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Whole-Team Approach

One of the biggest differences in agile development versus traditional development is the agile “whole-team” approach. With agile, it’s not only the testers or a quality assurance team who feel responsible for quality. We don’t think of “departments,” we just think of the skills and resources we need to deliver the best possible product. The focus of agile development is producing high-quality software in a time frame that maximizes its value to the business. This is the job of the whole team, not just testers or designated quality assurance professionals. Everyone on an agile team gets “test-infected.” Tests, from the unit level on up, drive the coding, help the team learn how the application should work, and let us know when we’re “done” with a task or story.

An agile team must possess all the skills needed to produce quality code that delivers the features required by the organization. While this might mean including specialists on the team, such as expert testers, it doesn’t limit particular tasks to particular team members. Any task might be completed by any team member, or a pair of team members. This means that the team takes responsibility for all kinds of testing tasks, such as automating tests and manual exploratory testing. It also means that the whole team thinks constantly about designing code for testability.

The whole-team approach involves constant collaboration. Testers collaborate with programmers, the customer team, and other team specialists—and not just for testing tasks, but other tasks related to testing, such as building infrastructure and designing for testability. Figure 1-5 shows a developer reviewing reports with two customers and a tester (not pictured).

Figure 1-5

Figure 1-5 A developer discusses an issue with customers

The whole-team approach means everyone takes responsibility for testing tasks. It means team members have a range of skill sets and experience to employ in attacking challenges such as designing for testability by turning examples into tests and into code to make those tests pass. These diverse viewpoints can only mean better tests and test coverage.

Most importantly, on an agile team, anyone can ask for and receive help. The team commits to providing the highest possible business value as a team, and the team does whatever is needed to deliver it. Some folks who are new to agile perceive it as all about speed. The fact is, it’s all about quality—and if it’s not, we question whether it’s really an “agile” team.

Your situation is unique. That’s why you need to be aware of the potential testing obstacles your team might face and how you can apply agile values and principles to overcome them.

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