driven Development have risen in popularity and support the above model well but, as I highlighted in the talk, this requires behavioural changes across the team. Mainly:

  • User representatives need to have a greater testing involvement, working closer in real time with testers.
  • Testers need to build technical knowledge and work closer in real time with developers, understanding developer tests and interfaces to avoid rework and improve quality.
  • Developers need work closer with the user representatives on the requirements collaboration, as well as with the testers to ensure that testing artefacts are left behind.

We need to appreciate testing as a team skill set and not as a job or an anchor. While this now occurs more frequently in the Agile community, many organisations still have a long way to go. Testing remains an important skill, but mindsets and skill sets need to change to fully embrace an Agile way of working.

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