Follow The Work - Image

Follow the work – bad news for Test Managers?

I get lots of enquiries from founders of start-ups who reach a certain growth point where they really need to start taking control of the quality of the work being produced. Their companies seem to reach a size and market growth where the focus on quality becomes a priority.

This is usually about the time when I get a call or an email and get posed the typical next two questions:

“How do I go about starting a new test function?”


“Where do I find a good Test Manager?”

Read More

Rapid Reporting

After meeting Shmuel Gershon, probably the most energetic and enthusiastic tester on the Planet, at EuroSTAR 2010, I was introduced to a man of many talents. Not only does he like to read, write and talk about testing but he’s also adding back to the community in other ways with probably the most useful tool I’ve ever used whilst testing.


I introduce to you…….Rapid Reporter.


In essence, it is a reporting tool that allows you to jot down your thoughts, bugs, tests, notes, configs and setups as you test. Things I would have normally used Notepad++ for or a simple writing pad. But the tool is more than that really because it not only allows you to write down your testing notes, but it frees you up from breaking your lines of enquiry/testing by being so simple and easy to use.


The interface is incredible lean and minimalist and everything is pretty much controlled from the keyboard. It allows screenshots and rich text and pushes it all out in CSV format afterwards meaning it’s fairly generic.


It’s got some neat little features like the transparancy setting which I find myself using a lot whilst running multiple desktops, each one cluttered with various heads-up feeds or information radiators or browsers. Another neat feature is the countdown of session time and warning when you exceed the session time set. Nice.


Rapid Reporter has become my favourite little tool of choice now and no testing session starts without it running in the background. It’s proven invaluable when troubleshooting, retrospectively analysing sessions and tracking what sequences/patterns show bugs. I find myself typing more notes than I would have traditional entered and I also list out a lot more data than before which means more data when logging defects or replicating bugs.


So why not give it a download and see how you get on with it. And don’t forget to check out Shmuel Gershon’s blog too.

That tester’s incompetent….hide them

Last year I attended an excellent agile testing conference but came away frustrated at one of the keynote presentations.

One segment of the talk mentioned the often painful transition to agile. The presenter made reference to a British TV show character who is quite nice, but quite dim. In other words, an amiable kind of person but incompetent. Commonly known as an idiot.

The presenter then suggested that in an agile environment there is no room for an incompetent tester. Agreed, but surely the same is true for any environment? IS there a room for an incompetent tester in waterfall?

But what really got my goat was when the presenter suggested that we simply hide this person away from management.

Photo courtesy of

The first reaction by most people seemed to be that this was a complete farce. This person is a part of the team and hence contributing to the bottom line. Paying a salary for someone who remains hidden? Really? Why would you hide someone away from management? The reasons given were that it was humane when transitioning to agile; to hide them away rather than expose them, then get rid of them. For real?

This spurned some furious discussions afterwards where I was intrigued to hear that many of the attendees thought the incompetent tester should be sacked. After all they are contributing to the bottom line. Get rid of them. And that’s often a sentiment held with many in the agile community. Incompetent testers (any team members too!) can ruin an entire agile project. No room for the weak. Get rid of them. Maybe this is why many testers are worried and negative about moving to agile?

But even this missed the point entirely for me. I found myself asking the question “Is this tester really incompetent or are we just not trying hard enough to integrate them?”

Are we asking the wrong questions, taking the wrong actions, avoiding the hard work, wanting instant results like we are often led to believe is the norm? Sure, on the surface you may think this tester IS incompetent but is this a result of their skills or their environment and lack of motivation?

Maybe this incompetent tester isn’t being given the tasks and challenges that make them enthused. Have we spent time finding out what makes them tick? Have we sat down and tried to get to know them? To understand them? To challenge them? To motivate them? Have we asked them what they think? Have we even trained them or coached them in what agile is?

Have we invested in them with time and energy? Encouraged them to attend inspiring testing conferences? Training Sessions? Local user groups? Pointed them at online communities like The Software Testing Club?

Have we done enough to really come to the conclusion that they are an idiot? Have we explored all the avenues?

If we have, then maybe that’s fair enough. Let them go, but don’t hide them away. However, I would bet a whole £1 that we haven’t invested in this person as much as we could have. And if we don’t do that, then we may never know that this person is a whizz at building automation frameworks, is an absolute star in front of the customer, can articulate complex ideas to non-tech audience or comes alive when performing exploratory testing.

You’ve only got to take a glance around the testing communities to see that some testers are real customer advocates, some love automation, some thrive on efficiency improvements, others love lean and agile, others teach, some berate, some challenge, some build social networks and communities, some are socialisers, some live and breathe quality. Some are funny, others are sad, some are arrogant, some are happy. Some write about testing, some present at conferences and some are super thorough and live for nothing but quality, quality, quality.

It’s this mixed bag of skills, talents and attitudes that make the testing community so interesting. Surely there’s an element of this in your test teams too? Isn’t it just a case of finding out who’s interested in what and giving them work to inspire, challenge and enthuse?

So instead of saying “That tester’s incompetent. Hide them” we should instead be saying “That tester’s got hidden skills, experience and ability. Let’s find out what it is…..and if they are still incompetent at the end of that process then….well, we’ll sort something out” or something like that.

But this is a difficult concept to grasp for many people who see testers as a quantifiable, measurable, certifiable and replaceable person. Hiding them away ignores the fact that testers are complex and diverse. It’s a simple way of ignoring the truth. It’s an easy way of avoiding hard work. It’s an easy way of applying testers to a project as a resource rather than a person. Resources take little maintenance; people have ups and downs, goals and ambitions. Resources act the same each and every week. Testers fluctuate. They need motivation and inspiration.

Leaving the incompetent tester to fall even further behind, hiding them from management and giving them ridiculous job after ridiculous job is not humane. So to suggest that doing so is a humane action by middle management is misguided and painfully difficult for many to comprehend. The humane thing to do would be to invest some time in them, step up and inspire them, get them all fired up and find out what makes them tick. Take responsibility for motivating and inspiring them and their work. Or could it be that I live in a dream world where we all share some responsibility for making our working environments great places to be?

So if someone said to you: “Bob over there is incompetent. Hide him away” …………………………..What would you do?

Agile scared me

I’ve been noticing posts, comments and tweets about agile recently where people are being incredibly derogatory and negative. Almost to the point where their comments are bordering on offensive. The trouble is most of these people openly admit they have never actually worked in an agile environment. So what gives?


You know what I think? I think agile scares some people. I think they worry that they won’t have a job, that their role will change so much they can’t cope and that maybe, they will be exposed as a tester who is not capable of testing. Harsh, but even a well known testing presenter (who shall remain nameless) identified that this often happened when teams make the transition to agile. The move to agile identified those who are “not so good”.


I’ve been talking a lot about agile recently because for me the turning point in my career came when I started on an agile project.


At first I hated it.
Then I quite liked it.
Then my passion for testing was re-ignited and I started to really thrive in an agile environment.


Agile put me back in the zone. It cut out the bureaucracy, the admin side of test artifacts and left me (and the team) in control of creating great software. And this scares many teams.


What? Us in control? Really? Are you sure? But how will we cope? What do we do when? Eh? You want us to create our own structure? Are you mad?


And hence many teams flounder, fumble and stumble back to traditional ways of working.


I remember my first agile project and the first “kick off” meeting. It was an eye opener. It terrified me. I couldn’t believe people worked this way.


Before the meeting I read the agile manifesto, I read the scrum alliance website, I read some books and I read some blogs. I didn’t understand it at first, so I rewound and read it again until my brain hurt. And I still didn’t get it. It still didn’t make much sense. Theoretically it sounded fab. In reality though, how could it work?


In that first meeting I was informed by the Tech Lead that the UI would be the design and that we don’t need to worry too much about the requirements (backlog). Seriously? No design? No planning? I believe I gave the same look my careers adviser gave me when I told him I wanted to be a ventriloquist (thanks Seinfeld for the joke). I almost choked with rage.


From that point on though it started to make sense. And more importantly, it started to really work. I started to feel passionate about delivering software again. My job felt meaningful. We rolled out software….fast (and to top notch quality).


To sum up why though, here’s four reasons why I believe adopting an agile mindset will help you re-ignite your passion for creating fab software (I also included the slide). Agile gives you:


1.Freedom for the team to choose its own framework based on their local context. (team, customer, skills, experience, organisation ethos)


2.Freedom for the team to choose its own way of providing rapid and accurate feedback. (feedback to all team members as soon as possible is critical to success)


3.Freedom for the team to work to its strengths and weaknesses enabling them to inject the fun back in to software development


4.Freedom for the team to take control. No Excuses. Scary.

Agile Testing > Story : Distilling more information in the story

Continuing my exploration of the life of a story in agile testing. Part 1 is here.


Each story on the backlog has been defined by the business and the customer. These are capabilities that the customer wants. So the next step is to distill some more information in them in the form of acceptance criteria. These are essentially the markers/gates at which this story will be deemed as complete. It’s a list of things this feature/capability must do.


Here’s an example story using the Software Testing Club:
As a registers user I would like to create a new forum post so that I can start a discussion


And here’s some example acceptance criteria

  • User has the option to create a forum post
  • New Forum post window has X fields
  • User cannot add a forum post without a title
  • All error messages appear at X location
  • User cannot add a forum post with no content
  • Mandatory fields are X
  • Optional fields are X
  • Title field holds X characters
  • Description field holds X characters
  • Tags field only accepts tags separated by commas
  • Clicking submit will post to the forum board
  • Any errors when submitting will be reported to the user
  • User will be able to see forum in list after submission
  • Tags entered will be search-able
  • Other users can view the posts
  • etc

You see the point.


If a tester gets involved in the story writing session then the acceptance criteria tends to be more detailed. It’s natural for us to want to question the story early before we get the software and the more we can do that, the more accurate that story will be. There are plenty more to add to that story example above. Think of distilling more information in the story as if you are fleshing out a test case(s). The story is the test case. The acceptance criteria are the tests themselves.


In the early days for me stories would arrive with only one or two vaguely described acceptance criteria. Programmers would code against these and then make the usual assumptions they often have to make. I would get software that didn’t behave how I thought it should and the customer would need to be consulted all the time, assuming they were available. If not, they would get a demo that didn’t appeal and a whole new sprint would be dedicated to getting it right. Time wasted.


With detailed acceptance criteria that the tester, programmer and customer have all agreed on it is possible to avoid this wasted time. Programmers code against it, testers test against it and the customer accepts the software against it. Anything that changes is agreed between all parties and added to the story. In theory, it’s as simple as that.


So this is why it’s important to get involved early and put some test input in to story writing sessions because the questions and ideas you will raise (just like you would in a test case or through exploration) are essential for the success of that story. How many times do you here a programmer or customer say ‘I would never have thought of that’ or ‘You can’t do that, can you?’ – The tests and ideas that generate these statements are the same golden content you need to get in to the story…..and early.


If you are not involved in the story writing session then try to shoehorn your way in. After all, most managers will be receptive to ways to stop wasting time. Any ideas how to avoid bugs in the software is a good thing. If you still can’t get involved then start collecting defects that you are fairly sure the team could have avoided if testers had been consulted earlier. The tester is the one who thinks about how to find breaks, possesses skills that aid bug hunting, has experience and is often the main champion of customers and end users. So to not include testers in story distilling sessions could be a major mistake.

Agile Testing > Story : On the backlog

Over the next few posts I’ll be exploring the concept of a story in an agile environment and what it means to us as a tester. Over the past few days I’ve been hearing about how testers don’t get involved with story writing sessions, how testers duplicate the acceptance criteria in their tests and how testers don’t fully understand how a story can replace a spec.


I’ll hopefully cover all of these and some more by breaking a story down in to smaller lifecycle steps.


My experience is based around scrum projects. The one thing to consider is that each agile implementation is different, with different teams and customers and different requirements of the team. So no ‘one’ solution will be suitable for all. But hopefully by sharing my experiences on here it will help you round your view and decide on the best way of working on your agile project.


A story is basically a description of how someone interacts with the software to get a desired response.


A story basically takes the form of:


As a [Actor/Person] I would like to [Feature or capability] so that I can [Value of action]


At the start of a project there is a tedious, but incredibly important job of adding all of the customers ideas, requirements and thoughts to the Backlog. The Backlog is the project holding space for stories. Look at it as your requirements document.


Getting the stories on the backlog is a process of sitting with the customer and adding their requirements to the system in the form of the story. At this point it is unlikely that the stories will have acceptance criteria (i.e. the details of what is involved in the story).


Some of the stories may actually at this point be Epics. An Epic is essentially a story that contains lots of other stories. An example would be “Log In”. This would normally consist of several individual log in stories – depends how complex though. When tackling an Epic it is essentially to break it down to manageable stories.


A manageable story is essentially a story that can be completed (to the definition of done) in your sprint. A sprint is normally between 1 and 4 weeks – although there is no law on that one. If the story is not achievable then it is an Epic and needs to be broken down more.


The definition of done can be complicated but essentially this is a set of rules/regulations/guidelines that must be adhered to before the sprint/story or task is considered done. For example, the sprint is not done until all code is checked in, all tasks are done, all stories are done, the stories have all been tested, the demo stack is ready for the customer, the deployment scripts are done, the automation suite is started, no defects outstanding etc etc. A series of gates in which the software and process must go through to be ready.


Right, back to the story. Once all stories are on the backlog the customer should then rank the stories based on priority order. i.e Top to bottom rank order of what’s most important to them, at that moment in time. This rank order will change as the customer sees the software, gets new information or responds to market/financial pressures – and this is the beauty of agile. The next piece of work is always the highest priority for the customer.


Once ranked there are two lines of thought as to what to do next.


A: Have the team estimate each story in advance – time consuming, inaccurate as acceptance criteria will not be defined, tricky to estimate with no information on the emerging system
B: Add acceptance criteria to the first few stories and then have the team estimate.


I prefer option B as estimating the whole backlog often proves fruitless and pointless in my experience unless you are using it for forward planning. It’s at this point that we, as testers, sit with the customer and programmer and work through the stories adding relevant acceptance criteria (coming in the next post).


Once acceptance criteria is added we then have the whole team estimate. Some teams use time estimation points, others complexity, others a combination of the two. For me, the only one that really matters is complexity, but the others would argue against this.


Estimating complexity is a process of sitting down with planning poker cards (numbers on each card). The scrum master (person running the sprint) would then read out the story and each team member would estimate on complexity, putting their card face down. Once everyone has estimated the whole team then turn the cards and we find a happy ground, negotiating between each other.


Estimation based on complexity is tricky to understand. It’s not about how long it will take but about how complicated you think it is. An easier way of working it out would be to take a story that is neither “really hard” nor “really easy”, writing in on a piece of card and sticking on a long wall. Then take each other story and write them down too. Now stick them either side of the existing story. Right hand side for more complicated. Left hand side for least complicated. From this you can start to understand that each story will have a complexity level that we assign a number to. I work on 8 being the average story and work either way from there.


Once we agree on an estimate that goes against a story and is then used to work out the team velocity. The velocity is essentially how many complexity points we can achieve per sprint. This is why sprints tend to be kept the same length to maintain a consistent velocity. In the first few sprints though, you will have no idea of the teams velocity as there is no historic data. Over time though the team will slip in to a rythm or groove which allows a much more accurate velocity to be calculated.


We have not estimated all stories at this point, but before each sprint this process needs to take place. This is so that at the sprint planning meeting the team can assign stories to the sprint which have already been estimated and have acceptance criteria. The customer also needs to check the ranking and the backlog as there could be new stories and defects to now consider. This is a continual process and is often referred to as grooming the backlog.


And so that’s it really. In a nutshell (and a heavy scrum one at that) we have the basics of stories and backlogs and how they are used in a sprint. The one key point I have missed though is distilling the acceptance criteria in to each story. Something that not only makes estimation easier but also makes programming and testing smoother, cheaper and less dramatic. More on that in the next post.



Pair Programming and Pair Testing

Our programmers here at iMeta now wax lyrical about pair programming and it’s easy to see why. The quality of code coming through to the test team now is exceptional. There’s very few fix-fail episodes and the programmers seem over the moon with how great pair programming is fairing. Sure, there were teething issues and some programmers didn’t feel the groove when pairing but these were soon overcome and they moved forward.


It got me thinking though about whether or not testers should be pairing when writing test cases. And my conclusion is that they should. It brought back memories of when I used to have to send test cases off for peer review at a previous company. I too had to review other peoples tests. It did often become a chore but more importantly was that is missed the point. And here’s why:

  • The review was more a sanity check on formatting, spelling, ensuring every step had an expected result, test case length was ok, etc
  • It became a chore so often it ended up being a skim read.
  • The person reviewing often didn’t have the same product knowledge. This meant the test cases weren’t reviewed regarding how well they tested the application.


And so I sat down with a fellow tester on an after work development project and did some pair test case writing to start with. It was incredible. The thought patterns and processes we entered were remarkable. As a pair we wrote simple, clean and to the point tests. Those pointless steps or ideas were left out. During the tester not doing the main writing would then spawn a mind map charting all of the ideas so that we didn’t miss any.


The tests were succinct and short in a high level guidance way (i.e. no detailed steps). We kept every single test DRY (don’t repeat yourself) extrapolating all setup, preconditions and data out to separate excel documents. It truly was a great experience as each of us brought a different outlook to the table. But more than that we bounced ideas off of each other. In terms of time spent it might appear that we were doubling but the quality of the output was incredible.


So how about actual pair testing?

The next step was to actually see if we could do some pair testing. And we could. This too brought some amazing side effects. We raised more important defects. We generated new and interesting exploratory ideas to run all managed through a mind map. We had to do so little admin to the test cases that we were both truly surprised with how good they were.


It felt like we’d covered more of the system in less of the time. But we also covered a lot more of the system than we had test cases for. This was because as we got to a step, one or both of us would highlight that the documentation hadn’t mentioned this, or the test case didn’t consider this factor yada yada.


The whole process has left me thinking more and more of us should consider pair testing. Maybe as a short trial process for one day a week. Maybe as a permanent idea. Believe me, the tests, the testing and the camaraderie are all enviable positive effects of pairing up. Let’s not just leave the pairing to the programmers. Let’s help take testing to a new level too.

Test Reporting in an agile environment


A low tech dashboard is a great way of communicating the state of the software mid sprint. At the end of the sprint, the board is fairly meaningless unless you have stories incomplete. But mid-sprint it’s a great visual way of showing progress. I.e. we’ve hit this feature in depth and it looks ok.


It’s another indicator of how we are progressing. Look at it as a quality indicator that compliments the velocity indicators like burndowns and burnups. It’s a clear, visual representation of the “quality” of the software from the testers point of view. It doesn’t need weighty metrics to back it up – although that may help in some environments. It doesn’t need to be absolutely accurate, just like the burndown report and it doesn’t need to be complicated.


It needs to be simple, easy to read, easy to understand and simple. It’s about communicating to all stakeholders (and other teams) where we are at with the software ‘quality’.


And when we get to the end of the sprint and we have stories incomplete then the dashboard can be a good way of highlighting where quality is lacking.


A few years ago I created an equivalent that was a ‘mood board’ with smileys which the testers would put up on paper to show visitors to the team area what mood we were in (happy, sad, nonplussed, ill, bored, tired, giggly, etc). A visual representation of how we were progressing. And it worked wonders and the management loved it more than the metrics. And believe it or not – that was in a waterfall environment…

Acceptance Criteria : it’s a good friend

With some careful planning, a good use of time and access to your customer (or customers proxy) you can craft and distill stories that will make your job as a tester all the more effective.


On an agile project test involvement early in the planning and story writing can add an extra dynamic. Testers often have very critical minds and often ask questions other team members don’t. And it’s this questioning and thinking that is so powerful and effective when writing stories.


It’s not just that the customer understands the stories more and thinks more critically about them but that the programmers also have more information up front and the designers and any other team member can see clearly what criteria that story will be judged against. Testers often posses the skills needed to bridge the gap between the customer and the tech teams too. They also tend to put themselves in the shoes of the user, consider usability and accessibility and are often the ones who raise pertinent questions about non-functional behaviors.


Leaving the tester out of the story writing sessions means that when the story moves over to test for testing the testers will often generate a lot of defects, some of them often quite simple. Defects that could (and should) have been found before any code was written.


And if the tester is being involved to their full capacity they too will find that the story in essence becomes a very effective test case. A case that both manual and automated testers can work from. There is no reason why a story can’t contain a long list of acceptance criteria. In fact, the more the merrier in my eyes, it only helps to make estimation and verification easier. There’s no reason why the acceptance criteria can’t reference or jump out to flow diagrams, state transitions and any other supporting documentation. And all of this become far more possible when you include a critical thinker in story writing sessions.


I’ve been through many sprints that, at first, weren’t successful but we soon started getting key team members involved at each story writing session and we soon started dropping code that had fewer defects. With fewer defects velocity tends to go up, moral remains high and more time is freed up for exploratory testing.


So don’t be shy. If you are not actively being invited to story writing sessions, then invite yourself and add your critical thinking early.

It’s not a blame culture but it’s definately their fault

One of the main things I really like about agile is the fact that the whole team are creating and working towards shippable software at the end of each sprint. Well, that’s the theory anyway.


And a positive side effect of this is that you lose the ‘over the wall’ mentality. In a true agile environment there is no ‘them’ and ‘us’. It’s no longer a blame culture. Everyone is responsible for quality. Everyone is responsible for getting the software working. The software is not thrown over the wall to test and then thrown back over for bug fixing.


So it becomes a team activity in the truest sense. We are all working towards a common goal. No one person is responsible for quality – we all are. Sure, there are still individual mistakes but the team rally together to solve these.


And it is great. There’s no bad mouthing, sniping or hushed conversations – well fewer anyway 🙂 It’s all about the product. It’s all about the team. And that, in my eyes, is a really positive thing.

Agile: It will make your face melt and your mind burst

For me one of the most difficult challenges I have faced as a tester is the move from a traditional project methodology to an agile one.


The process of adopting agile for a manual tester is tricky. It’s incredibly difficult and often it is the testers who offers the most resistance when teams make the move. Stories about testers being negative, throwing their toys out of the pram and generally being a bad egg are common.

And I completely understand why.

When I made the transition from traditional to agile it felt like my face was melting and my mind was bursting.

It was the toughest challenge of my career. I hated those first few weeks and wondered whether I had a role in the team or not. I was contemplating a change of career and feeling completely and utterly under valued. I hated it. I was terrified that this was the future of software testing and I didn’t get on with it.

For a tester, it’s not just about doing the same work in a different order or with tighter time constraints, it’s about changing your outlook on testing and how you fit in to the team. It’s about redefining your role (and your skills) and evolving to stay relevant. You need to do a mind shift that at first seems completely alien. A mind shift that seems so very wrong.

In the end I just let go, took the rough with the smooth and worked at seeing what all the fuss was about. And here’s what I found out.



The focus of the whole team shifts to quality

  • You will become the quality expert. You will no longer be the person who tests just at the end
  • You may need to devise tests with little to no formal documentation…fast
  • You will need to feedback your test results rapidly
  • You will need to be confident, vocal, capable, responsive and communicative, often taking charge and leading on quality
  • The rest of the development team will come to you for feedback to their tests and code early


You will bridge the gap between the business and the techies

  • Your role should now mean you liase closely with the customer. You will need to adopt a customer satisfaction role
  • You will help to define the stories and acceptance critiria – these will become your tests and guidance so your input is essential
  • You will have to report finding about quality to the customer and stakeholders….fast, timely, accurately and with diplomacy


You will need to put your trust in the Product Backlog

  • Traditional projects with 100 requirements often end up delivering a large percentage of that 100 but with poor quality, misunderstanding and often incomplete
  • Agile projects with 100 requirements at the start *may* end up delivering only 60. But these will be complete, exactly what the customer wanted and of course, be superb quality.
  • This original number of 100 may grow and shrink with changing markets and business decisions. Trust the backlog.
  • The customer will define and decide the next sprint of work for your team.
    • You will simply advise, manage expectations and communicate
    • This is a tough one – letting the customer decide what to do next….
  • You will need to consider the longer term and bigger picture, but your main focus is the sprint in hand


You will need to increase your exploration and automation

  • You will need to replace the tedious, checklist type manual tests with automation if possible.
    • Your regression suite will get too large unless you make the most of automation and get the basics covered.
    • The only other option is to hire a load of undervalued and demotivated testers to simply ‘checklist’ basic functionality.
  • Your automation should be integrated with the continous integration and automated build deployments.
  • Elisabeth Hendrickson summed up agile testing very nicely indeed (taken from her ruminations blog –
    • Checking and Exploring yield different kinds of information.
    • Checking tells us how well an implementation meets explicit expectations.
    • Exploring reveals the unintended consequences of meeting the explicitly defined expectations and gives us a way to uncovers implicit expectations. (Systems can work exactly as specified and still represent a catastrophic failure, or PR nightmare._
    • “Checking: verifying explicit, concrete expectations”
    • “Exploring: discovering the capabilities, limitations, and risks in the emerging system”
  • A negative side effect of increased exploration is how you go about managing the test information.


You will need to drop the concept of test case preparation and spec analysis

  • It’s unlikely you will get a detailed spec.
  • The acceptance criteria become your test cases and design.
  • The software becomes the UI design.
  • If you must write a test plan, plan for the sprint only.
    • Don’t assume you know how or what you will be testing in three sprints time.
  • Prepare to be dynamic in your tool selection, approach and thinking to testing. You may need to change your tools to cater for new information.
    • Don’t be too prescriptive.
    • Add a quality toolsmith to your team. They will save you a fortune in the long run.
    • Invest time in researching free, open source or cheap tools.
    • The more tools you know of, the more likely you will be able to respond to changes.
  • Don’t even consider what are supposedly Best Practices.
    • Do what is right for your team, on that project and at that moment in time.
  • Trust me, letting the stories and software guide the UI and design is a revelation. It’s just tricky changing your mindset to accept this.


You will need to get over the defect stats and metrics complexion

  • Working software is fundamental. It’s what the end goal is.
    • Each sprint you aim to deliver releasable standard software that meets the acceptance criteria.
    • So along the way there is less emphasis on raising and recording every single defect in a tracking system.
    • It’s more about shouting over to the programmer and getting it sorted between you.
    • Look at low tech dashboards as a way of reporting metrics
  • Defects that relate to the acceptance criteria and story under test mean the story is not done (even if it has been coded and the programmer has moved to a new story).
  • Defects are no longer used to cover our backsides or blame other people.
  • Defects that aren’t related to the story should be on the backlog, where the customer can prioritise.
    • After all a defect is a piece of functionality that either exists and shouldn’t or doesn’t exist and should.
    • Let the customer decide what to do with them.
    • They may be less/more important to the customer than you think.
  • If you truly must report then this needs to be done in the lightest way possible. And my guess is, that if you really are having to report each and every defect encountered along with test case metrics and stats in a formal way then someone in the process/system has not truly bought in to agile.
  • Note: I’m not saying be slack with defect tracking and reporting.
    • Far from it, if you need to put a defect on the backlog for the customer then you need to consider how you will describe this successfully for that audience.
    • When shouting to the programmer it’s often easier as you can show them the defect in action. 
    • The people you report to, the information you report and the way you report it changes.


After getting my head around these differences and new concepts I noticed a few unexpected side effects;


  • I was re-ignited with my passion for software testing
  • I was being consulted far more on quality issues meaning I spent less time complaining and raising obvious bugs after the software was dropped
  • I started to use my creativity and critical thinking in a rapid and responsive way, rather than testing a spec and thinking of a few edge cases up front.
    • I was being engaged and used for my creativity, skill and critical thinking
  • I started to work in teams where the whole team valued quality rather than an ‘over the wall’ mentality.
  • I noticed that the customers were far happier with the process. They were getting to control the focus of the work and ending up with software that meets their needs at that moment in time, not the software they thought they wanted 6 months ago
  • I lost a huge amount of negativity and became more positive, motivated and accomodating.
  • I spent far less time sitting around after raising a barrel load of defects.
    • I no longer waited for the triage, fix, build inclusion, release, retest, close.
    • I got them fixed asap, released asap and retested asap.
  • My job didn’t feel futile. I felt I was adding value.

Now I know there are people with frustrations with agile and there will be teething problems and issues for all new teams. And agile really may not be suitable for all types of work, but there are certainly some awesome principles and techniques we can all learn from agile.

If you have any agile testing stories to share then please let me know in the comments.