Continuous Testing in Agile

Agile

Along with performance testing, there were 2 other themes that continually came up in conversations during STAR Canada.

  1. How should QA integrate in a Agile environment
  2. The need for “Continuous Testing”.

While there are thousands of articles about Continuous Testing, and hundreds of thousands on Agile, there seems little on both. Perhaps due to some apparent conflicts.

Lets look at a theoretical QA in an agile environment. Say your organization Sprints are 2 weeks in length, each scrum having 8-10 members for manageability. Due to project time constraints,  there are 5 scrums working concurrently, each focussed on a different component of development of your application. What test cycles are done as part of the sprint and what cycles are done outside or as cross functional teams?

Agile Testing Levels

It was pointed out that although common, doing only unit tests and integration testing on your Sprints code, then jumping to acceptance testing of that sprint, is not Agile. Agile should in fact have all test stages built into the Sprint. Many companies ignore various test cycles like load, integration and security testing of the end to end system as there simply is not time in each Sprint.

An alternate approach is to created independent teams outside of the Agile development. Their role is to test integration, load, security and systems in integrated environments. Defects identified are then fed back into the scrum meetings and allocated to particular Sprint. This also is not really Agile, falling into some kind of hybrid. The challenge here is that issues are often identified after sprints are finished and so not really continuous testing either.

A second approach, was to create cross functional roles were the scrum masters and one or more members of each sprint were allocated to doing systems level testing and possibly fixes. These cross functional teams, would near the end of each sprint, break out of their old scrum into the new role. The challenge with this approach is that on shorter sprints, and large systems, they can land up spending more time in the cross functional role than in their own scrum.

Continuous Testing

Continuous Testing is somewhat the same as Baseline and Regression Testing, but need not only testing against a Baseline. Its about continually testing while developing through the entire SDLC. The benefit that issues can be identified far earlier (Shift Left approach) resulting in lower costs to address. Agile environments at first glance, seem to favour continuous testing, but does that include, regression, integration and systems testing across Sprints? If each test case takes 9 minutes to complete, 1 tester can only run 53 test cases in a day or 533 tests in a Sprint. This is simply not enough coverage to test all systems and other tests continuously. The result, is partial or low test coverage.

Enter Automation

If as part of each Sprint, a fully developed set of test cases are developed by each Sprint in the same application (eg SOAPSonar) covering their development efforts. The incremental work to role these up into test cases for integration, load etc would be minimal. Each sprint then shares a set of Integration, performance, load and regression etc tests that they simply run as part of their sprint. Being automated, these can even run after hours. The result is continuous testing of both at the Systems level and the Sprint level, without the heavy resource requirements of manual testing. issues be the system wide, or sprint level can then be addressed in Sprint.

Conclusion

The concern with this is the same as with any automation project, “Will The Development of the Automation Scripts Not Take More Time than the Resulting Benefit.” This is a tool selection question. Finding the right tool for your team to use to minimize the time taken developing and maintaining various test cases from function through load and regression, to acceptance testing.

Would you like to weigh in with your thoughts or comments on the subject?

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