Integrating Quality Assurance with Agile Development

Agile is a great platform for managing all the complex aspects of software development. However, it does not really offer much guidance when it comes to proper Quality Assurance practices.

The classic approach taken with quality assurance is to rely on writing tests, and test the application after the development process is finished. Many organizations struggle to integrate proper testing approaches through their development processes.

Here are some ways in which you can integrate quality assurance processes with Agile development.

Understand the Agile Principles of Quality Assurance

If you adopt a new process without understanding the principles behind it, then you run the risks of getting caught up in the mechanics and forgetting about the values.

The Scrum guide teaches us that while you do not have to release the product incrementally to your clients, specific deliverables from each sprint must me in usable conditions. Now, usable can vary by team, as can the definition of finished. But generally, this refers to software that has been tested, coded, and reviewed by the product owner.

When you adopt Agile principles, then you should use those principles to conduct your quality assurance processes as well. Testing deliverables from sprint to sprint is not part of the Agile values. When coming up with your testing approach, consider each of your established practices against the values of Agile, and ensure that they are working together.

Remove Obstacles That May Prevent You From Using Agile Values

If you try to apply the Agile principles to Quality Assurance, then you will most likely run into issues that make testing sprints very difficult. It is easy to just modify your processes around these obstacles, but that will force you to move away from the values that you are trying to uphold.

For example, not having enough time in a sprint to test everything the team needs to test. When this happens, the first reaction is to make the Sprint longer. While there may be some valid reasons for making sprints longer, it goes against Agile values. So, before making decisions like these, try to find if there are other root-causes causing this problem.

By nature, Agile is meant to expose flaws within your process, but without knowing it teams often make an effort to hide them. The correct thing to do is address them. The goal is to dig deeper, find the root cause and fix it. Do no compromise values.

Test as You Go

Unfortunately, QA has been taught that testing needs to happen at the end of the project. Attempting to do this in a sprint of 3 or 4 weeks can be a very difficult task. It often leaves QA scrambling for time at the end of the sprint.

Agile is a supporter of well-established feedback loops inside sprints. A team with high collaboration between QA analysts and software developers can test the elements of features before they are completed. For example, a developer may be writing a website to capture user information. If that feature is being developed, they could get a few fields working first such as name and address, and let the QAs have a look. If QA finds any issues, they can bring it up with the developer and add the task to the backlog.

This way QA can be actively involved throughout the entire development processes

Understand that it Will Take Time

Agile may be simple to learn, but it is quite difficult to master. It will take time to get things right. While there are some companies that can transition smoothly, most will have to struggle through changes. However, once the principles of Agile are embedded into your culture, they will remain strong.