Are you familiar with the Agile Testing Life Cycle (ATLC)? It is a process used by software development teams to ensure that their applications are tested properly and effectively.
This post will walk you through everything you need to know about ATLC, including its benefits, steps involved in the process, planning for a practical test strategy, executing tests based on requirements gathering and bug tracking, user acceptance tests (UAT), and continuous integration & automation of tests.
After reading this guide, you’ll better understand how to use agile testing as part of your software development life cycle!
If you are an agile developer, tester, or product manager looking for a better way to deliver your products, then this article will explain the stages involved along with the necessary action to take.
Overview of Agile Testing Life Cycle
It’s no secret that testing is hugely important in the world of agile development. But despite that, it is often underestimated activity within agile delivery. The reason being is, of course, the money in relation to the time to production delivery.
But without detailed testing, there would be no guarantee of quality or reliability for any product your team develops. That’s why it’s crucial to understand the agile testing life cycle – from identifying work items to understanding what type of test should be used within each phase.
The agile testing cycle requires developers and testers to be involved in every single sprint. Doing it well allows for test automation at every stage, which helps detect bugs earlier and more frequently, cutting down on troubleshooting time later on.
Agile testing also helps in the early validation of requirements and, as a side effect, improves customer satisfaction by delivering a quality product.
What is Agile Testing and its Benefits
Agile Testing is an innovative software testing methodology that leverages automation to create an iterative testing process. This automation-centric approach helps teams quickly analyze any inconsistencies or issues in code and then test modifications based on this feedback.
So the main benefits of this process seem to be obvious:
- ensure that the testing has the necessary impact,
- it leads to more efficient development times,
- the developed system has overall faster bug resolution rates,
- and customer satisfaction is improved.
Quality and speed are crucial factors here, as the sprint is defined as a small period of time (typically 2 to 4 weeks). The more the team can rely on quality included in the sprint testing, the higher confidence and faster development progress the team can produce.
Focus on automation should be the primary goal of any agile team. This allows teams to lower the risk of costly failure and enables more time dedicated to new content creation rather than fixing what is already in production.
Another side benefit is a better estimation of project cost and timeline. Since the product is far more mature and predictable, there are fewer situations where the team has to deal with unexpected issues raised within the sprint without previously calculating such complications.
Agile Testing Life Cycle Steps
The agile testing life cycle consists of four distinct stages.
These are the tests performed by developers once the code is ready from a development point of view. It is executed in isolation in a development environment without involving other parts of the system.
Unit tests are conducted to test the code and can be done manually and automatically.
If executed manually, the developer runs its test cases against the code. This is quick to figure out, but it takes more time from the sprint dedicated to the development, especially from a long-term perspective.
An alternative to this is creating an automated unit test code, which will basically verify the feature code just by executing it. This means the developer must spend time not only developing the new feature but also developing the unit test code that will test that feature.
And while this might look like a bigger effort from a short-term perspective, it is a time saver for the project as a whole because such unit tests are easy to reuse also in later stages of the sprint testing. They can even be included in regular regression test cases, which then saves even more time.
Lastly, the higher code coverage by automated unit tests, the better code reliability metrics can be showcased to the client.
Functional tests are designed to determine how well a feature of an application works. This type of testing is used to ensure the correct functionality of the code rather than technical aspects (which were mainly part of the unit testing), as well as assess whether or not it meets the needs and expectations of the users.
In other words, functional tests are used to verify that what was developed meets the requirements given by the business users.
It is good practice to gather important testing cases in advance and from relevant stakeholders (either from the product owner or even from the end users) and make a list of all such test cases needed for the content inside the sprint.
Automating functional tests involves more effort on the test development side, as those are complex processes to be verified, including various parts of the system together. The best strategy, in this case, is to establish a dedicated team only for developing the functional tests along the line the main development team is developing new features.
Sure, for the project, this means increased costs for maintaining a separate team, but it also has great potential to save the project money in the long run. It is only up to project managers to explain and specifically calculate the benefits and savings to make a solid argument in front of business users that will lead to such an increase in project costs approval.
On the other side, if done manually, this activity can be done by a very small team (in some cases, even a single person). However, a constant manual and repeated activity every single sprint will be required. Over time, as the feature set of the system expands, it can be more difficult to catch up with solid functional testing sprint by sprint.
The purpose of the regression test shall be to ensure everything that worked until now will also work after the next release. Regression tests need to be conducted to ensure there aren’t compatibility issues between different modules.
Test cases for regression tests are best if they are regularly maintained and revisited before each release. Based on the concrete project specifics, it is best to keep them simple yet cover the majority of the very core functionalities and important end-to-end flows running through the whole system.
Usually, each system has such processes that touch many different areas, and those are the best candidates for regression test cases.
If there are existing automated unit tests and functional tests, creating automation into regression testing is a very easy task. Just reuse what you already have for the most important part of the system (e.g., for processes used in production the most).
User Acceptance Tests (UAT)
Last but not least, UAT validates that the application meets the needed requirements for production deployment. This approach works best when testing a piece of software frequently in short and intense cycles.
UAT test shall be executed solely by the people outside of the agile team, ideally by business users in a dedicated environment, which is as close to future production as possible. Alternatively, the product owner can substitute here the end users.
In any case, this should be a clean, functional test from the end user’s perspective, without any connection to the dev team. The results of these tests are here to make the all-important go / no go decision for production release.
Planning for an Effective Test Strategy
Planning is an important part of agile testing, as it ties together the entire strategy. It also needs to set clear timeline expectations in the context of the sprints.
By effectively managing agile testing planning, teams can create a clear direction that leads to efficient use of resources within a sprint. Obviously, greater collaboration between testers and developers is expected.
A comprehensive plan should also be established to map out when unit testing, functional testing, or user acceptance testing occurs within each development sprint. Hence, everyone knows exactly when their participation is required for a successful agile launch.
How to set up the plan can be upon further discussion and agreement. However, the most important thing is to make it a process and stick to it. Create a periodicity that will be reliable and predictable.
Do not drift away from the process. Otherwise, directly the opposite will be the reality – chaos and unpredictable releases to production.
Executing Tests Based on Requirements Gathering
Tests must be executed against the requirements of each stage. Tickets are then opened up when a bug or issue is found and assigned to the development team, who will then be able to figure out what needs to be fixed or changed for the code. Once all bugs have been fixed, agile testing execution can continue until all tests have passed.
Reviewing Results and Bug Tracking
An effective review of results and a solid bug-tracking process are essential. The process should involve all relevant stakeholders, from project managers and testers to developers, and eventually support teams, but also customers for feedback gathering.
This should be comprehensive activity enough so that problems can be identified quickly and remedied before the already scheduled release date is at risk.
The tool of choice is again up to the team. But once chosen, any test activity must include reliable bug-tracking processes to monitor issues, prioritize them according to dependencies, report back status updates from developers on resolution or transfer for further investigation, and then close tickets once resolved.
Reviewing helps agile testers understand their system’s behavior, identifying bugs at each step rather than later on in the process. Regular reviews also allow agile teams to identify trends and areas needing improvement, allowing them to continuously update their testing framework and build better quality products faster.
Finalizing the Product Release With Production Smoke Test
To maximize the release’s success, a Smoke Test run against production (just after release) is one way to get more confidence.
This test consists of a set of read-only activities inside the production system, which will not create any new random data but will still verify the basic functionality of the system from the view of end users.
Involving the right stakeholders in the process helps ensure alignment and accountability while boosting confidence that targets have been met. Ultimately, these tests guarantee a successful release.
Continuous Integration and Automation of Tests to Improve Efficiency
Continuous integration and automation of tests are increasingly being adopted by companies to drive agile processes to the next level.
If the team can implement automation into several stages as described above, then those can be combined and connected into a dedicated testing pipeline, which is basically a fully automated batch process doing the majority of the testing activities independently and without the involvement of any other team member.
Over time, such a comprehensive testing pipeline will shorten the total time needed for all the testing phases. Eventually, it can lead to a really fast incremental production release after the end of each sprint. Although this is an ideal case scenario, in reality, it is hard to achieve with all the testing steps involved. Automation is the only way how to get there.
Difference between Agile Testing And Waterfall Testing
Agile testing strategies differ from traditional waterfall testing strategies in several ways, like periodicity, parallelism, or dedicated time for each activity.
But the most notable difference is the focus of each approach:
- Agile testing focuses on constant, rapid iterations of development and feedback loops to identify problems and quickly improve the product. An iterative process focused on customer collaboration, continuous integration, and adaptive planning.
- On the other hand, traditional waterfall testing emphasizes a linear process in which each stage is resolved separately and in sequential order, leaving the feedback of the whole solution only for the very last stage of the project and very close to the final production release date.
Obviously, the sooner the problems are identified by the main stakeholders, the better situation for the project. In this regard, agile methodology definitely has a better chance of success.
Though the agile testing life cycle might appear to be shorter than the waterfall, in actuality, it is not. The entire process is continuous and goes on until the product release date. Depending on the budget and time available for each sprint, you will have to prioritize which tests are performed during that particular sprint.
A well-planned test strategy helps you choose which features or modules require more attention than others. Automation will enable the inclusion of several testing stages into the same sprint, increasing the system’s overall reliability from sprint to sprint.
You may now look at some of the best practices in scrum testing.