Softtest Talk on Automated Testing in Agile Environment

Softtest Ireland does a great job of holding free talks for software testers in Ireland. They held a talk yesterday on the following:

Automated Testing & Development in an Agile Environment

The two speakers were:

Sebastien Lambla from CaffeineIT is a “developer passionate about all things Agile” . He spoke about “In the life of a lean feature” and,

Ken Brennock from Sogeti Ireland, talking about “Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools”

The attendance was great, the room was packed and there was a real interest in what these speakers had to say. It was a mixed bunch of testers and test managers. Some were considering moving to Agile, others were already in the process, some like me were there to listen and perhaps pick up a few tips.

In the life of a lean feature

I found Sebastien Lambla’s talk a real challenge and I consider this to be a good thing. I like it when I hear something that I totally disagree with.  In this case, it was the concept of a “Cross Competency Team” where you ‘trust your team to be good enough to do everything”. So the example given was, a developer goes and assists with release management if work is backing up.

I did not like the sound of that!  So I asked the question “does that mean in times of need, a release manager helps out in development”.  The answer was in theory yes, if they had the skills.

And this is where I have the problem with the idea. Because in my view, a tester has special skills too which sets them apart from the rest of the team. They are testers because they think differently, have a different perspective and bring something special to the team that most other members don’t have.

But, when the chips are down and the feature is late, does the whole team help out in testing? Or are only those who have the necessary  testing skills allowed to test? I suspect not!

I’m guessing (or I’m hoping) that I am missing the point about Cross Competency Teams, mostly due to ignorance.

Probably, the intention or goal  is to promote the concept of “the whole team getting the feature over the line”  and that in reality, the developers would be perhaps helping out by using their strengths to supplement the tester instead of substituting the tester.

So, for example, the tester would hand over a bunch of code that had to be automated, leaving them to focus on perhaps exploratory testing.

Anyhow, onto the next talk.

Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools

The title of Ken Brennock’s talk was about  “Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools” which I thought was ironic considering he was talked mostly about tools and little about how a testing individual can contribute in an agile environment”.

Still his talk was very useful.

He used the waterfall process to demonstrate the types of tools to be used in Agile testing. This perhaps was not a talk for the real agile devotees, but it provided some very useful and practical tips on moving from Waterfall to Agile.

I liked how he focused on test data and test environment. He said, that when moving to Agile the priority for testers is to focus on automating the test environment and test data. I think this is so true. One agile team I know of, made sure the developers first created the install and configuration scripts before any other code was written. This way the test team could start creating the test environment and nutting out these issues, which most testers know can be an area of considerable pain.

Ken is giving this talk again in webinar format on Wednesday 7th October.

For both talks, I thought it was a shame that for a talk to testers, so much was focused on automation. I guess thats what a lot of people want to hear, but I still think there is room to discuss the value testers can provide in exploratory testing in an agile environment.

All in all, I feel I have gained much from these talks, many thanks to Softtest Ireland for organising such a good event.

Incidentally, the membership to Softtest ireland is free to all software testers.

5 Comments

  1. Hi Anne-Marie, thanks for the feedback. Your comments are correct, this presentation comes from our clients looking to move to Agile and the issues the see in doing this, in particular around automation. You are also correct that the title is ironic, of all the different types of process and methodologies I have worked with Agile tends to be the most automated.

    Testers and their skills around test design techniques, strategies and planning (risk) are still key to the success of any project including Agile and this can’t always be replaced by the rest of the team (Development, Project Managers, BA’s). However with the pace of Agile project testers need to ensure that these skills are applied to an environment that allows change and expects fast turn-arounds.

    Reply

  2. I agree with the idea of individuals over processes. To often the tester and developer rely on written communication to discuss bugs and functionality when a visit will accomplish the task much easier, build trust, and communicate the information better. As a rule of thumb, engineers are not the greatest communicators so if you are not able to ask questions like in a conversation then you miss important detail or the engineer assumes that you know those details.

    I’ve found that trying to automate to much causes a test engineer to focus to much time on their automation (developing/fixing it) versus actually testing the product.

    What I would like to see taught is a class that shows the process of creating a test outline or matrix and then implementing it with decisions being made of where to automate and where to manually test. Did you get anything like that out of this training?

    Reply

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