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Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams

Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams

4.2 5
by Lisa Crispin, Janet Gregory

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Testing is a key component of agile development. The widespread adoption of agile methods has brought the need for effective testing into the limelight, and agile projects have transformed the role of testers. Much of a tester’s function, however, remains largely misunderstood. What is the true role of a tester? Do agile teams actually need members with QA


Testing is a key component of agile development. The widespread adoption of agile methods has brought the need for effective testing into the limelight, and agile projects have transformed the role of testers. Much of a tester’s function, however, remains largely misunderstood. What is the true role of a tester? Do agile teams actually need members with QA backgrounds? What does it really mean to be an “agile tester?”

Two of the industry’s most experienced agile testing practitioners and consultants, Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory, have teamed up to bring you the definitive answers to these questions and many others. In Agile Testing, Crispin and Gregory define agile testing and illustrate the tester’s role with examples from real agile teams. They teach you how to use the agile testing quadrants to identify what testing is needed, who should do it, and what tools might help. The book chronicles an agile software development iteration from the viewpoint of a tester and explains the seven key success factors
of agile testing.

Readers will come away from this book understanding

  • How to get testers engaged in agile development
  • Where testers and QA managers fit on an agile team
  • What to look for when hiring an agile tester
  • How to transition from a traditional cycle to agile development
  • How to complete testing activities in short iterations
  • How to use tests to successfully guide development
  • How to overcome barriers to test automation
This book is a must for agile testers, agile teams, their managers, and their customers.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“As Agile methods have entered the mainstream, we’ve learned a lot about how the testing discipline fits into Agile projects. Lisa and Janet give us a solid look at what to do, and what to avoid, in Agile testing.”
–Ron Jeffries, www.XProgramming.com

“An excellent introduction to agile and how it affects the software test community!”
–Gerard Meszaros, Agile Practice Lead and Chief Test Strategist at Solution Frameworks, Inc., an agile coaching and lean software development consultancy

“In sports and music, people know the importance of practicing technique until it becomes a part of the way they do things. This book is about some of the most fundamental techniques in software development–how to build quality into code–techniques that should become second nature to every development team. The book provides both broad and in-depth coverage of how to move testing to the front of the development process, along with a liberal sprinkling of real-life examples that bring the book to life.”
–Mary Poppendieck, Author of Lean Software Development and Implementing Lean Software Development

“Refreshingly pragmatic. Chock-full of wisdom. Absent of dogma. This book is a gamechanger. Every software professional should read it.”
–Uncle Bob Martin, Object Mentor, Inc.

“With Agile Testing, Lisa and Janet have used their holistic sensibility of testing to describe a culture shift for testers and teams willing to elevate their test effectiveness. The combination of real-life project experiences and specific techniques provide an excellent way to learn and adapt to continually changing project needs.”
–Adam Geras, M.Sc. Developer-Tester, Ideaca Knowledge Services

“On Agile projects, everyone seems to ask, ‘But, what about testing?’ Is it the development team’s responsibility entirely, the testing team, or a collaborative effort between developers and testers? Or, ‘How much testing should we automate?’ Lisa and Janet have written a book that finally answers these types of questions and more! Whether you’re a tester, developer, or manager, you’ll learn many great examples and stories from the real-world work experiences they’ve shared in this excellent book.”
–Paul Duvall, CTO of Stelligent and co-author of Continuous Integration: Improving Software Quality and Reducing Risk

“Finally a book for testers on Agile teams that acknowledges there is not just one right way! Agile Testing provides comprehensive coverage of the issues testers face when they move to Agile: from tools and metrics to roles and process. Illustrated with numerous stories and examples from many contributors, it gives a clear picture of what successful Agile testers are doing today.”
–Bret Pettichord, Chief Technical Officer of WatirCraft and Lead Developer of Watir

Product Details

Pearson Education
Publication date:
Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Cohn)
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File size:
4 MB

Read an Excerpt


We were early adopters of Extreme Programming (XP), testing on XP teams that weren’t at all sure where testers or their brand of testing fit in. At the time, there wasn’t much in the agile (which wasn’t called agile yet) literature about acceptance testing, or how professional testers might contribute. We learned not only from our own experiences but from others in the small agile community. In 2002, Lisa co-wrote Testing Extreme Programming with Tip House, with lots of help from Janet. Since then, agile development has evolved, and the agile testing community has flourished. With so many people contributing ideas, we’ve learned a whole lot more about agile testing.

Individually and together, we’ve helped teams transition to agile, helped testers learn how to contribute on agile teams, and worked with others in the agile community to explore ways that agile teams can be more successful at testing. Our experiences differ. Lisa has spent most of her time as an agile tester on stable teams working for years at a time on web applications in the retail, telephony, and financial industries. Janet has worked with software organizations developing enterprise systems in a variety of industries. These agile projects have included developing a message-handling system, an environmental-tracking system, a remote data management system (including an embedded application, with a communication network as well as the application), an oil and gas production accounting application, and applications in the airline transportation industry. She has played different roles—sometimes tester, sometimes coach—but has always worked to betterintegrate the testers with the rest of the team. She has been with teams from as little as six months to as long as one-and-a-half years.

With these different points of view, we have learned to work together and complement each other’s skill sets, and we have given many presentations and tutorials together.Why We Wrote This Book

Several excellent books oriented toward agile development on testing and test patterns have been published (see our bibliography). These books are generally focused on helping the developer. We decided to write a book aimed at helping agile teams be more successful at delivering business value using tests that the business can understand. We want to help testers and quality assurance (QA) professionals who have worked in more traditional development methodologies make the transition to agile development.

We’ve figured out how to apply—on a practical, day-to-day level—the fruits of our own experience working with teams of all sizes and a variety of ideas from other agile practitioners. We’ve put all this together in this book to help testers, quality assurance managers, developers, development managers, product owners, and anyone else with a stake in effective testing on agile projects to deliver the software their customers need. However, we’ve focused on the role of the tester, a role that may be adopted by a variety of professionals.

Agile testing practices aren’t limited to members of agile teams. They can be used to improve testing on projects using traditional development methodologies as well. This book is also intended to help testers working on projects using any type of development methodology.

Agile development isn’t the only way to successfully deliver software. However, all of the successful teams we’ve been on, agile or waterfall, have had several critical commonalities. The programmers write and automate unit and integration tests that provide good code coverage. They are disciplined in the use of source code control and code integration. Skilled testers are involved from the start of the development cycle and are given time and resources to do an adequate job of all necessary forms of testing. An automated regression suite that covers the system functionality at a higher level is run and checked regularly. The development team understands the customers’ jobs and their needs, and works closely together with the business experts.

People, not methodologies or tools, make projects successful. We enjoy agile development because its values, principles, and core practices enable people to do their best work, and testing and quality are central to agile development. In this book, we explain how to apply agile values and principles to your unique testing situation and enable your teams to succeed. We have more about that in Chapter 1, “What Is Agile Testing, Anyway?” and in Chapter 2, “Ten Principles for Agile Testers.”How We Wrote This Book

Having experienced the benefits of agile development, we used agile practices to produce this book. As we began work on the book, we talked to agile testers and teams from around the globe to find out what problems they encountered and how they addressed them. We planned how we would cover these areas in the book.

We made a release plan based on two-week iterations. Every two weeks, we delivered two rough-draft chapters to our book website. Because we aren’t co-located, we found tools to use to communicate, provide “source code control” for our chapters, deliver the product to our customers, and get their feedback. We couldn’t “pair” much real-time, but we traded chapters back and forth for review and revision, and had informal “stand-ups” daily via instant message.

Our “customers” were the generous people in the agile community who volunteered to review draft chapters. They provided feedback by email or (if we were lucky) in person. We used the feedback to guide us as we continued writing and revising. After all the rough drafts were done, we made a new plan to complete the revisions, incorporating all the helpful ideas from our “customers.”

Our most important tool was mind maps. We started out by creating a mind map of how we envisioned the whole book. We then created mind maps for each section of the book. Before writing each chapter, we brainstormed with a mind map. As we revised, we revisited the mind maps, which helped us think of ideas we may have missed.

Because we think the mind maps added so much value, we’ve included the mind map as part of the opening of each chapter. We hope they’ll help you get an overview of all the information included in the chapter, and inspire you to try using mind maps yourself.Our Audience

This book will help you if you’ve ever asked any of the following excellent questions, which we’ve heard many times:

  • If developers are writing tests, what do the testers do?
  • I’m a QA manager, and our company is implementing agile development (Scrum, XP, DSDM, name your flavor). What’s my role now?
  • I’ve worked as a tester on a traditional waterfall team, and I’m really excited by what I’ve read about agile. What do I need to know to work on an agile team?
  • What’s an “agile tester”?
  • I’m a developer on an agile team. We’re writing code test-first, but our customers still aren’t happy with what we deliver. What are we missing?
  • I’m a developer on an agile team. We’re writing our code test-first. We make sure we have tests for all our code. Why do we need testers?
  • I coach an agile development team. Our QA team can’t keep up with us, and testing always lags behind. Should we just plan to test an iteration behind development?
  • I’m a software development manager. We recently transitioned to agile, but all our testers quit. Why?
  • I’m a tester on a team that’s going agile. I don’t have any programming or automation skills. Is there any place for me on an agile team?
  • How can testing possibly keep up with two-week iterations?
  • What about load testing, performance testing, usability testing, all the other “ilities”? Where do these fit in?
  • We have audit requirements. How does agile development and testing address these?

If you have similar questions and you’re looking for practical advice about how testers contribute to agile teams and how agile teams can do an effective job of testing, you’ve picked up the right book.

There are many “flavors” of agile development, but they all have much in common. We support the Agile Manifesto, which we explain in Chapter 1, “What Is Agile Testing, Anyway?” Whether you’re practicing Scrum, Extreme Programming, Crystal, DSDM, or your own variation of agile development, you’ll find information here to help with your testing efforts.

A User Story for an Agile Testing Book When Robin Dymond, a managing consultant and trainer who has helped many teams adopt lean and agile, heard we were writing this book, he sent us the user story he’d like to have fulfilled. It encapsulates many of the requirements we planned to deliver.

Book Story 1

As a QA professional, I can understand the main difference between traditional QA professionals and agile team members with a QA background, so that I can begin internalizing my new responsibilites and deliver value to the customer sooner and with less difficulty

Acceptance conditions:

  • My concerns and fears about losing control of testing are addressed.
  • My concerns and fears about having to write code (never done it) are addressed.
  • As a tester I understand my new value to the team.
  • As a tester new to Agile, I can easily read about things that are most important to my new role.
  • As a tester new to Agile, I can easily ignore things that are less important to my new role.
  • As a tester new to Agile, I can easily get further detail about agile testing that is important to MY context.

Were I to suggest a solution to this problem, I think of Scrum versus XP. With Scrum you get a simple view that enables people to quickly adopt Agile. However, Scrum is the tip of the iceberg for successful agile teams. For testers who are new, I would love to see agile testing ideas expressed in layers of detail. What do I need to know today, what should I know tomorrow, and what context-sensitive things should I consider for continuous improvement?

We’ve tried to provide these layers of detail in this book. We’ll approach agile testing from a few different perspectives: transitioning into agile development, using an agile testing matrix to guide testing efforts, and explaining all the different testing activities that take place throughout the agile development cycle.

How to Use This Book

If you aren’t sure where to start in this book, or you just want a quick overview, we suggest you read the last chapter, Chapter 22, “Key Success Factors,” and follow wherever it leads you. Part I: Introduction

If you want quick answers to questions such as “Is agile testing different than testing on waterfall projects?” or “What’s the difference between a tester on a traditional team and an agile tester?,” start with Part I, which includes the following chapters:

  • Chapter 1: What Is Agile Testing, Anyway?
  • Chapter 2: Ten Principles for Agile Testers

These chapters are the “tip of the iceberg” that Robin requested in his user story. They include an overview of how agile differs from a traditional phased approach and explore the “whole team” approach to quality and testing.

In this part of the book we define the “agile testing mind-set” and what makes testers successful on agile teams. We explain how testers apply agile values and principles to contribute their particular expertise. Part II: Organizational Challenges

If you’re a tester or manager on a traditional QA team, or you’re coaching a team that’s moving to agile, Part II will help you with the organizational challenges faced by teams in transition. The “whole team” attitude represents a lot of cultural changes to team members, but it helps overcome the fear testers have when they wonder how much control they’ll have or whether they’ll be expected to write code.

Some of the questions answered in Part II are:

  • How can we engage the QA team?
  • What about management’s expectations?
  • How should we structure our agile team, and where do the testers fit?
  • What do we look for when hiring an agile tester?
  • How do we cope with a team distributed across the globe?

Part II also introduces some topics we don’t always enjoy talking about. We explore ideas about how to transition processes and models, such as audits or SOX compliance, that are common in traditional environments.

Metrics and how they’re applied can be a controversial issue, but there are positive ways to use them to benefit the team. Defect tracking easily becomes a point of contention for teams, with questions such as “Do we use a defect-tracking system?” or “When do we log bugs?”

Two common questions about agile testing from people with traditional test team experience are “What about test plans?” and “Is it true there’s no documentation on agile projects?” Part II clears up these mysteries.

The chapters in Part II are as follows:

  • Chapter 3: Cultural Challenges
  • Chapter 4: Team Logistics
  • Chapter 5: Transitioning Typical Processes
Part III: The Agile Testing Quadrants

Do you want more details on what types of testing are done on agile projects? Are you wondering who does what testing? How do you know whether you’ve done all the testing that’s needed? How do you decide what practices, techniques, and tools fit your particular situation? If these are your concerns, check out Part III.

We use Brian Marick’s Agile Testing Quadrants to explain the purpose of testing. The quadrants help you define all the different areas your testing should address, from unit level tests to reliability and other “ilities,” and everything in between. This is where we get down into the nitty-gritty of how to deliver a high-quality product. We explain techniques that can help you to communicate well with your customers and better understand their requirements. This part of the book shows how tests drive development at multiple levels. It also provides tools for your toolkit that can help you to effectively define, design, and execute tests that support the team and critique the product. The chapters include the following:

  • Chapter 6: The Purpose of Testing
  • Chapter 7: Technology-Facing Tests that Support the Team
  • Chapter 8: Business-Facing Tests that Support the Team
  • Chapter 9: Toolkit for Business-Facing Tests that Support the Team
  • Chapter 10: Business-Facing Tests that Critique the Product
  • Chapter 11: Critiquing the Product Using Technology-Facing Tests
  • Chapter 12: Summary of Testing Quadrants
Part IV: Automation

Test automation is a central focus of successful agile teams, and it’s a scary topic for lots of people (we know, because it’s had us running scared before!). How do you squeeze test automation into short iterations and still get all the stories completed?

Part IV gets into the details of when and why to automate, how to overcome barriers to test automation, and how to develop and implement a test automation strategy that works for your team. Because test automation tools change and evolve so rapidly, our aim is not to explain how to use specific tools, but to help you select and use the right tools for your situation. Our agile test automation tips will help you with difficult challenges such as testing legacy code.

The chapters are as follows:

  • Chapter 13: Why We Want to Automate Tests and What Holds Us Back
  • Chapter 14: An Agile Test Automation Strategy
Part V: An Iteration in the Life of a Tester

If you just want to get a feel for what testers do throughout the agile development cycle, or you need help putting together all the information in this book, go to Part V. Here we chronicle an iteration, and more, in the life of an agile tester. Testers contribute enormous value throughout the agile software development cycles. In Part V, we explain the activities that testers do on a daily basis. We start with planning releases and iterations to get each iteration off to a good start, and move through the iteration—collaborating with the customer and development teams, testing, and writing code. We end the iteration by delivering new features and finding ways for the team to improve the process.

The chapters break down this way:

  • Chapter 15: Tester Activities in Release or Theme Planning
  • Chapter 16: Hit the Ground Running
  • Chapter 17: Iteration Kickoff
  • Chapter 18: Coding and Testing
  • Chapter 19: Wrap Up the Iteration
  • Chapter 20: Successful Delivery
Part VI: Summary

In Chapter 21, “Key Success Factors,” we present seven key factors agile teams can use for successful testing. If you’re having trouble deciding where to start with agile testing, or how to work on improving what you’re doing now, these success factors will give you some direction.Other Elements

We’ve also included a glossary we hope you will find useful, as well as references to books, articles, websites, and blogs in the bibliography.Just Start Doing It—Today!

Agile development is all about doing your best work. Every team has unique challenges. We’ve tried to present all the information that we think may help agile testers, their teams, managers, and customers. Apply the techniques that you think are appropriate for your situation. Experiment constantly, evaluate the results, and come back to this book to see what might help you improve. Our goal is to help testers and agile teams enjoy delivering the best and most valuable product they can.

When we asked Dierk König, founder and project manager of Canoo WebTest, what he thought was the number one success factor for agile testing, he answered: “Start doing it—today!” You can take a baby step to improve your team’s testing right now. Go get started!

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Lisa Crispin is dedicated to helping agile teams and testers discover good ways to deliver the best possible product. She specializes in showing testers and agile teams how testers can add value and how to guide development with business-facing tests. Since 2003, she’s been a tester on a Scrum/XP team at ePlan Services, Inc., and frequently leads tutorials and workshops on agile testing at conferences. Lisa regularly contributes articles about agile testing to publications such as Better Software magazine, IEEE Software, and Methods and Tools. Lisa also coauthored Testing Extreme Programming (Addison-Wesley, 2002) with Tip House.

Janet Gregory is the founder of DragonFire, Inc., an agile quality process consultancy and training firm. Her passion is helping teams build quality systems. Since 1998, she has worked as a coach and tester introducing agile practices into both large and small companies. Her focus is working with business users and testers to understand their role in agile projects. Janet is a frequent speaker at agile and testing software conferences, and she is a major contributor to the North American agile testing community.

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Agile Testing 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Mike_Cohn More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book that deserves to be read by every tester on an agile project--and since agile projects largely try to do away with specific roles, everyone tests, making this a great book for almost anyone on an agile team. The book starts by laying groundwork by defining what agile testing is and describing ten principles for doing it. Part 2 touches on the organizational changes that will be felt by the testing or QA group as the company transitions to agile. Part 3 is probably the centerpiece of the book. It is structured around four testing quadrants initially conceived of by Agile Manifesto co-author Brian Marick. These quadrants allow Crispin and Gregory to cover a broad range of topics including exploratory, UI, API, usability, performance, stress, and reliability testing. The book definitely goes beyond the basics and the authors don't shy away from challenging topics. Part 4 covers automation, a topic that should be on the minds of any agile team. One of my favorite sections in this part is the discussion of barriers to automation. The advice here should help many teams overcome some of the resistance created by these barriers. Part 5 is an interesting section that brings the ideas of the book together by walking chronologically through the typical events of an iteration and focusing on the activities of testers at those times. Part 6 concludes with a short list of critical success factors. I like that this book is both universal and personal. It is chock-full of universal, practical advice but the author's make liberal use of sidebars in which they tell their own personal stories. This combination of telling us how something should be done and then adding detail in the form of how they did it works very well. By the end of the book you have learned a great deal about testing and these two world-class testers. Very highly recommended.
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