The Agile Testing Challenges And their Remedies

These days it’s all about Agile. As we are moving towards faster deliveries, rapid development and expeditious changes, it’s becoming more difficult and exhaustive in maintaining quality to the required standards. Either it’s about compromising on the current situation or stretching yourself to the ‘T’ to make things fall into your path. This emerging agile methodology has provided us with many lucrative benefits but along with it comes the cons or the problems with every phase we deal with either it is development, designing or testing. On the testing front, if compared with the waterfall model a lot many problems have been faced and we all are struggling to find solutions or working towards them. To keep intact with this software development pace, we need to improve our software testing process and methodologies by finding solutions for the different agile testing challenges. 

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Below are the agile testing challenges, Agile testers usually face: 

Shrinking Testing Cycle

With shorter sprints and several stories in a sprint, the testing cycle gets shortened due to development time taking over the testing time. A major problem encountered during this tenure is stories getting delivered at the end of the sprint. This usually occurs due to agile planning performed more focussed from a development viewpoint rather than considering both the development and testing outlook. Such shrinking testing cycle leads to inadequate testing performed and bugs discovered at later stages like regression or even in production, which become expensive to fix.

How to overcome the challenge?

The very first approach to ensure that the testing cycle is not overridden by the development cycle is that during Sprint planning, both testing and development efforts are measured appropriately so that testers get sufficient time for testing. Along with it its important for QA’s to prioritize the stories in a sprint to ensure all higher impacted stories from the business point of view are tested rigorously and the ones with lesser impacts can be tested with major scenarios to ensure better coverage in a lesser time frame and lesser probability of bug detection.

Changing Requirements/ Unexpected Sprint Changes

This challenge is something one should expect when been in an agile environment. With requirement changes, it becomes difficult for the team to cope up with these changes when been in the sprint mid-way or due to an addition/removal of a requirement. Such last-minute changes lead to chaos or make a planned sprint unplanned leaving the team frustrated and pressurized. Getting work done across the required changes or scrapping of work can turn out to be a nightmare, leading to more issues in quality.

How to overcome the challenge?

The best approach to deal with such scenario is to assure the product owner and scrum master are aware of the increased scope and either a low priority story is removed from the sprint to balance out the velocity of the sprint or if business needs require to build and deliver the sprint with this increased scope, make sure the tester is well versed with the changes the requirement may bring about and perform risk-based testing accordingly. You can refer my article Evaluating Risks, “The Risk-Based Testing”

Insufficient information on stories

Many times we come across issues where stories are not well defined or only one liner story requirements are provided. These issues occur due to unclarity on the requirement from the product owner’s end and may be required to build a prototype of it so that more clarity can be derived from it. Such insufficient information leads to rework from development and testing perspective. Also, unclarity on this front may lead to insufficient test coverage.

How to overcome the challenge?

For stories with insufficient information, the QA can brainstorm along with the team to discuss the changes that need to be performed due to the insufficient information on the story and create test cases based on it. In a scenario where not much information can be derived, QA can create high-level scenarios and perform testing rather than awaiting more information across the story. Post getting an overview from the developed prototype, QA can update test cases across the story and perform further testing accordingly.

Broken Code due to Frequent builds

Due to consecutive build process with releases delivered back to back, the probability of code breakage increases with every build. This leads to previous functionalities or impacted functionalities which were running smoothly in the previous build gets impacted leading to bug injections in the software. Due to limited testing only across the designated stories, such bugs are escaped, leading to their discovery at later stages which increases the churn rate of the development cycle. 

How to overcome the challenge?

It is crucial that while creating test cases, the QA keeps in mind all the impacted areas relative to the story and pull required test cases from those stories and execute them along with the current test cases. This helps to ensure impacted areas are tested upfront along with the new features leading to bug discovery from those impacted areas if any. This helps such bugs not been discovered during the regression testing phase making it smoother and reduce the churn rate. Also to keep in mind post delivery of every build is to ensure a quick round of smoke test is run to ensure no major features are broken and helps provide a green flag to the QA to perform in-depth story testing post the smoke test is passed. An automated smoke test can help speed up the process and brings stability to the AUT

Inadequate testing documentation and test coverage

Due to continuous development, integration, releases and lesser available time for testing, it becomes difficult to create the required testing documentation like requirement traceability matrix or test scenarios or requirement document etc thereby leading to an insufficient flow of information across team members or freshers entering into the project. This may lead to long-term issues with the team not aware of the detailed project knowledge and hence leading to scenarios been missed while creating or executing them. Also with major documents like RTM not been available due to time constraints, it becomes difficult to track across requirements and hence may result in improper test coverage.

How to overcome the challenge?

To ensure information is widespread across members, due to lack of time in documenting the requirements or test scenarios, a better approach would be to have detailed KT recordings available for new team members to have a comprehensive understanding of the project. Similarly, in case of missing documents like RTM or test scenarios, a QA can ensure to have all test cases linked to stories to ensure proper test coverage is achieved. Also, few testing metrics can help ensure test coverage is achieved to the required level. You can refer my article on testing metrics for more details on it.

Lack of Communication

This area may turn out to be a bottleneck if there is missing co-ordination and communication among team members. Quite often it has been observed, that QA team were unaware of the changes made by the development team, this leads to the team not able to visualize or contemplate it while evaluating the risk across the changes done. This eventually leads to more bugs discovered at later stages and de-focussed testing performed by the QA team. Similarly, if there is a communication gap in terms of requirements communicated to the teams by the product owner, similar testing issues may be encountered.

How to overcome the challenge?

It is important to ensure that the team sits together and perform discussion across the changes made from the code perspective so that everybody is in sync with the changes and can evaluate the system more thoroughly while making sensitive decisions or risk-based decisions and perform testing activities accordingly. Raising issues or clarifications across requirements when conveyed by the product owner helps provide more visibility across the requirement not just to the QA but also to the team.

Inability to refine testing due to continuous testing approach

Testing remains no longer a phase as in waterfall model but a continuous activity that begins from user story analysis to test case creation to test execution, followed by regression testing and smoke testing post delivery. As the cycle completes the QA is moved to the next release where the same set of activities are to be carried out. With such back to back engrossed activities, it becomes difficult to take out time to sit and analyze the pitfalls or areas of improvement that could make testing more refined and structured. This leads to stale processes and finally software quality been depreciated.

How to overcome the challenge?

It is of high importance to ensure agile practices like sprint retrospectives are carried out which helps to inspect the key areas that need improvements and can be worked upon. Similarly, key metrics like defect leakage, defect rejection rate would help draw inferences in the testing processes, thereby helping to refine them further. Evolving better test strategies as per the application under test and in the available time would help improve the quality of the software. For example, an application that needs to be tested across multiple browsers and mobile devices can be strategically tested by implying equivalence partitioning across the more used browsers and versions. Such strategies and practises would refine the testing process in the limited time available for testing.
Agile methodology has provided various productive benefits to the software industry. With better visibility to the end customer and faster rate to market, have opened the doors to more customers inclination towards technology. It’s of keen importance to find possible solutions to the ever emerging challenges to ensure quality remains intact with the trending methodology to serve its benefits that others can reap. Closing the article with the below quote that speaks about the agile challenges one encounters:

 “We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.”– Maya Angelou

You will inevitably run into challenges along your agile journey, the key is to learn from these challenges and overcome them through standups and retrospectives.

Author: SadhvI


2 Thoughts to “The Agile Testing Challenges And their Remedies”

  1. nice explanation about agile challenges

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