Can There Be Testers in Scrum?

Scrum is an invaluable framework for integrating quality into product development and creating agile teams. How do testers fit into all this? Let’s dig deeper into this article by Federico Toledo, featuring Gabriel Ledesma.

By Federico Toledo

There is no doubt that Scrum is one of the most important tools in the search for business agility for teams in any context, and in tackling challenges of varying complexity.

As explained by Forbes, business agility enables organizations to thrive in a world of rapid and unpredictable change, helping them to adapt their business management models and internal processes to make them more efficient. All of this without compromising quality, and being truly able to maintain their competitive advantage.

Several times I’ve had conversations with people who work with Scrum and Agile methodologies who claim they don’t have testers and don’t run into any problems. On the other hand, I have seen testers within these schemes who often feel excluded from the development team. Other testers who have not yet worked in Agile teams question whether there is even room for testers in Scrum.

It’s often stated that everyone in a Scrum team should be able to perform different tasks and that all are accountable for quality. But, there are some things that a tester can handle better than others. For example, writing good acceptance criteria requires a tester’s skill set, as one must keep in mind and worry about certain characteristics such as quality, testability, maintainability, etc. 

These are all things that the tester is responsible for obsessing over. Therefore, when you need to write acceptance criteria, you’ll be better off delegating it to someone trained in testing over someone that’s not.

Software developers and software testers have two very important, yet distinct roles that don’t always work well when conflated. Developers and the software development industry at large can agree that once you have the developers you need on your team, it’s important to find the right tester with a high level of QA expertise to complement them.

So, can there be testers in Scrum? It’s not just that they can be there. When it comes to quality software, testers should always be involved.

“The objective of the Scrum Master is to help teams grow and evolve in their organization. So that they can incorporate work methodologies that make it easier for them to solve all kinds of challenges autonomously,” explained Gabriel Ledesma, Leadership Coach at Abstracta and co-founder of the agile community in Uruguay.

“The development of agile transformations is evolutionary,” he emphasized.

In this vein, The Scrum Guide is clear: “Scrum is a lightweight framework that helps people, teams, and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems.” In other words, Scrum can be used in different contexts and by a variety of professionals to find solutions to complex problems. 

“We follow the growing use of Scrum within an ever-growing complex world. We are humbled to see Scrum being adopted in many domains holding essentially complex work, beyond software product development where Scrum has its roots,” outlines the Scrum Guide.  

“As Scrum’s use spreads, developers, researchers, analysts, scientists, and other specialists do the work. We use the word “developers” in Scrum not to exclude, but to simplify. If you get value from Scrum, consider yourself included”, it continues.

Scrum does not recognize roles or sub-teams, but there may be members with specialized skills and an area in which they focus. That is, there may be testers (with a tester’s skillset) that focus on quality tasks. However, the responsibility for quality is on the whole team.

From my professional experience, having worked with all sorts of development teams, including Scrum, I believe the “tester role” is truly relevant, as I mentioned in this article, “What is a QE?.”

A critical aspect of Scrum and Agile methodologies is that it is fundamental to have T-shaped skills, meaning that it is not only necessary to have the testing mindset and capabilities, but also to have some skill in the specialties of the people you work with, for instance, business, development, operations, etc. 

In such a way you can contribute more, making the team self-sufficient and promoting its excellence. Inside of our teams, we testers have to help shift testing left, allowing developers to test earlier, frequently, and more easily, with CI/CD support, and then they can do pair testing, or the devs can test each other’s code. Anyway, developers still have a developer mindset, which is great for development, but not for testing.

In the words of Melissa Eaden, “Anybody can do testing, but only a tester can do good testing.”

Speaking of Agile testing, here is a little reminder of the Testing Manifesto published by Growing Agile, which we love so much that we have it hanging on the walls in our Abstracta headquarters!

testing maifesto drawing

What do you think… is there room for testers in Scrum? Please let me know in the comments below.

🛑Be sure to stay tuned! Abstracta will soon publish a new article on this subject, with the voice of Gabriel Ledesma.

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