Live Blog Testbash Germany: A Tester’s Survival Guide for Agile Transition by Parveen Khan

I am intensely grateful that there’s a break after two talks! I’ve also moved seats to try out a new position. Posterior numbness, let’s leave it at that :wink:

I’m excited about hearing what Parveen has to say about this. I have a feeling I’m going to get a lot out of this!

First things first, obligatory selfie :slight_smile: I do love this!

Parveen is starting by asking questions. A lot of people work in agile (but I bet that we’ll all have something to learn). Parveen is going to share her story. She was working with a small team of developers on a product for content generation. It was new, and so they were working on new features and fixing issues. They were in a very waterfall process. Everything was in different stages, with testing at the end. Releases were every three months. The different phases made it actually kind of relaxed. One day, someone suggested using agile methods. It was a buzzword at the time. Parveen was worried; she didn’t know anything about agile at the time.

As a team, they decided to research about agile. Although she then had a good understanding of agile, she had no practical experience about how the role of a tester looks. The team decided to start with baby steps and see how they go. They started having two week sprints. They went from 3 month releases to 2 week releases. That was a big mindset change for Parveen. She asks whether that was the cause of a panic attack. No – it was the cause of a sprint attack! How can she write test cases in two weeks? How can she plan what to do in that time? How can she ensure quality in just 2 weeks? And those were just a few of the questions. No one else had the answers to the questions either. After 5 or so sprints, Parveen realised that there are three keys for success. The first sprint was a disaster (understandably!) but it did get better.

The three keys are:

  • Collaboration
  • Planning
  • Decision making

For collaboration, even just getting together for standups was a help. A standup became a pivotal collaborative tool. At the very beginning, they hadn’t had standups – and it led to problems and misunderstandings. Then they introduced the daily standup. An example: a developer had fixed a high prio issue during the sprint, and was waiting for Parveen to test it. After a day, the developer was annoyed that it hadn’t been retested. They called a meeting and a developer suggested that they work on high prio things instead of low prio things. A good idea – but it turned out that he didn’t know that Parveen was already working on something important. That knowledge in the team is critical. And they gain that from standups.

The second key is planning. Parveen admits she’s not been a fan of planning previously, and it’s agile that has led her to improve this. In agile, planning can be for estimations, writing test cases and also exploratory sessions. Those are just a few of the things, and there are her examples.

When planning for estimations, Parveen used to think in hours. The team wasn’t happy with her estimations – they seemed high. But Parveen was nervous about not finishing and also not used to estimating. She approached the problem by making it clearer to the developers what was involved in her estimations (read requirements, write test cases, do exploratory testing, do regression testing, contingency time for raised issues). The developers were then ok with her estimations (“not happy, but ok”), and they could proceed and learn from the estimations.

Planning for writing test cases: Parveen was writing very detailed test cases like she used to in the waterfall approach. Moving forward, she realised that that was too time consuming, and not that valuable to write every step. So she moved to writing high level test scenarios. Again, this led to some difficulty in the team, that wanted more detail. Parveen suggested trying her approach for one spring (yes! Yay to experimentation!). Through the experiment she could show how she could use the time saved for more exploration or retesting fixed bugs. When the next sprint started, no one said anything. So Parveen took the silence as assent for her experiment (also yeah! Taking authority!). And from then on she’s never had to write detailed test cases again (guess they weren’t that valuable after all!).

When planning for exploration, it was important to her to have time to expand her ideas and find edge cases. Again though, there was the aspect of selling the value to her team (sigh. One day we’ll not have to sell our value, right? Gr. Anyway). Parveen used the PQIP (problem, question, issue, praise) approach to documentation to share with the team (credit to Simon Tomes). The praise aspect was a very good idea – because giving praise to the developers caused good things to happen in the team.

The third key is decision making. In waterfall, Parveen had to make decisions – but not quick decisions. In one instance where Parveen was doing regression testing, it was the end of the day and the business users were due in the next morning. Parveen found a showstopper that would stop the plan for tomorrow. She was scared because it was the end of the regression cycle. She decided to let the team know. It was accepted that it needed to be fixed before proceeding with user acceptance testing. Because the team managed to work together, they fixed it before the next morning. In another universe, Parveen could have decided to wait until standup the next morning – and that would have been disastrous for the planned user testing.

The more Parveen has worked in the sprints, the more she has felt valued as a tester and as a part of the team. She is responsible for giving feedback and helping the team to a good product.

Her key takeaways from the transition so far are:

  • Standups are a small thing that are intensely important
  • Planning in agile is a constant part of the process. You need to plan continuously and constantly
  • It’s important to be proactive and have courage to break down old structures.
  • Take initiative and lead from your position (yes!!!). Think about what you can drop and what you can’t. Make your own decisions and encourage others to follow.

Parveen says it’s been happy testing ever after for her. This is her story and how she’s dealt with the challenges. Great story and great tips!