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STPCon: The tester's role on an Agile team

We hear a lot about teams transitioning to Agile, but what does this mean for the tester? Robert Walsh of Excalibur Solutions presented, “Adapting Conventional Testing Strategies for an Agile Environment” this morning at STPCon.

Rob started with a list of myths or misconceptions:

  • Agile doesn’t test.
  • Agile doesn’t need testers.
  • There’s no place in Agile for manual testing.
  • Agile doesn’t write documentation.
  • Agile doesn’t plan.
  • Agile has a public release at the end of each iteration.

Agile methodologies do encourage planning, documentation and testing; however, unlike traditional methodologies, with Agile we want to do enough but not so much that we will have to do it again.

If we are going to write that documentation, let’s do it once, and make it valuable, so we don’t need to do it again. Agile believes in ‘just enough’ but no more. If we don’t see a need for it, don’t do it.

Traditional methodologies are notorious for requiring detailed documents throughout the lifecycle. Most of us know the pain of writing these documents and wondering if they’re ever even read. Walsh said that he heard of someone who stuck a brownie recipe in the middle of a document just to check if anyone was actually reading it. He was met with understanding nods from the audience.

Though there were many other examples that Walsh gave of working in a more Agile way, the anecdote that I enjoyed most was one that I’ve often used as well.

Walsh told the story of the family that cut the end off of roast for generations without really knowing why. It’s just that it was the way it had always been done. Upon investigation, it was learned that the practice started because Great Grandma’s roast pan was too small to fit a full roast.

“Once upon a time there was a reason. If it’s not valuable, don’t do it.”

We need to use our critical thinking skills and question why we are doing what we do. Is there a better way? We should never do things simply because it’s the way it’s always been done. And, in fact, Agile tells us to always be looking for ways to do things better.

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