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Best Practices for an Agile QA Process
Written by Marc Alringer
When it comes to software development, quality is everything. Quality Assurance (QA) is a systematic process that ensures product and service excellence. A robust QA team examines the requirements to design, develop, and manufacture reliable products whereby increasing client confidence, company credibility and the ability to thrive in a competitive environment. We want to give you some of our best practice tips for the agile QA process.
The agile QA process begins at the inception of the software development life cycle. From the initial design meeting, through the development phase, to final testing and hardening of the application. This process is repeated in two-week sprints until the project is released.
1. Define an Agile QA Process
Most companies have made the shift from the traditional waterfall development methodology to an agile process. Agile testing introduces QA into the project as early as possible to foresee issues, write and execute test cases, and uncover any gaps in requirements. With the project divided into iterative stages, QA engineers are able to add focus to the development process and provide rapid, continuous feedback.
Sprints benefit the client by delivering working software earlier rather than later, anticipating change, providing better estimates in less time, and allowing for course corrections instead of completely derailing the project. The QA team can incorporate lessons learned from previous projects to improve the process for future projects.
2. Risk Analysis
An important aspect of any QA process is risk analysis. Risk analysis is defined as the process of identifying and assessing potential risks and their impact. The process helps organizations avoid and mitigate risks.
It’s highly unlikely for an application to be 100% bug free, but a dedicated QA team should attempt to remove or prevent the most problematic bugs. Understanding all the possible outcomes of a project allows your team to establish preventive measures that reduce the probability of occurrence.
3. Test Early and Test Often
The agile model aims to incorporate QA at each stage of the project’s lifecycle to identify issues as early as possible. Within each sprint, QA engineers test and retest the product with each new feature added. This allows them to validate that the new features were implemented as expected and to catch any problems that may have been introduced. Testing early and often leads to the conservation of time and budget.
4. White-box vs. Black-box
Black-box testing assumes no knowledge of how a system does what it does. It only has an understanding of what it should do from the user’s perspective. White-box testing enables the QA engineer to develop a deeper understanding of the system’s internals. Armed with this knowledge, the QA engineer can begin testing much earlier. In an agile QA process, the test engineers need this extra level of system understanding to validate features as soon as they are developed.
White-box testing allows QA teams to anticipate potential error conditions and develop better test scenarios. Knowing how the system works ensures they have tested all possible input scenarios. It can also help identify potential security problems. Perhaps most important: white-box testing encourages close collaboration between development and QA.
5. Automate When Feasible
Automation can help maximize the effectiveness of your QA staff. Since regression testing can consume a large percentage of the QA team’s time, automation provides a way to ensure previous deliverables continue to work while QA engineers focus on testing newly delivered features. Being able to reliably reproduce tests will free up resources for exploratory testing. Automation will give your development team the confidence to make changes to the system with the knowledge that any issues will be identified quickly, and can be fixed before delivery to the QA team.
All that being said, it is important to be cautious of over-automating. Your team should prioritize test cases and then determine which of them should be automated. Situations in which the data might change or where a scenario isn’t consistently reproducible may not actually benefit from automation because the results can cause false failures.
Implementing automation costs more up front, but saves money in the long run by increasing efficiency between development and QA teams.
6. Know your audience
Understanding the target audience will improve the QA process. Tailoring the development and QA process around your users needs will enable your team to build value-driving applications. When you are familiar with who will be using the actual end-product, you can better prioritize the QA process to save time and money.
7. Teamwork makes the dream work
Behind each high-quality product, there is a team of professionals that work incessantly to maintain the high standard of quality upheld by the organization. Although each team working on the project must take responsibility for ensuring quality, the primary responsibility for quality rests with the QA team. The QA team understands what the client needs the system to do and can prove the client’s satisfaction with the system. Using the Agile QA process, engineers are the super-sleuths who root out problems and help the team to deliver high-quality products and ensure client confidence, company credibility and successful product delivery.