I work for a mid-sized software company with around 27 development teams, mostly Scrum but also a few doing Lean and Kanban. We have a large and diverse product of HR-related software, I think there are around 6 million LOC, on three different platforms, including an ASP product and a .NET product. I’m fairly new, I started at the beginning of June, so I’m still learning about how everything gets done. We release four times a year and the software has won many prestigious awards. I’ve been impressed with this large-scale implementation of agile development. Just the speed of the daily Scrum of Scrums is amazing.

Many of the teams do a great job of automating their tests, and a few teams have their own continuous integration (CI) that runs multiple times a day. Other teams have automated tests, but must wait for the company-wide build to run, which is usually only once per day and sometimes not that often. They don’t get feedback fast enough, and that slows them down – a lot.

I’ve been asking why some teams struggle to automate tests, and why some teams don’t have their own CI. I’ve also asked my own team why most of our functional tests are automated through the GUI, rather than behind the GUI. We use FitNesse, but mainly to drive GUI tests with SWAT.

The answer I get a lot is “It’s the framework”. We have three architecture teams, and there is a framework (maybe there is more than one, I don’t fully understand it yet) that apparently makes it hard to test at the page or object layer. In addition, some teams’ code has tentacles into legacy code written in Delphi whose tests are written in WinRunner. Also, the current framework appears to not be fully supported with automated unit tests, it was developed a few years back. Programmers new to the framework seem to have a hard time understanding how to work with it. The framework clearly causes a lot of frustration. A new framework is under development, but it won’t be available for some time.

In order to understand the existing framework and find out whether the new one will facilitate testing behind the GUI, I was fortunate to get to meet with the leader of the architecture side of the development group. He gave me an overview of the new framework’s current design (which may change), aimed at making our product easily configurable by customers, using web services. It looks like this design allows testing under the GUI level.

Additionally, I learned that it is possible to test under the GUI in the current framework, and I met someone on another team who has automated many FitNesse tests at the object level. I plan to get her to show me how these tests work, and see if what she did would work for our code.

I haven’t worked at a company this large since the early 90s, and I’ve never worked in a company, agile or otherwise, that had “architecture teams” and “frameworks”. I get it that our product needs to look and work consistently across the board, so it does make some sense to centralize the design of the UI and perhaps other parts of the system. However, if the architecture is done by one team, what does that mean for programmers on other teams? Is the fun part of their job taken away? Do they get a chance to think for themselves and improve the product?

It also seems to me that there needs to be a lot of communication amongst the entire development community of our company, that all programmers should have some input to the architecture process. I’ve found that communication between teams in general is a bit lacking. Each team is so focused on delivering its part of the product, they don’t always feel they have time to go talk to other teams. So, for example, perhaps nobody on my team has talked to the person who did a lot of FitNesse functional tests.

Does your company have an architecture team, and/or a framework that everyone works with? Please comment and share your experiences. As a tester, I’d like to know what I can do to help my team deliver the highest possible quality when we have to work with a framework designed by someone else.