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Where do software tester roles and responsibilities begin?

Software testers can't wait for development to end. Expert Gerie Owen explains why the responsibilities of software testers begin when a project starts.

Waiting around for a near-completed application to test is so 1990s. Even 20 years ago, software testers spent...

the early stage of a project writing test plans, determining test strategies and analyzing requirements. Although those weren't necessarily full-time software tester roles and responsibilities, they enabled the testing group to hit the ground running as soon as testing could begin.

Today, an increasing number of Agile projects require software tester roles and responsibilities to begin almost from the start. Often, testers sit next to developers in order to understand the design coding decisions, tradeoffs, strengths and weaknesses.

At the very least, in the early stages of a project, testers can keep busy and be prepared. User stories need acceptance criteria, and requirements need test cases. Testers need to triage test cases to determine where the highest risks are.

There are also administrative tasks to be done. You can take on setting up the Agile or Kanban project board. You may have to set up a test environment on the Web or acquire mobile devices, browsers and virtual machines for testing. Don't count on someone doing those preparation tasks for you, and don't count on them working as they should right out of the gate.

Most of all, if you are on a new team you need to understand intimately the formal and informal processes on that team, and build relationships with others. You need to establish your credibility with the team, and also understand how they plan to hand off stories and address defects. Don't stop with the documented processes; learn how they plan to work together to build the application.

It's still likely that you will be busier toward the end of the process, but any real work you can do earlier will improve application quality and make your life easier.

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This was last published in December 2015

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How has your team defined software tester roles and responsibilities to ensure testing comes early in a project?
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I think all team members shoulder the burden of testing to some degree.

It starts with conversations about risk, function, about what we are trying to accomplish, what might be some problems that could impede our ability to deliver that great experience.

Devs an Testers can work to flesh out more about what may need to be tested in planning, and they might also discuss for important acceptance criteria, or in slating some dev/test work for a later story.  It might be okay to not fully complete or test a feature, if it means it will take more time.
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We haven’t defined roles and responsibilities to ensure that testing comes early in a project. Instead, we’ve defined roles and responsibilities to help ensure that everyone on the team works with a quality mindset, whether they are testing or not.
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For my team, we often discuss and identify the quality objectives for the project/product then a backlogs of things to work forward to ensure the defined quality objectives. So the team will tear the backlogs down into their own responsibilities. Yes, there are backlogs items can only be done by a tester/QA.
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It should never end.  Every retro, planning, and maybe even at stand-ups the topic about what testing needs are needed could be discussed... You might even want to start at the release planning area.
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This is a question I often ask during interviews, and it’s surprising to see so many otherwise qualified candidates give an answer other than at the start of a project. A tester’s responsibilities begin when a project starts and never end until that project is put to bed, whether you're in an agile environment, a waterfall environment, regulated or not.
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First of all, we start with the planning and work allocation among the team, each and every member is responsible for their module and is responsible for designing scenarios for usability testing so that each member can participate and does their role efficiently. It is a long run process. 
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