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Testing is most effective when done alongside project work. The traditional approach of building software first and testing it last is not suitable for Agile workflows. In Agile, testing is integrated from the start to the end of the project. This involves validating and verifying each step of development. Understanding the role of a tester and the methods they use in Agile can help create strong testing processes that align with Agile methodologies.

Testing in the Agile Context

Testing goes beyond just validation and verification. It involves stretching, shrinking, stressing, evaluating, and uncovering various aspects of the software through a series of tests. This is the job of a software quality engineer. While traditional testing happens at the end of the development process, there’s no need to wait that long. Testing early and throughout the process, known as Agile testing, allows for a better understanding of a product’s quality.

Agile testing is an interactive, self-organizing process that relies on experience and collaboration to deliver effectively. It integrates testing at various points in the workflow to provide the most feedback possible. This approach ensures that quality checks are included in each stage where decisions are made, rather than being an afterthought.

By incorporating planned and innovative testing throughout the development process, we can ensure high-quality software. This method results in a usable product that meets correctness and completeness standards through continuous conversations and planning. With Agile testing, we can address more quality-related questions when it’s time to release the software.

The Role of the Tester

Every role in development contributes significantly, and a tester’s role is crucial in ensuring a product’s quality. Quality is an abstract concept that doesn’t start with a specific measure. By conceptualizing the product and discussing its anticipated use, measures of quality can be established. This practice provides enough insight into the desired user experience and anticipated usage, allowing the tester to understand business expectations. This understanding is considered as the product being complete.

Providing Feedback and Maintaining Quality

Using the gathered information, a tester can provide feedback and help maintain the product’s quality during development. This feedback helps the team align with the product vision by offering vivid descriptions of how they are, or are not, meeting the goals. Testers document their findings through stories created from interacting with and testing the product.

Initial Steps in a Project

At the beginning of a project, testers use their unique skills to govern quality. They review product requirements, ask clarifying questions, extract crucial information to set quality standards, create a plan outlining how to test the product, and implement a structure to help the team achieve these standards. This involves viewing the product from a different perspective and ensuring alignment with business expectations.

Achieving Quality

Quality is achieved when a product matches its description. A tester’s job involves applying various skills and processes to accomplish this. Noteworthy skills include communication, curiosity, attentiveness, active discovery, problem-solving, mitigation, creativity, and risk assessment.

Mediating Between Business and Technology

Testers are often the mediators between business and technology. While they have a technical role, their technical knowledge is essential, especially when assessing potential risks in the code.

Enhancing Product Quality

Testers serve a unique role and, when included as part of the product team, can significantly enhance a product’s quality. Through testing and guided practices, testers manage quality, implement standards, and monitor success throughout the Agile process.

Shifting Left

A common scenario in projects is someone saying, “I wish I had known sooner” or “Why are you just telling me now?” Such moments highlight the issue of how testing is often positioned in product development. Traditionally, testers receive code at the final stages, leaving little time for anything more than a superficial check. Reflecting on these moments, I realize that I never want to experience that frustration again—and I won’t.

The Concept of Shifting Left

Agile testing emphasizes early integration for faster feedback and regular testing throughout the process. This approach, known as shifting left, arose from the drawbacks of delayed testing. Waiting to test code until the end consumes time, distances the work from development, and often reveals extensive issues at the last minute—issues that could have been detected earlier.

Benefits of Early Testing

Looking back, one always wonders how things could have been done better. The best answer is to gain insights into what’s being developed sooner and provide feedback on how the code aligns with the desired outcome. This is the essence of shifting left. The goal is to create more transparency by verifying and validating designs and code as they are conceived. This early feedback framework helps identify weaknesses in the code and plan for testing from the start.

Integrating Testing Throughout Development

Within an Agile sprint, there are many opportunities for testers to engage with the project team:

  • Feature Ideation: Provides an opportunity for validation.
  • Ticket Creation with Acceptance Criteria: Brings transparency and can be validated.
  • Engineering Ideation: Scopes out possibilities and can be verified.
  • Design, Copy, and Legal Considerations: Can also be verified.
  • Code Completion: Finally, the code can be tested and verified.

As you can see, opportunities to test and provide feedback are integrated throughout the development process. This approach allows ample time to follow up with feedback and ensures that testing is an integral part of each stage.

Shifting left creates more transparency as a product progresses through development stages. By integrating testing early and throughout the process, potential issues are identified sooner, and the overall quality of the product improves.

Test Collaborations

Collaboration is at the very core of Agile. The Agile manifesto states, “We value individuals and interactions over tools and process,” emphasizing the importance of the people on the team. This approach empowers the team to organize around the product and determine the best way forward to complete and release a quality product.

The Role of an Agile Tester

For an Agile tester, this philosophy means significant responsibility. As the saying goes, “Where much is given, much is expected.” Agile testers have many responsibilities, including validating project iterations to ensure the product meets expectations. This validation is done through a series of tests that generate real-time data about the product.

Based on the information gathered from these tests, testers can provide constructive feedback on the overall product quality. This feedback is crucial because it gives the team a clear snapshot of the product’s status. Regular testing allows testers to generate data frequently, keeping them in constant communication with the team.

Importance of Interaction and Engagement

A great deal of interaction and engagement is required at this stage. An Agile tester’s relationship with other team roles and stakeholders—such as design, development, product, copy, and even legal—is incredibly important. Strong relationships help testers influence decisions and contribute to planning.

Working closely with each team builds trust and understanding about the product. This equips the tester to provide feedback and communicate with the team regularly, creating a series of short feedback loops. These loops increase the team’s capacity and productivity by identifying potential weaknesses in the code early in the development process.

The Crux of the Agile Experience

This is the essence of the Agile experience: faster, shorter feedback cycles that prepare the team to drive better plans forward. By pinpointing issues early, Agile testers help the team implement positive changes more quickly.

Fundamental QA Methods

Getting involved in conversations early is crucial for effective planning. The earlier you start, the better prepared you’ll be. There are various testing methods you can use, but choosing the right ones depends on two things: understanding each method’s use case and knowing when to apply them.

Example: Testing on a Scrum Team

Imagine you’re working on a Scrum team with two-week sprints. At the kickoff, the tester gets information about the upcoming project. This information should help you understand the project’s basic requirements. At this point, you need to assess why the project matters. Ask questions like, “What does success look like?” and “What key problem is this project solving?” These questions help gather relevant information and identify project stakeholders—those who have knowledge and can influence change.

Building Context and Scaffolding

Context is vital for building a successful project framework. At the project’s start, meet with the team to learn the project details. If you’re working with existing software, understand the team’s knowledge about the current system and the challenges of integrating new features. If it’s a new software project, gather as much information as possible before development begins. Even without testable software, you can add value by considering how you’ll test the software once it’s ready. This preparation is part of your project plan.

Creating a Project Plan

A project plan outlines all the ways you intend to test the product. Start by documenting the software setup and the types of software you have. This helps you plan the necessary testing to cover the project. Understand the software conditions and apply appropriate testing methods, like integration, functional, security, or performance testing for user interfaces.

Keep asking questions about the desired outcome to determine the type of testing needed. If done well, you can map specific project aspects to corresponding testing techniques. Understanding the scope of delivery helps create a project plan that answers product questions, ensuring quality from the start. Use the project plan as a guide to establish quality in your projects from the very beginning.


Testing in Agile is a collaborative and continuous effort that integrates quality assurance into every phase of the development lifecycle. Agile testers play a pivotal role by engaging early, maintaining strong relationships with the team, and continuously providing feedback. By shifting left, testers involve themselves in the planning stages, ensuring that potential issues are identified and addressed early. This proactive approach, combined with a well-structured project plan and frequent communication, drives the team toward delivering high-quality products quickly and efficiently. The essence of Agile testing lies in its ability to adapt, collaborate, and continuously improve, fostering an environment where quality is a shared responsibility.

Key Takeaways

  1. Testing in the Agile Context:
    • Agile prioritizes individuals and interactions over tools and processes.
    • Collaboration and continuous feedback are key to maintaining high product quality.
  2. The Role of the Tester:
    • Agile testers are responsible for validating project iterations and ensuring they meet expectations.
    • They provide real-time data through various tests and offer constructive feedback to the team.
  3. Shifting Left:
    • Early involvement in the project lifecycle allows testers to identify and mitigate issues sooner.
    • Shifting left emphasizes the importance of planning and understanding project goals from the outset.
  4. Test Collaborations:
    • Strong relationships with stakeholders and team members are crucial for effective testing.
    • Continuous interaction and engagement help testers influence decisions and contribute to planning.
  5. Fundamental QA Methods:
    • Early participation in conversations enables thorough planning and understanding of testing methods.
    • Creating a detailed project plan that outlines testing strategies ensures comprehensive coverage and quality assurance.
  6. Continuous Communication and Feedback Loops:
    • Frequent testing and feedback loops enhance team productivity and help identify issues early.
    • This approach fosters a collaborative environment where quality is a shared goal.

By embracing these principles, Agile testers ensure that quality is embedded throughout the development process, leading to more reliable and user-centric products.