Saturday, April 16, 2011

Automated functional tests - an organisational change


Introducing automated systems (functional) testing to a project used to run manual functional and regression tests at the end of every development cycle is not a technical issue – well, it is to some extent, but there are good solutions out there – it is a fundamental change to the work your testers perform.

In the manual approach a typical set up of roles dictate that test designers create written test specifications in some tool or in ordinary documents. The specifications contain everything the tester needs to execute the test, including detailed step-by-step instructions.  The tests are then manually executed over and over again making sure to catch any regression in the system functionality.

When moving to automated testing the previously text based test specifications are transformed into an executable format. Perhaps the behaviour driven approach is used with some short textual description that underneath is connected to code exercising the system, preferably through the GUI if such exists. Since execution of the tests is automated the testers previously doing the manual test execution are no longer needed. Instead test implementers, with the ability to build the code that executes the tests, are working alongside the test designers. Tests are executed by the build system, perhaps nightly or even more frequent making the feedback loop faster.

This is a big change - and yes, it is a good one - but it is important to understand the impact to the organization of your test/project team and the new skills required. It is also important to understand that the automated tests are now a fundamental artifact for your system, just like the written test specifications used to be, and it is to be owned by the test lead. Just because it is automated and uses code to run, it is not to be handed over to the developers.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The main pillars of Scrum according to me

In this post I'll share with you what I think are the most valuable pieces of Scrum, pieces I'm never willing to compromise over.

Iterative/incremental
Scrum is truly iterative mandating to produce a fully functional increment of the final product, including at least some business functionality, in each sprint. In addition each sprint ends with a sprint review and retrospective making the feedback loop explicit.

Transparency 
In Scrum everything is visible. Any misconception in the organisation, design or infrastructure is pulled into the light. Honesty is just the first name!

Continuous improvement
Fast feedback loops, in larger and larger circles, and transparency are a solid ground for continuous improvement both to the product under development and to the process itself. Always strive to do things faster and with higher quality than the last time around.

Self-managing teams 
Scrum is based on the belief that a team of professionals is most effective if left alone to organise, solve its problems and work towards the sprint goal instead of having management telling them what to do and how to do it. Managers are to take the role of facilitators/sponsors making sure the team has everything it needs to produce as much value as possible.

Definition of done 
When is a task done? In order to truly complete a piece of work and deliver a high quality increment it is absolutely vital to have a solid definition of done. Any work that should have been done to get the increment ready for production will not go away if left undone. Instead it will accumulate over the following iterations and add up exponentially to a large, undefined, piece of work requiring a stabilisation phase of unknown length to meet quality criteria.

These are my fundamental values which I try to stick to. What do you think? Do you have other/additional most pressures parts?