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This chapter is from the book

What Do We Mean by “Agile Testing”?

You might have noticed that we use the term “tester” to describe a person whose main activities revolve around testing and quality assurance. You’ll also see that we often use the word “programmer” to describe a person whose main activities revolve around writing production code. We don’t intend that these terms sound narrow or insignificant. Programmers do more than turn a specification into a program. We don’t call them “developers,” because everyone involved in delivering software is a developer. Testers do more than perform “testing tasks.” Each agile team member is focused on delivering a high-quality product that provides business value. Agile testers work to ensure that their team delivers the quality their customers need. We use the terms “programmer” and “tester” for convenience.

Several core practices used by agile teams relate to testing. Agile programmers use test-driven development (TDD), also called test-driven design, to write quality production code. With TDD, the programmer writes a test for a tiny bit of functionality, sees it fail, writes the code that makes it pass, and then moves on to the next tiny bit of functionality. Programmers also write code integration tests to make sure the small units of code work together as intended. This essential practice has been adopted by many teams, even those that don’t call themselves “agile,” because it’s just a smart way to think through your software design and prevent defects. Figure 1-2 shows a sample unit test result that a programmer might see.

Figure 1-2

Figure 1-2 Sample unit test output

This book isn’t about unit-level or component-level testing, but these types of tests are critical to a successful project. Brian Marick [2003] describes these types of tests as “supporting the team,” helping the programmers know what code to write next. Brian also coined the term “technology-facing tests,” tests that fall into the programmer’s domain and are described using programmer terms and jargon. In Part II, we introduce the Agile Testing Quadrants and examine the different categories of agile testing. If you want to learn more about writing unit and component tests, and TDD, the bibliography will steer you to some good resources.

If you want to know how agile values, principles, and practices applied to testing can help you, as a tester, do your best work, and help your team deliver more business value, please keep reading. If you’ve bothered to pick up this book, you’re probably the kind of professional who continually strives to grow and learn. You’re likely to have the mind-set that a good agile team needs to succeed. This book will show you ways to improve your organization’s product, provide the most value possible to your team, and enjoy your job.

If you’ve worked in the software industry long, you’ve probably had the opportunity to feel like Lisa’s friend. Working harder and longer doesn’t help when your task is impossible to achieve. Agile development acknowledges the reality that we only have so many good productive hours in a day or week, and that we can’t plan away the inevitability of change.

Agile development encourages us to solve our problems as a team. Business people, programmers, testers, analysts—everyone involved in software development—decides together how best to improve their product. Best of all, as testers, we’re working together with a team of people who all feel responsible for delivering the best possible quality, and who are all focused on testing. We love doing this work, and you will too.

When we say “agile testing” in this book, we’re usually talking about business-facing tests, tests that define the business experts’ desired features and functionality. We consider “customer-facing” a synonym for “business-facing.” “Testing” in this book also includes tests that critique the product and focus on discovering what might be lacking in the finished product so that we can improve it. It includes just about everything beyond unit and component level testing: functional, system, load, performance, security, stress, usability, exploratory, end-to-end, and user acceptance. All these types of tests might be appropriate to any given project, whether it’s an agile project or one using more traditional methodologies.

Agile testing doesn’t just mean testing on an agile project. Some testing approaches, such as exploratory testing, are inherently agile, whether it’s done an agile project or not. Testing an application with a plan to learn about it as you go, and letting that information guide your testing, is in line with valuing working software and responding to change. Later chapters discuss agile forms of testing as well as “agile testing” practices.

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