Agile and Scrum Methodologies from a Testing/QA Perspective

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Agile software development is already beyond the innovation stage and rapidly moving through an early adoption stage. Have you noticed agile and Scrum being mentioned "everywhere" you look? This write-up will describe key agile/Scrum concepts, the different phases of an agile project managed using Scrum, and the top three things that you should expect as a QA engineer/tester professional. If your organization is looking at agile/Scrum, or you want to keep up-to-date on industry trends, read on.

Agile software development is a methodology for undertaking software development projects in which incremental functionality is released in smaller cycles, and work is performed in a highly collaborative manner by self-organizing teams that embrace and adapt changes to ensure that customer's needs are truly met. Agile Software Development is not new, in fact it was introduced in the 1990s as a way to reduce costs, minimize risks and ensure that the final product is truly what customers requested. The idea behind the Agile approach is that instead of building a release that is huge in functionality (and often late to market), an organization would adapt to dynamic changing conditions by breaking a release into smaller shorter cycles of 1 to 6 weeks. Each cycle is called an iteration, or sprint, and it’s almost like a miniature software project of its own, because it includes all of the tasks necessary to release the incremental new functionality. In theory, at the end of each sprint, the product should be ready for a GA release. Agile methodology emphasizes real-time communication, preferably face-to-face, versus written documents and rigid processes. In addition, one of the most broadly applicable techniques introduced by the agile processes is to express product requirements in the form of user stories. Each user story has various fields including an "actor", a "goal" or task that they need to perform, an explanation

Most agile teams include all the people necessary to release software. At a minimum, this includes programmers and the group or team they are developing the application for, often referred to as their "customers" (customers are the people who define the product; they may be product managers, business analysts, or actual customers). Typically an agile team will also include a ScrumMaster, testers, interaction designers, technical writers, and managers.

What is scrum ? Scrum is really a project management methodology to facilitate agile software development, and enable the creation of self-organizing agile teams. A ScrumMaster is like a traditional project manager in the sense that he/she oversees the centralization of team communication, requirements, schedules and progress. But it is also very different because his/her main responsibility is to facilitate team communications and provide guidance and coaching, while removing impediments to the ability of the team to deliver its goals. Unlike a traditional project manager, the ScrumMaster doesn’t direct the team, because an agile team is based on the philosophy that a team member is committed to the other team members, not to a management authority.

Phases of an Agile Development Project using Scrum
Agile can be customized to fit each corporation in terms of size, iteration time, experience, etc, but typically an agile project will have these phases and milestones.

  1. Kickoff meeting . Although this may seem routine for any project, with an agile development project this is a key element for getting the project launched. The goal of this meeting is to get everybody on the team together to review the product backlog (which is the master list of all requirements desired in the product that the product owner has drafted in the form of user stories), as well as the user personas (or the profile of each type of product user). In my opinion, this is a nicer and clearer way to introduce product requirements, because you really have more visibility into who is using the product, what are they trying to achieve and why, right from the beginning. A kickoff meeting usually lasts at least half a day with everybody together going over a “story writing workshop” -- in which stories are selected and then decomposed into


User Comments

Payilagam Chennai's picture

I have a question on Agile.  In the Planning meeting, if the Product Owner is absent all of a sudden, do we need to conduct the planning meeting without Product Owner or should wait for him.  Please answer

April 15, 2015 - 3:54am
sridhar bandha's picture

It depends actually. If your product owner has already prioritized all stories then all rest of team has to do is decide what all stories they can complete in that sprint. But then Product owner has to informed about the scope of the sprint (in terms of stories) and he should be fine with that. So my take if you have your stories prioritized then go ahead and decide based on priority and then later have a chat with Product owner get his feedback before actually starting the sprint.

May 4, 2015 - 9:48am
Sanat Sharma's picture

A real time scenario which I am facing now a days in Agile - Product owners are not interested in the product and wants to kill the products. But on the other side, there is a full fleshed Product backlog items list that can be implemented in the product.

There is a deadlock on this and Engineering team have spent 3 weeks (doing nothing) without even finalizing the release requirements to be implemented in the further release.

October 6, 2015 - 6:45am

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