Friday, April 12, 2013

Agile and The Role of Test Engineers - Part 1

What is the role of test engineers in agile software development? Many experts have spoken and written about the need for test engineers in projects that follow agile methods. We need test engineers in agile projects and it is worth discussing their role. The role of test engineer in agile world is different from their role in traditional world. It is no longer a role that remained relevant in the past.

The Role
Test engineers are part of agile development from the very first iteration. What do they do differently? They participate in iteration planning (or sprint planning in case of Scrum) and ask questions to clarify requirements. They participate in estimation.

They create test data. They work with developers in connecting with all possible test scenarios. They review code when it is needed. They do exploratory testing.

They do not wait for all stories to meet the definition of done. They test every build. The do it from all directions and stop testing only when they are unable to proceed. In other words, they do not work in silos. They do not run a predetermined set of test cases and raise a red flag when majority of them fail.

They become close associates and supporters of developers. They don’t find fault and go to business users without collaborating with developers.

They are no longer manual testers. They contribute to test automation. They are script developers. They don’t limit to consuming requirements and translating them to test cases. They go beyond that limit by asking relevant questions. They anticipate risks and bring them to table for discussions.

They are no longer focused only on processes to complete testing activities. They are collaborators and have the intelligence to customize processes in order to deliver value to stake holders. They don’t limit their work arena to functional testing or integration testing. They think about all forms and types of testing found in Brian Marick’s agile testing matrix.

They don’t hesitate to fix few defects when there is crisis as they are prepared to go beyond the call of duty. When we have test engineers with these qualities, yes, we need them in teams that follow agile methods.

More Info
A detailed discussion on this topic is available in a white paper titled ‘Agility for Testers’ written by Elizabeth Hendrickson. Happy reading!

How can test engineers - who have no experience in agile methods, start working in agile teams? What makes them successful?  What enables this transition? Is it easy or hard?  In the next part of this blog, I have shared the two key factors that determine the ease of transition.

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