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Agile testers: The value of whole team commitment

Earlier this month Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory, authors of Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams, published an article called “Testers: The Hidden Resource.” While the article doesn’t appear to be written for testers, it’s nonetheless an interesting read. If you’re still not quite sure where testers might be able to play a role on your projects, it might be a place to start.

One quote I found particularly interesting talked about whole team commitment:

What do we mean by this “whole team” commitment? Testers work with programmers to turn their test ideas into automated tests that become part of the regression test suite. The whole team becomes responsible for keeping the test suite “running green”; that is, keeping the tests passing. The regression suite (including all unit and functional tests) allows the team to refactor continually to keep the code clean and to minimize technical debt. Testers contribute their specialized skills for developing robust test cases, but the entire team gets involved with designing testable code, automating and executing tests. A team commitment to principles, values, and practices that promote quality will result in well-designed code and keep maintenance costs low. Good test coverage means that changes are easier and faster to implement.

I think automated test coverage (unit, acceptance, functional, etc.) is a great place for testers and programmers to come together. I’ve also found that having programmers pair with testers when doing exploratory testing can also help. Not only do they provide meaningful insights to the testing taking place, it also allows the tester an opportunity to illustrate testing techniques that get programmers thinking about risks that can’t necessarily be addressed with automated tests. That in turn can create dialogue around what the best way might be to address those risks as a project team.

In general, I’m not a big fan of “selling” testing to the teams I’m working with when I’m a tester or test manager. Instead I show them what value I (or my team) can provide. If they don’t want to give me the opportunity to show them that value, that’s okay with me. I don’t want to work with people who don’t feel like they need the kind of feedback I can provide. To date I’ve only met a handful of programmers who don’t ask people to test their code. So I’ve found it relatively easy to break down any resistance a programmer might have to involving testers.

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