Agile methodology for software testing

Although agile methodology is now fairly common, many organizations – especially those in regulated industries that require more formal documentation and traceability – still use the Waterfall model of the traditional approach or hybrid development frameworks. And some teams are in the process of moving to Agile.

No matter where you are on your journey to agile testing, this article will help you better understand the basics of agile testing and how to easily transition to an agile testing methodology. And we’ll show you the best way to create and implement an agile testing strategy.

What is agile methodology?

Agile methodology means a practice that supports continuous development and testing throughout the software development lifecycle. In the agile model in software testing, both development and testing activities are concurrent, unlike in the waterfall model.

In a previous article, we wrote more in detail about the agile approach to software development. Agile development uses an incremental approach to development. Similarly, agile testing involves an incremental approach to testing. In this type of software testing, functions are tested continuously. Agile software testing methods offer several opportunities to streamline the testing process.

What is agile methodology testing?

Just as the agile development methodology breaks down larger elements of feature development into smaller, more manageable chunks (such as user stories, tasks, and technical requirements), the agile testing methodology breaks down larger elements of testing into smaller, more specific tests with a tighter focus on a particular user story, task, technical requirement, etc.

By breaking testing into these “small” blocks, agile testing allows testing to be performed in a earlier and efficient manner.

What is agile testing and what are the main agile testing principles ?

Agile testing is a software testing practice that follows the Agile software development methodology. In Agile development, projects tend to evolve during each sprint among collaborators and shareholders. Agile testing focuses on ensuring quality throughout the Agile software development process. The main principles of agile testing are:

  • Early and continuous testing: testers should start testing the software early in the development process. The software should also be tested continuously throughout the development cycle.
  • The approach of the whole team: In agile development, all team members are responsible for ensuring the quality of the product. This includes developers, testers, business analysts and product owners.
  • Frequent delivery: agile teams deliver working software frequently, usually every two weeks.
  • Close collaboration: in an agile project there is close collaboration between all team members. This helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that there are no surprises.
  • Customer involvement: customers are involved in the entire agile development process. In each iteration, they provide feedback that helps the team continuously improve.
  • Working software: Agile teams focus on software quality management during each iteration. This is more important than documentation or other outputs.
  • Flexible approach: agile development means a flexible approach. Teams can change requirements at any time during the development process.

The main principles of agile testing

What are the main testing activities in agile development?

  • Requirements analysis: testers work with business analysts and product owners to understand the requirements for a new feature.
  • Test design: testers design test cases for a new feature.
  • Test execution: testers execute test cases and report any errors.
  • Bug management: testers work with developers to fix bugs.
  • Release management: testers help plan and execute the release of a new feature.

Agile testing supports continuous testing

Agile testing methodology supports DevOps and continuous testing. And continuous testing is important to improve product quality.

  • In agile development, testing must be done early and frequently. So instead of waiting for development to complete before starting testing, testing is done on an ongoing basis as features are added. This is also referred to as “shift left” testing.
  • Tests are prioritized just like user stories. The goal of the testers is to pass as many tests as possible in one iteration. Adding automation testing process tools can help automation tester to pass a larger number of test tasks.

How does agile testing and continuous testing help improve product quality? First, by testing early in the development process, problems and bugs can be detected earlier. You won’t end up with costly last-minute surprises that can delay time of release to market. And bugs are easier to fix when they’re still fresh in the developers mind.

Continuous testing can also improve test coverage, and better test coverage leads to higher product quality and safety.

What does an agile tester do?

Testing and quality assurance is in an agile environment everyone’s responsibility. Therefore, testers and developers working in an agile environment need to work closely together. Communication and cooperation are key.

Agile development is often test-driven. Developers use agile testing methods such as test-driven development (TDD) to write the tests first. Then they write the code that will be verified by the test. And also developers and agile testers should work together before setting user stories, such as requirements.

Once development and testing has begun, close communication and collaboration remains important. Agile testers should test at the time when developers are writing code. In addition, the developers will probably be doing some testing. And agile testers will probably do some programming as well.

What are the most important skills for agile testers?

  • Testers must be able to communicate effectively with all team members. They must also be able to understand the customer’s needs and requirements.
  • Testers must have strong technical skills. They should be able to understand the code.
  • Testers must be able to identify and resolve issues quickly. They should also be able to think creatively and propose new solutions where necessary.
  • Testers must be able to work well in a team environment. They should be flexible and adaptable and be able to work well under pressure.

What is the agile testing lifecycle?

The agile testing lifecycle is the process that agile teams use to plan, execute, and track their testing activities.

The agile testing lifecycle consists of four main phases:

  • Planning: the team decides which features can be tested and which tests are needed.
  • Implementation: the team carries out tests.
  • Tracking: the team tracks test results and bug reports.
  • Closure: the team will review the test results and close any remaining bugs.

Agile testing best practices

Agile testing best practices include:

  • Automate as much as possible. This helps speed up the testing process and allows developers to find more bugs.
  • Use the automation testing tools and also automated tool for easier bug tracking. This helps development teams to quickly and efficiently acquire resources and troubleshoot bugs.
  • Use continuous integration and continuous delivery. This will help ensure that changes are made frequently and that they are always tested before implementation.
  • Communicate early and often. Agile teams must constantly communicate to be successful. Testers must be able to communicate effectively with all team members as well as with the customer.

Understanding the agile testing definition of DONE

In agile development, the definition of DONE is the team’s common, standardized understanding that a particular user story has been completed. The acceptance criteria in the user story are what help define the definition of done. If the user story meets the acceptance criteria, it can be considered done. This includes testing or verifying acceptance criteria. The test therefore verifies that you have completed the user story.

It’s important for agile testers and developers to know what has been tested and what bugs still need to be resolved.

Agile testing methods

In agile development, testing comes first. When you create a user story, you need to define acceptance criteria. This guides the testing and validation of user stories.

It doesn’t matter what agile testing methodology you use – Scrum, XP, Kanban or even hybrid agile methodology. Agile testing typically uses the following test methods:

Test-Driven Development (TDD)

Test-driven development (TDD) starts with tests. This type of development starts with discussing what you want to test and then creating a user story. So you start by writing a unit test. Then you write a user story. Finally, you write code until the unit test passes.

Test-driven development is typically used for unit tests and component tests, which can be performed using automated testing tools. TDD ensures that functions work as they should.

Acceptance Test-Driven Development (ATDD)

Acceptance test-driven development (ATDD) is similar to test-driven development. However, acceptance test-driven development starts with customer input on functionality. This type of development starts with a discussion about how the product will be used. So you write a user acceptance test (UAT). And then you write code until it passes the test.

Acceptance test-driven development is typically used for acceptance tests. It verifies that the product works as users would expect.

Behavior-Driven Development (BDD)

Behavior-driven development (BDD) often stems from test-driven development and acceptance-test-driven development. In behaviour-driven development, the purpose of the development must be linked to the business outcome. So you’re going to have a user story – but the user story has to answer why, from a business perspective, this feature is being developed. And in BDD, tests are included in user stories as scenarios or specifications.

Behaviour-driven development is also used for acceptance tests. It verifies if the product features are necessary to achieve the desired business outcome.

Exploratory Testing

Exploratory testing is a style of testing that allows testers to follow their intuition rather than a predetermined path. It is usually manual. Testers record what they do and save it as a test. Then, in the course of testing, they find out exactly what they are testing.

Exploratory testing is usually used to look for hidden risks within a product. These would be bugs that were overlooked in the functional tests performed as part of test-driven development.

Session-Based Testing

Session-based testing has some similarities with exploratory testing. Session-based testing, however, has a slightly larger structure. Rather than figuring out what they’re going to test as they go, testers start with a mission.

Session-based testing is also used to find hidden bugs within a project.

Agile testing strategy

Testing in traditional development usually involves a test plan. However, a well-documented testing plan is not common in agile development. Instead, agile testers need to be flexible and ready to respond to changes in requirements.

Therefore, an agile testing strategy rather than an agile test plan is needed.

There are many ways to outline an agile testing strategy. You can simply outline the strategy in a document. You can create a test matrix. Or you can use the Kanban board.

Regardless of which agile testing methodology you use, the strategy should include:

  1. Purpose (defined by the user story).
  2. Objectives (test cases).
  3. Scope (what needs to be tested).
  4. Methods (how the tests will be carried out).

Creating an agile testing strategy can be tricky. But it’s easy if you use the right testing tools.

Benefits of agile testing

  • Performing agile testing requires less documentation.
  • Agile testing helps reduce bugs, improve product quality and increase software productivity.
  • In agile software testing, the work is divided into small parts so that the developer can concentrate more easily and complete one part first and then move on to the next. This approach helps to identify minor inconsistencies and greater efficiency.
  • In agile testing, feedback is regularly gathered from users and other stakeholders to help improve the quality of the software product.

Benefits of agile testing

Limitations of agile testing

  • In agile testing, if one or more members leave the project, there is a chance that the project will fail.
  • In agile testing, there is no or less documentation, which makes it difficult to predict the expected results as there are not clear conditions and requirements.
  • Agile software testing involves repeated bug fixes, modifications and releases, which can sometimes lead to new bugs being introduced into the system.
  • In agile testing, the team doesn’t know the exact end result from day one, so it’s difficult to predict factors such as cost, time, and resources needed at the beginning of the project.
  • Agile testing requires minimal planning at the beginning, so it’s easy to get sidetracked when delivering a new product. There is no definitive end, and there is no clear vision of what the final product will look like.

Agile testing vs traditional testing – key differences

  1. Philosophy

While traditional testing practices are based on a philosophy of fixed, specific requirements and bug resolution first and then product release, the agile approach to testing follows a test-first philosophy where bugs are removed in each sprint before the product is released.

Further, in agile testing projects, requirements are not fixed, so changes can be introduced in a healthy way, which means that the test case is open to exploring further considerations and modifications.

  1. Access

The traditional method follows a predictive model with a sequential approach. It involves a top-down approach in which testing is carried out sequentially.

On the other hand, the agile method follows a more iterative and adaptive model with phases such as project planning, risk management, design and development, and testing.

  1. Feature

The primary function of the traditional approach to testing is product quality certification. In comparison, agile testing principles ensure quality and fast product delivery with minimal features.

  1. Feedback from users

In traditional testing, user feedback is not taken until testing is complete. The agile approach follows short cycles of continuous feedback at the end of each sprint.

  1. Agile Test Automation

As far as the approach to testing is concerned, automation is hardly used and is rather a routine practice of developers. On the other hand, agile testing supports the automation process in the test scenario.

  1. Continuous improvement

In the traditional approach, the required modifications are only done in the next version. In contrast, the agile process tracks continuous improvement in software testing, where required changes are made in the next sprint of the test cycle. The modern method looks at software testing as a process of continuous improvement.

  1. Communication

Traditional approaches to testing rely heavily on documentation with all the use cases and test case preparation that goes with it.

Whereas in agile testing, documentation is not a necessary part of QA. In this case, QA testers learn the facts they need, in whatever form they need, without a lot of documentation, and continue with the process.

  1. Risk management

While the traditional methodology avoids risks, the agile methodology follows an early and effective approach to risk prevention.

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About the author

Michaela Kojnoková

Agile Test Engineer

Po štúdiu informatiky na ŽU a TUKE som sa najviac ponorila do oblasti automatizácie testovania. Okrem toho sa venujem tvorbe webov, databázam, dátovej analytike, umelej inteligencii a strojovému učeniu. Mám rada cestovanie, šport a najviac si užívam čas strávený v prírode s mojimi blízkymi. LinkedIn

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