Respect the Tests

Last month I had the great pleasure to participate in Agile Testing Days. I did a tutorial on using the Agile Testing Quadrants for test planning, and a keynote on 7 key success factors for agile testing success. More importantly, I got to attend a lot of great sessions by leading agile testing practitioners.

There were so many good sessions and I’ll only mention a few here. Mark your calendars for next year’s Agile testing Days, Oct. 4 – 6.

My slogan after this conference comes from Dave Evans (and from Mike Scott – not sure which one of them coined the phrase but they both talked about it): Respect the Tests. More about that in a minute.

Elisabeth Hendrickson always inspires me, and her keynote didn’t let me down. I’ve heard her definition of agile before, but it bears repeating: Delivering value in the form of releasable software at frequent, regular intervals at a sustainable pace, while adapting ot the changing needs of business. She quoted Mary Poppendieck as saying, if you want to go very fast, you have to be very disciplined. Sustainable pace means that we keep technical debt down so that the code doesn’t impede us.

Elisabeth presented her four sources of technical risk: Ambiguity, assumptions, dependencies and capacity, and her 7 key testing practices: TDD, ATDD, Exploratory Testing, Automated System Tests, Collective Test Ownership, CI, and one more that I think is automated unit tests (I can’t read my notes!)

Elisabeth also quoted Tobias Mayer, who refers to the Product Owner as the Voice of the What, and the dev team as the Tribe of the How. I like this, but I take issue with it a bit. The Poppendiecks have influenced me to experiment with having the dev team learn the business inside out, so the dev team itself can help the business prioritize and even think of features. This worked well for my team at ePlan, and I have to agree that funneling all the business requirements through the Product Owner has a lot of drawbacks.

What was new to me in this talk was something that several of us had talked about a night or two before, the idea of Collective Test Ownership. This ties in with the Whole Team Approach. Everyone on the team takes responsibility for quality, testing, and test automation.

Another great session, again from someone whose work I’m familiar with, was David Evans‘ talk. One big takeaway for me was this: If a test is worth writing, it’s worth automating, and it must always pass in the future. I often see teams that ignore failures in their CI tests because “We have to get these new stories out, this is the PO’s priority.” So the PO doesn’t care whether what she prioritized in previous sprints still works or not? When the CI breaks, the team should stop the line and get it green.

Dave pointed out that if all tests pass, you don’t need extra metrics. Defects are evidence of missing tests. So don’t call it a defect – call it a failing test, write the failing test and fix it right away. If the customer really doesn’t want it fixed now, write a story for later.

Dave recommend fixing time and quality, but don’t fix functional scope. If time is running out, thin the requirements. It’s not like leaving a wheel off or leaving out the engine. Respect the tests – any test worth writing is worth running all the time.

Dave presented his Agile Quality Framework. I won’t go into all the details, but one of my favorite parts is applying balloon patterns. An empty balloon is still a balloon, but if you don’t have the rubber outside, it’s hard to have the air and then add the rubber later. Do the rubber first – the CI, the test framework.

Mike Scott elaborated on the balloon pattern in his demo of Testify Wizard. In one hour, Mike went from zero to a full CI process, including the project two continuous builds, one running unit tests, and one running FitNesse tests. It even generated code coverage reports! I think he did this with both Java and .Net during the same session. He did this with a couple of pushes of the button,some minor configuration and a wave of his crutch.

This shows how easy it is to respect the tests. It’s not that hard to build a framework to integrate our code and run our automated tests so that we get quick feedback all the time.

One comment on “Respect the Tests

  1. Hello Lisa,
    There were indeed a lot of great sessions in Berlin, and a lot of inspring people too. I really liked the size and the ‘feel’ of the conference. I also did a write-up of the event (unfashionably late, I admit) here.
    Kind regards from Belgium,

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