How to Accelerate Your Release Cycles with Agile Testing

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Summary:
With the traditional waterfall method of testing, achieving quality and faster time to market is difficult. Agile testing has emerged as an alternative, where development and testing take place simultaneously instead of operating in their respective silos. Let’s look at what it means to perform agile testing, what practices are necessary, and how agile testing can benefit your software releases.

Staying competitive in today’s world of business requires consistent delivery of customer satisfaction through your products or services. If quality has emerged as a differentiator for enterprises to expand their customer base, enabling faster release cycles arguably comes next.

With the traditional software development lifecycle (SDLC) employing the waterfall method of testing, achieving quality and faster time to market is difficult. Agile testing has emerged as an alternative, where development and testing take place simultaneously instead of operating in their respective silos.

Let’s look at what it means to perform agile testing, what practices are necessary, and how agile testing can benefit your software releases.

What Is Agile Testing?

The agile testing method follows the agile way of software development. In this form of iterative development, the requirements generate mainly from the end customers and testing teams. In the same way, the agile software testing methodology is aligned to customer requirements.

Further, agile teamsdo not consider testing as a separate process, but an integral part of the development cycle. Developers and testers work in cohesion as a single entity in short, timeboxed periods called sprints.

Agile testing activities are distinct from traditional testing composed of logging glitches, checking metrics, and writing detailed test cases. In the agile methodology, instead of testing the code after development is finished, testing activities are done early and frequently. In fact, the testing team is engaged with testing the integration of subsystems and features.

Accelerating the Software Release Cycle

To accelerate your software release cycles with the agile testing strategy, the entire process needs to move to a CI/CD pipeline, or continuous integration and continuous delivery. To achieve that, enterprises need to follow the strategies detailed below.

Proper planning

Agile practices do not always generate the outcomes enterprises set out to achieve. This is due to the fact that enterprises often embrace agile practices without adapting them to their IT environments, workflows, culture, or architecture.

Enterprises adopting agile should be guided by their goals. Among the many goals that should be created or modified to embrace agile ways of working, feedback loops need to be shortened so teams can recognize and fix glitches quickly.

Testing early and frequently

The agile methodology aims at delivering quality software at frequent intervals, speedily and consistently. This calls for better collaboration, flexibility, and transparency among the development and testing teams. The agile testing experts should ensure quality becomes everyone’s responsibility. To reach the goal of identifying and redressing glitches as soon as possible, testing should be conducted early and often in the SDLC.

However, since the process needs to be speedy and efficient, test automation becomes the key. It ensures copious lines of code and variables are checked for glitches and integration against expected outcomes. Test automation prevents defects, regressions, the code from showing unexpected results, and cost escalation due to refactoring later.

Managing expectations

Agile can mean different things to different people. A standardized definition needs to be agreed upon and implemented as per the requirements and working pace of the organization.

There can be challenges in terms of aligning people and processes. In case of failures, it is worthwhile to remember that being agile is about failing early and often, embracing failures as an opportunity to learn. Failures are acceptable provided the process of deployment is iterative and continuous.

Finalizing test metrics

Metrics tell the detailed scope of testing. Some worthwhile metrics to measure and keep track of include code coverage, the percentage of test automation coverage, and the impact of glitches on end-users.

Compatibility

Switching between the old and new code using toggles must be coupled with forward and backward compatibility. This is to ensure the code is not broken while enabling new functionalities. The entire process requires thorough architecture planning and deep knowledge of the code base.

Microservices architecture

A microservices architecture entails breaking up the code into smaller units and assigning them to different teams. The final application can be built using any combination of the microservices, provided the interfaces are properly defined and maintained. Since a microservices architecture requires lower maintenance, it helps to improve the consistency and speed of software delivery.

Case Study: Increasing Agile Testing Efficiency

We worked with a leading multinational IT corporation that was experiencing severe testing inefficiencies in their agile cycles. They were facing a serious lack of the required skill sets and were scraping by with a limited pool of resources.

They had parallel Scrum teams in multiple locations, which resulted in challenges around achieving test coverage and communicating adequately. Their business deliverables demanded high-quality solutions in a rapidly changing environment, but they were hindered by inconsistent processes across the distributed teams.

The mess was due to an inadequate initial agile testing plan. They needed a solid testing strategy to be designed, executed, and integrated with their agile methodology.

We set up test environments at the developers’ locations that would be virtually accessible to our offshore testing team for revalidation in critical situations. A quality control dashboard was developed and maintained with an interface to exchange servers. The dashboard increased transparency and offered better control. We also designed end-to-end processes and defined entry and exit criteria for all stages.

Adopting best practices for all the teams helped achieve consistency across the parallel testing processes and cycles. A well-defined regression testing process and automation coverage was achieved with the help of our solid test strategy and supported by maintainable artifacts. By leveraging automation techniques to cover quality at code level and capturing key inputs for high volumes of data for dozens of sites, we assisted with better planning.

We also established a disciplined communication model, which ensured a seamless transition of tasks between the ScrumMaster and Scrum leads.

Implementing Agile Testing

Implementing agile is similar to any change process, and it comes with its own challenges, bottlenecks, and opportunities. If your enterprise is sure about its objectives and the way to achieve them, agile testing should speed up your processes and help you deliver a higher-quality product faster.

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