Holistic Testing: New Course on Agility at Abstracta

Would you like to have a deeper knowledge of agile testing and all its possibilities? Don’t miss this in-depth interview on the subject with Arcadio Abad, who will be teaching the course “Holistic Testing: strategies for agile teams” in October 2022, created by Janet Gregory and Lisa Crispin.

By Natalie Rodgers

We at Abstracta strongly believe in the importance of education for development. We know that it is one of the few tools capable of truly hacking the system and changing people’s destinies, offering them futures with new opportunities and improving their quality of life. 

Therefore, we had no doubts when we saw that providing this course developed by Janet Gregory and Lisa Crispin was a reality, given the importance of achieving agile teams for the IT industry and its implications at a social level, due to the availability of higher quality software. Having the possibility of offering it in Spanish represents a great window for Spanish speakers.

It is based on their books Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams; More Agile Testing: Learning Journeys for the Whole Team; and Agile Testing Condensed: A Brief Introduction.

Called “Holistic Testing: Strategies for Agile Teams,” the course follows Janet Gregory and Lisa Crispin’s original methodology. It focuses on the importance of all members of a team being able to use strategies for agile testing to collaborate to deliver higher value, higher quality software.

“Holistic testing is coined to the thought that quality and testing are an inseparable part of all stages of the software development process. The term is usually identified with an infinity sign♾️, which is closely associated with the DevOps culture, to represent that testing is not an isolated stage of the process but that at each stage of the process there must be testing activities that guarantee the quality of the process and, with this, of the final product,” said Arcadio Abad, Computer Science Engineer and QE Leader at Abstracta, who is going to deliver this course in October, on behalf of Abstracta Chile.

According to Arcadio, it is crucial that at all stages of the software development process there are instances of quality validations at different levels, but this can sometimes be “complex” to carry out due to the cultural change required for this. In this course, Lisa and Janet propose in a clear way how to do it.

The course outlines in a general way some of the most used methodologies and frameworks in the world (Scrum, Lean, Kanban), and they carry out some dynamics based on their books, which require the implementation of some of them.

“The dynamics of the course are for any member of the team. They allow to deepen on the importance of a good definition of user stories or any artifact used for requirements description, and what to take into account when deciding what to automate. They help to investigate different practices such as early testing. And they provide tools for the design of strategies and different techniques, such as agile quadrants and the automation pyramid, among others,” explained Arcadio. 

“They manage to highlight some moments in which testing is not naturally included today, and they propose activities for those moments. All these dynamics are very well thought out, some are even playful, in order to achieve learning in a fun and enjoyable way,” he said.

“Holistic Testing: strategies for agile teams” is offered by 23 different institutions around the world, but there are only 8 instructors who offer it in Spanish: 2 in Spain, 2 in Colombia, 1 in Peru, 1 in Mexico, 1 in Uruguay and 1 in Chile (Arcadio Abad). People from all over the world who are interested in learning about the subject in Spanish can register.

What is a holistic view of testing?

In order to understand what holistic testing is and try to bring our teams closer to this concept, it is essential to understand quality as a responsibility of the whole team and therefore the actions that each role can do at different stages to support testing activities. 

Another important aspect is the testing strategy, when to start testing, what to assess and include, at what levels, who has to be involved, etc. A concept to transform is the moment when testing is done, although there is a great effort to move testing activities to the beginning of the process, it is also important to include in our strategy the testing activities to develop in our “End Game” or that moment when we freeze the functionalities before a release to be able to verify every detail in a safe way, or even the tests we do when the functionalities are already in production.

Agile is the base that supports this look, it includes how testing is framed in those short iterations, what previous work is done, how to contribute in each ceremony, how to interact effectively with team members and vice versa, and much more.

Why is it important to implement an agile culture in testing teams?

The term Agile is often associated with speed, but in truth it is more about the team’s ability to adapt to frequent changes, the increase in speed can be a positive effect, but it cannot be the driving force at the expense of quality itself. 

While agile is the most widely used way of doing software today, it does not mean that it is the cure-all for all teams, many teams still find it works or needs a more robust methodology. Another trend is to create hybrid ways of working, which assume good practices from several methodologies.

In the 2001 Agile Manifesto, the conceptual definition of the new way of working was made highlighting individuals, their interactions, frequent functional deliverables, the customer as an active part of the process, and adaptation to change over the more contractual and structured way promoted by traditional or robust methodologies. 

Therefore, beyond embracing agile to organize their testing processes, testing teams must be standard bearers and promoters of the best practices proposed by these methodologies, so that all members feel and assume responsibility for the quality of the process and product, and include testing activities at the beginning of the process.

Is it possible to integrate in an agile way in short iterations and frequent deliveries? What are the benefits?

For many teams, it is a goal to achieve, which entails maturing as agile teams and above all strengthening the focus on quality, allowing the automation of the largest amount of tests at component and service levels. All this so that frequent integrations are automatically validated to ensure the quality of the increments, allowing to reduce the test coverage to the interface, and empowering the testers to make more robust and deep tests.

It is important to have a strategy that allows planning and organizing of the team according to the project’s objectives at each stage. Testing must be actively present in the ceremonies of the methodology used in the process. In agile, exploratory testing plays an essential role. It is also important to prepare the testing team to be more assertive, to support automation, and to generate processes with integrations and/or continuous deliveries. Another important aspect is soft skills such as good communication.

What are the most common cultural and logistical obstacles that teams face when transitioning from a traditional waterfall process to an agile software development context?

It is a change of mentality, going from having exhaustive documentation, with hundreds of diagrams, documents, prototypes, etc., to having short descriptions that to solve it is important to communicate with the whole team and even with the client or stakeholders. Methodologies propose ceremonies that at the beginning often seem like many meetings. The rejection of change is very common, but it is important to be open to the fact that requirements are constantly changing. The specialization in teams that is so much encouraged in robust methodologies is very difficult to break and achieve self-organized teams without defined roles.

Is it really feasible for entire teams to apply agile testing as proposed in the course? 

Yes, it is possible. The course is based on the authors’ experiences, also reflected in their three books. The topics addressed are mostly practical proposals that can be used immediately in each team to start or improve the path.

What are the dynamics that will be taught?

Students will learn what agile is, some examples of methodologies and frameworks, and steps or suggestions for an efficient adoption or transition to these methodologies. They will learn through analysis, examples, discussions, and above all practical exercises and dynamics. In addition, they will learn how testing can be present at each stage of the process, how it interacts with other members, and the responsibilities of each member for testing and quality. It will also have chapters dedicated to multi-level strategy, test automation, and practices such as TDD, ATDD, BDD.

Why does Abstracta offer this course and what is its value contribution?

We have found that many customers still perceive quality as a separate stage that is achieved by hiring a testing team. Although there are several teams that have taken important steps and with good results to transition to agile, it is remarkable the effort that this entails and the great need to focus on this if we want to create better software every day. In Abstracta we care a lot about achieving this but always focus on the welfare of teams, in building long-term relationships with customers, partners, and colleagues. 

It is from there that we can add value and be ambassadors of Janet Gregory and Lisa Crispin’s ideas. One of our main objectives at Abstracta is to be recognized as a brand that brings trust and quality to our clients and to contribute to the development of the communities in which we are located. Undoubtedly, agility is central to all this, as well as to achieving excellence in user experience and software quality from all aspects.

Is there someone you know who is interested in taking the course in Spanish? The registration form can be found here

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