“Critiquing the Product Using Technology-Facing Tests”
Technology-facing tests that critique the product are more concerned with the non-functional aspects – deficiencies of the product from a technical point of view.
We describe requirements using a programming domain vocabulary. This is the main of Quadrant-4 of our Agile Testing Quadrants.
Customers simply assume that software will be designed to properly accommodate the potential load, at a reasonable rate of performance. It doesn’t always occur to them to verbalize those concerns.
Tools, whether home-grown or acquired, are essential to succeed with Quadrant 4 testing efforts.
“Many teams find that a good technical tester or toolsmith can take on many of these tasks.”
Take a second look at the skills that your team already posseses, and brainstorm about the types of “ility” testing that can be done with the resources you already have. If you need outside teams, plan for that in your release and iteration planning.
The information these (Quadrant-4) tests provide may result in new stories and tasks in areas such as changing the architecture for better scalability or implementing a system-wide security solution. Be sure to complete the feedback loop from tests that critique the product to tests that drive changes that will improve the non-functional aspects of the product.
When Do you Do it?
Technical stories can be written to address specific requirements.
Consider a separate row on your story board for tasks needed by the product as a whole.
Find a way to test them early in the project
Prioritize stories such that a steel thread or a thin slice is complete early, so that you can create a performance test that can be run and continued as you add more functionality.
The time to think about your non-functional tests is during release or theme planning.
The team should consider various types of “ility” testing including – Security, maintainability, Interoperability, Compatibility, Reliability and Installability – and should execute them at appropriate times.
Performance, Scalability, Stress and Load tests should be done from the beginning of the project.
Critiquing or evaluating the product is what business users or tester do when they assess and make judgement about the product.
These are the tests performed in Quadrant 3 of our Agile Testing Quadrants
It is difficult to automate Business facing tests that critique the product, because such testing relies on human intellect, experience, and insight.
You won’t have time to do any Quadrant 3 tests if you haven’t automated tests in Quadrants 1 and 2.
Evaluating or critiquing the product is about manipulating the system and trying to recreate the actual experience of end users.
Show customers what you are developing early & often.
End-of-iteration demos are important to see what has been delivered and revise priorities
Rather than just waiting for end of sprint demos, use any opportunity to demonstrate changes as you go.
Choose a frequency of demos that works for your team. Informal demos can be more productive
Scenario Testing – Business users can help define plausible scenarios & workflows that can mimic end user behavior
Soap Opera Testing – Term coined by Hans Buwalsa (2003) can help the team understand business & user needs. Ask “What’s the worst thing that can happen, and how did it happen?”
As an investigative tool, it is a critical supplement to the story tests and our automated regression suite.
Sophisticated, thoughtful approach to testing without a script, combining learning, test design and test execution
There are 2 types of usability testing. The first is done up front by user experience folks, using tools such as wire frames to drive programming. These are part of Quadrant 2.
The second type talks about the kind of usability testing that critiques the product. We use tools such as User Personas and our Intuition to help us look at the product with the end user in mind.
Instead of just thinking about testing interfaces, we can also look at APIs and consider attacking the problem in other ways and consider tools like simulators & emulators.
User manuals & online help need validation just as much as software. Your team may employ specialists like technical writers who create & verify documentation. The entire team is responsible for the quality of documentation.
“Toolkit for Business-Facing Tests that Support the Team”
As agile development has gained in popularity, we have more and more tools to help us capture and use them to write executable tests.
Your strategy for selecting the tools you need should be based on your team’s skill set, the technology your application uses, your team’s automation priorities, time, and budget constraints. Your strategy should NOT be based on the latest and coolest tool in the market.
In agile, simple solutions are usually best.
Some tools that can help us illustrate desired behavior with examples, brainstorm potential implementations and ripple effects and create requirements we can turn into tests are—
Software based tools
A picture is worth a thousand words, even in agile teams. Mock-ups show the customer’s desires more clearly than a narrative possibly could. They provide a good focal point to discussing the desired code behavior.
Visuals such as flow diagrams and mind maps are good ways to describe an overview of a story’s implementation, especially if it is created by a group of customers, programmers, and testers.
Tools such as Fit (Framework for Integrated Tests) and FitNesse were designed to facilitate collaboration and communication between the customer and development teams.
Finding the right electronic tools is particularly vital for distributed teams (chat, screensharing, video conferencing, calling, task boards etc.)
Selenium, Watir and WebTest are some examples of many open source tools available for GUI testing.
Home-Brewed Test Automation Tools
Bret Pettichord (2004) coined the term ‘home-brewed’ for tools agile teams create to meet their own unique testing needs. This allows even more customisation than an open source tool. They provide a way for non technical customer team members to write tests that are actually executable by the automated tool. Home-brewed tools are tailored to their needs, designed to minimize the total cost of ownership and often built on top of existing open source tools.
The best tools in the world won’t help if you don’t use them wisely. Test tools might make it very easy to specify tests, but whether you are specifying the right tests at the right time is up to you.
Writing detailed test cases that communicate desired behavior is both art and science.
Whenever a test fails in Continuous Integration (CI) and build process, the team’s highest priority should be to get the build passing again. Everyone should stop what they are doing and make sure that the build goes ‘green’ again. Determine if a bug has been introduced, or if the test simply needs to be updated to accommodate intentionally changed behavior. Fix the problem, check it in, and make sure all tests pass!
Experiment – so that you can find the right level of detail and the right test design for each story.
Keep your tests current and maintainable through refactoring.
Not all code is testable using automation but work with programmers to find alternative solutions to your problems.
Manual test scenarios can also drive programming if you share them with the programmers early. The earlier you turn them into automated tests, the faster you will realise the benefit.
Start with a simple approach, see how it works, and build on it. The important thing is to get going writing business-facing tests to support the team as you develop your product.
A look at tests in Quadrant-2 – Business-Facing tests
On an agile project, the customer team and the development team strike up a conversation based on a user story.
Business-facing tests address business requirements. They express requirements based on examples and use a language and format that both the customer and development teams can understand. Examples form the basis of learning the desired behavior of each feature and we use those examples as the basis of our story tests in Quadrant-2
Business-facing tests are also called “customer-facing”,”story”,”customer” and “acceptance” tests. The term ‘acceptance tests’ should not be confused with ‘user acceptance tests’ from Quadrant-3.
The business-facing tests in Q-2 are written for each story before coding started, because they help the team understand what code to write.
Quadrant-1 activities ensure internal quality, maximize team productivity, and minimize technical debt.
Quadrant-2 tests define and verify external quality and help us know when we are done.
The customer tests to drive coding are generally written in executable format, and automated, so that team members can run the tests as often as they like to see if functionality works as desired.
Tests need to include more than the customer’s stated requirements. We need to test for post-conditions, impact on the system as a whole, and integration with other systems. We identify risks and mitigate those with our tests. All of these factors then guide our coding.
The tests need to be written in a way that is comprehensible to a business user yet still executable by the technical team.
Getting requirements right is an area where team members in many different roles can jump in to help.
We often forget about non-functional requirements. Testing for them may be a part of Quadrants 3 and 4, but we still need to write tests to make sure they get done.
There are conditions of satisfaction for the whole team as well as for each feature or story. They generally come out of conversations with the customer about high-level acceptance criteria for each story. They also help identify risky assumptions and increases team’s confidence in writing & correctly estimating tasks needed to complete the story.
A smart incremental approach to writing customer tests that guide development is to start with a “thing-slice” that follows a happy path from one end to the other. (also called a “steel-thread” or “tracer-bullet”). This ‘steel-thread’ connects all of the components together and after it’s solid, more functionality can be added.
After the thin slice is working, we can write customer tests for the next chunk.
It’s a process of “write tests — write code— run tests — learn”
Another goal of customer tests is to identify high-risk areas and make sure code is written to solidify those.
Experiment & find ways your team can balance using up-front detail and keeping focused on the big picture.
Quadrant-2 contains a lot of different types of tests and activities. We need the right tools to facilitate gathering, discussing, and communicating examples and tests.
>>Simple tools such as Paper or Whiteboard work well for gathering examples if the team is co-located.
>>More sophisticated tools help teams write business-facing tests that guide development in an executable, automatable format.
A look at tests in Quadrant-1 – Technology Facing tests
Unit tests and component tests ensure quality by helping the programmers understand exactly what the code needs to do and providing guidance in the right design
The term ‘Test-Driven Development’ misleads practitioners who do not understand that its more about design than testing. Code developed test-first is naturally designed for Testability.
When teams practice TDD, they minimize the number of bugs that must be caught later.
The more bugs that leak out of our coding process, the slower our delivery will be, and in the end, it is the quality that will suffer. That’s why programmer tests in Quadrant-1 are so critical. A team without these core agile practices is unlikely to benefit much from agile values and principles.
Source Code Control, Configuration Management and Continuous Integration are essential to getting value from programmer tests that guide development.
CI saves time and motivates each programmer to run the tests before checking in the new code.
An advantage of driving development with tests is that code is written with the express intention of making tests pass.
A common approach in designing a testable architecture is to separate the different layers that perform different functions in the application.
Teams should take time to consider how they can take time to create an architecture that will make automated tests easier to create, inexpensive to maintain and long-lived. Don’t be afraid to revisit the architecture is automated tests don’t return value for the investment in them.
“The biggest value of unit tests is in the speed of their feedback.”
Each unit test is different and tests one dimension at a time
Learning to write Quadrant-1 tests is hard.
Because TDD is really more of a design activity, it is essential that the person writing the code also writes the tests, before writing the code.
If a delivery date is in jeopardy, push to reduce the scope, not the quality.
Give the team time to learn and provide expert, hands-on training.
Technology-facing tests cannot be done without the right tools and infrastructure
The Agile Testing Quadrants matrix helps testers ensure that they have considered all of the different types of tests that are needed in order to deliver value.
Unit tests verify functionality of a small subset of the system. Component tests verify the behaviour of a larger part such as a group of classes that provide some services. Unit & Component tests are automated and written in the same programming language as the application. They enable programmers to measure what Kent Beck has called the internal quality of their code.
Tests in Quadrant-2 support the work of the development team but at a higher level. These business-facing tests define external quality and the features that the customers want. They’re written in a way business experts can easily understand using the business domain language.
The quick feedback provided by Quadrant 1 and 2 automated tests, which run with every code change or addition, form the foundation of an agile team. These tests first guide the development of functionality and when automated, then provide a safety net to prevent refactoring and the introduction of new code from causing unexpected results.
“Appraising a software product involves both art and science.”
Quadrant-3 classifies the business-facing tests that exercise the working software to see if it doesn’t quite meet expectations or won’t stand up to the competition. They try to emulate the way a real user would work the application. This is manual testing that only a human can do…use our senses, our brains and our intuition to check whether the development team has delivered the business value required by the customer.
Exploratory testing is central to this quadrant.
Technology-facing tests in Quadrant-4 are intended to critique product characteristics such as performance, robustness and security.
Creating and running these tests might require the use of specialised tools and additional expertise.
Automation is mandatory for some efforts such as load and performance testing.
Ward Cunningham coined the term “technical debt” in 1992, but we’ve certainly experienced it throughout our careers in software development.
By taking the time and applying resources and practices to keep technical debt to a minimum, a team will have time and resources to cover the testing needed to ensure a quality product. Applying agile principles to do a good job of each type of testing at each level will, in turn, minimize technical debt.
Each quadrant in the agile testing matrix plays a role in keeping technical debt to a manageable level.
The Agile Testing Quadrants provide a checklist to make sure you have covered all your testing bases. Examine the answers to questions such as:
Are we using unit & component tests to help find the right design for our application?
Do we have an automated build process?
Do our business-facing tests help us deliver a product that matches customer expectations?
Are we capturing the right examples of desired system behaviour?
Do we show prototypes of the UIs and reports to the users before we start coding them?
Do we budget enough time for exploratory testing?
Do we consider technological requirements like performance and security early enough?
There are many processes in a typical project that don’t transition well to agile because they require heavyweight documentation or are an inherent part of the phased and gated process & require signoffs at the end of each stage.
“Metrics can be controversial”
Measurements such as cycle time that involve the whole team are more likely to drive you toward success than measures confined to isolated roles or groups.
Lean development looks for ways to delight customers, which ought to be the goal for all software development.
Metrics that measure milestones along a journey to achieve team goals are useful.
When you are trying to figure out what to measure, first understand what problem you are trying to solve. If your goals are measurable, the measurements you need to gather to track the metrics will be obvious.
Figure each metrics Return on Investment and decide whether to track or maintain it. Does the effort spent collecting it justify the value it delivers? Can it be easily communicated and understood? Do what works for your situation. Experiment with keeping a particular metric for a few sprints and evaluate whether it is paying off.
“Projects succeed when people are allowed to do their best work”
Defects tracking systems (DTS) are too often used as communication tools & entering unnecessary bugs can be wasteful. Focus on using DTS for the right reasons.
Whether your team decides to create a test plan or not, the planning should be done. Each project is different, so don’t expect that the same solution will fit all.
Regarding Audits, Processes & Models
Traditional quality processes & process improvement models like SAS 70 and CMMI standards can co-exist with agile.
Quality assurance teams in traditional development organisations are often tasked with providing information for auditors and ensuring compliance with audit requirements.
Examples include what testing has been performed on given software release or proving that different accounts reconcile.
Testers can be tasked with writing test plans to evaluate the effectiveness of control activities.
Work together with the compliance and internal audit teams to understand your team’s responsibilities.
If your organisation is using some kind of process model or quality standard, educate yourself about it and work with the appropriate specialists in your organisation.
Process improvement models and frameworks emphasize discipline and conformance to process.
“Standards simply enable you to measure your progress towards your goal”
Working with existing quality processes and models is one of the biggest cultural issues you may face as you transition to agile development. All of these changes are hard, but when your whole team gets involves, none are insurmountable.
Testers on agile teams feel very strongly about their role as customer advocate and also feel they can influence the rest of the team with their quality thinking.
Testers also need training on pair testing, working with incomplete and changing requirements, automation and all of the other new skills that are required.
Programmers also might need coaching to understand the importance of business-facing tests and the whole-team approach to writing and automating tests.
The pairing of programmers and testers can only improve communication about the quality of the product.
“One major advantage of an integrated project team is that there’s only one budget and one schedule.”
The difference between a traditional cross-functional team and an agile team is the approach to the whole-team effort. Members are not just “representing” their functions in the team but are becoming true members of the team for as long as the project or permanent team exists.
The best teams are those that have learned to work together and have developed trust with one another.
Teams work better when they have ready access to all team members, easy visibility of all progress charts and an environment that fosters communication.
Teams make the best progress when they’re empowered to identify and solve their own problems. If you’re a manager, resist the temptation to impose all your good ideas on the team.
Make sure testers are involved in all meetings! If you are a tester and someone forgets to invite you to a meeting, invite yourself!
“Courage is especially important. Get up and go talk to people; ask how you can help. Reach out to team members and other teams for direct communication. Notice impediments ad ask the team to help remove them.”
Agile development works because it gets obstacles out of our path and lets us do our best work.
This chapter is dedicated to talking about organisational problems with agile adoption, mostly from a cultural point of view- how people perceive changes, how they work, giving up control and also taking charge. It is a very comprehensive description of many problems we see on a daily basis at our work and in teams struggling with agile transformation.
Points to remember and Quotable Quotes
Agile teams are best suites for organisations that allow independent thinking.
Fear is a powerful emotion, and if not addressed, it can jeopardize the transition into agile
Testers who don’t change their approach to testing have a hard time working closely with the rest of the development team
If the organisation culture is to push towards release without caring for quality, the teams will face an uphill battle in working in agile
Companies where testers assume the role of ‘Quality Police’ will also have a challenge since teams will not buy-into the idea of building quality in, as they are accustomed to badgering it in later.
If your organisation focuses on learning, it will encourage continuous process improvement and will likely adopt agile much more quickly.
Testers need time and training, like everyone else learning to work in agile
To help testers adjust, you may need to bring in an experienced agile testing coach to act as a mentor and a teacher.
Agile focuses on working at a sustainable pace, all the time. In contrast to the ‘fast and furious’ testing done at the end of release cycles in traditional projects (often amounting to overtime). In agile, if overtime is required, it is an exception, and that too for the whole team and not just the testers.
In agile, the relationship between the customer and the development team is more a partnership than a vendor-supplier relationship.
Even if an entire company adopts agile, some teams make the transition more successfully than others.
About Introducing Change-
“Expect and Accept Chaos as you implement Agile Processes.”
Find the areas of most pain, determine what practices will solve the problem so that you can get some immediate progress out of the chaos.
The critical success factor is whether the team takes ownership and has the ability to customise its approach
Celebrate success- Acknowledgement is important if you want a change to stick.
Rather than managing the team’s activities at a low level, managers of agile teams focus on removing obstacles so that team members can do their best work
“Agile development might seem fast-paced, but the change can seem glacial”
“Beware of the Quality Police mentality— Be a collaborator, not an enforcer“
The highlight of this chapter for me was reading the ‘Testers Bill of Rights’
I had not heard about this before , so reading this was pretty cool, and for sure fundamental to any tester’s life. Check it out-
***Update **About face-to-face communication** during Covid-19 ***
As I am reading this book during this bizarre time of social-distancing, working remotely and entire nations on lockdown, the part about ‘face-to-face’ communication has a new meaning now. As Janet Gregory also pointed out in response to this article, our definition of face-to-face has changed over the last few weeks over the entire world! We are lucky to have technology that helps us continue effective communication within our teams, have conversations, video calls, screen shares, continue learning over webinars and continue working, feeling useful and being productive.
Hoping things change soon and we can go back to having fun, productive discussions with our team mates over coffee. Until then — Happy social distancing!