Agile has swiftly surpassed the dimensions of the traditional software development life cycle approach (SDLC), and the waterfall model appears to be winded. Quick turnaround time, faster development, better teamwork, reduced costs, along with assurance of a quality application, are the cornerstones of agile.
The features of an agile environment may be summarized as follows:
- Highly collaborative – Encourages open face to face interaction
- Constant on-site user accessibility
- Focus on delivering business value early and constantly
- Continuous Testing & Improvement
- Continuous Integration
- Automated and Test driven
- Small, self-organizing cross-functional teams
Undoubtedly, Agile has completely changed the quality assurance scenario with its fast and collaborative approach. However, software testing in an agile environment has its own pros and cons.
Scope And Throughput
Testing in an agile environment ensures that QA is well integrated throughout the entire SDLC, and the entire team is responsible for the quality of the end product.
Beginning with the initial stage of collating the test requirements through the end product delivery; Agile ensures better collaboration among testers, developers and end users. The boundaries are blurred not only between the coders, designers, and testers, but also among managers and workers. The responsibility is collective and not individual, yet the role of each member cannot be undermined.
The environment, despite being open and interactive, necessitates testers to be versatile, with an understanding of when to use exploratory, or scripting, or manual testing methodology. They are also expected to build robust automated scripts. Moreover, all the team members are required to broaden their outlook, and cooperate with each other. They should be able to view the product development from each other’s perspective, and continuously make improvements, as required, if the agile approach has to be successful.
Continuous Integration (CI)
CI is yet another significant feature of Agile Environment. It organizes development into user stories which are prioritized into sprints. The build is then automated and the tests are conducted. The team, during the sprint, holds daily discussions and brainstorm solutions in response to the challenges posed. This results in a functional product, based on the subset of the comprehensive product requirements. Here, the basic premise is to build the product incrementally and to improve it as development progresses, unlike the drawn-out traditional sequential approach of the Waterfall Model.
The work of the team members is integrated recurrently, and the integration errors get resolved in the process, resulting in faster development in a cohesive manner. This approach is, however, dependent on another characteristic of agility, which is the Test Driven Development (TDD).
Agile environment introduces testing even before the code has been written, which is referred to as Test-First Development (TFD) approach. With each new addition to the code, the related test is first developed and added to the suite of tests that are run as part of the build process. The code needs to pass the test implying that the feature is functionally acceptable. Automated tests in this scenario assist in the rapid execution of regression test suites to continually verify the software functionality.
With TDD, both TFD and Refactoring can be combined. Refactoring relies on comprehensive Automated Unit tests ensuring that alteration in code has not made the code dysfunctional, resulting in breaking the build. Agile here assists in quickly notifying the error and resolving the issues before they pile up.
Automated Testing: The Hallmark Of Agility
Agile environment focuses on automation which is the best way to increase the depth and scope of tests to improve software quality. Automated tests ensure quick reaction to the ever changing software systems and requirements. The time to market is reduced invariably with shortened development cycles, and the overall cost is less.
Nevertheless, we cannot completely rely on automated testing or the agile approach for the entire SDLC. Despite its advantages, agile environment also poses few significant testing hassles.
The diagnostic and exploratory skills of the testers that assist in finding out unanticipated risks or design issues need to be woven into the entire development process, in addition to incorporating the elements of traditional manual testing, which lays the foundation for automation. In absence of this, the entire project may collapse. Besides, creating robust automated tests is not an easy job. Decision fatigue is a big trouble especially when it is difficult to choose the right option, and there is a need for frequent, just in time decision-making. With n number of tools available, selection of the wrong tool may have costly repercussions. In addition, things may go chaotic with the larger projects in hand, and conflicts may arise within the test management team.
In a nutshell, testing in an agile environment is no guarantee to a smooth, fast and flawless testing process, yet if applied aptly with the vital traditional elements; it assists in quick builds, frequent testing, and rapid feedback, resulting in faster product development and reduced delivery time.