How to Implement Quality Assurance (QA) Into the Agile Process

How to Implement Quality Assurance (QA) Into the Agile Process

In software development, Quality Assurance (QA) guarantees the quality of a software product, as per the standards set by an organization, its industry, or the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). QA ensures that all software development methods, activities, and procedures are monitored and comply with quality standards.

Agile is an umbrella term that describes a set of frameworks and practices that reflect the values of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Agile solutions are bound by four guiding values. Prioritize people over tools and processes; frequently deliver working software, not fuss over technical documentation; involve customers in the process, not just negotiate the requirements; and be open to unforeseen changes. Agile solutions also topple down silos that keep development and test teams apart, ensuring they are all on the same page, working towards the same goals.

Why Merge Agile With QA?

Agile QA incorporates testing into the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) early and often. This helps teams catch and fix bugs faster, reduce technical debt, and uncover any unforeseen requirements. Furthermore, Agile QA makes quality a shared responsibility. This means testability is a priority for every role, from designers to product owners and coders to testers, and is present in each step of the SDLC, instead of being shoehorned in at the last minute.

According to the 15th State of Agile Report, the two most urgent reasons for adopting Agile were to: enhance the ability to manage changing priorities, and accelerate software delivery. Other listed reasons include enhancing software quality, reducing project risk, and increasing software maintainability. Research also shows that engineers spend, on average, 1 day per week managing technical debt, thereby impacting team morale, and slowing development. Establishing effective Agile QA processes early may help improve software testing outcomes.

Breaking Down the Agile QA Process

The Agile QA process begins at the start of the SDLC. The Quality Assurance team, in close collaboration with the developers, performs testing in several sprint iterations. Each sprint lasts about 2 weeks or longer depending on the project requirements. During each sprint, the team performs the following steps to ensure the intended milestones are reached:

1. Risk Analysis and Impact Assessment

The QA team gathers input from internal and external stakeholders as well as target end users. They identify the potential risks and issues, and categorize them based on their anticipated effects. The analysis may not catch everything, but it will leave room to deal with unforeseen issues if they occur.

2. Create Test Plan

QA and stakeholders create a test plan. The plan covers every facet of the testing strategy, such as the objectives, timeline, order of deliverables, and estimated budget as well as resources for manual and automated testing. The plan also clearly outlines the objectives for each testing method (i.e. Unit, Acceptance, Integration, and Smoke tests). This way, each test is performed at the right time, in the right testing environment, and captures actionable insights that help improve software quality.

Unlike a Waterfall test plan, an Agile plan is more flexible and incorporates continuous feedback into each stage of development. This helps the team identify and resolve bugs earlier and faster. As a result, bugs are less likely to be ingrained into the final product.

3. Predict Release Date

Every time a new feature or function is implemented into the build, it is tested. The feature or function is uploaded to the source-code repository and thoroughly tested. If it is release-ready, it passes. If not, the test results are recorded and sent to the development team. The devs will then revise the feature or function and resubmit for review.

With each successful Agile sprint, the team will have a better idea as to what the most realistic release date might be. They can then share this information with the customer. Most customers will appreciate this level of honesty, and feel relieved knowing that their project is being well-managed.

4. Daily Scrums

During a sprint, all stakeholders will meet each morning to share information and progress updates. They may also set goals for that particular day, and prioritize any unmet goals from the previous day.

Daily Agile scrums are a great way to motivate the team, resolve unforeseen issues, and reflect on progress so far. They also help break down silos between departments, by filling in knowledge and information gaps, as well as establishing shared accountability to keep everyone focused and on the same page.

5. Sprint Review Meeting

At the end of a sprint, an informal meeting is held. Here, the team demonstrates the product in-progress and determines what is finished and what needs more work. The usability of the product is assessed in stages, throughout the course of development, in collaboration with all stakeholders at once.

This is more beneficial than the traditional Waterfall approach. In Waterfall, the usability of a software product is assessed near the end, after all of the coding and design decisions have been made. By incorporating continuous feedback into each stage of development, Agile makes it easier to identify what works and improve upon what does not work.

Embracing Agile QA in Software Development

QA in Agile software development encourages testing early and often. This requires collaboration between all development team members, including internal and external stakeholders plus target end users. For this reason, hiring a software development company, one that effectively incorporates QA into the Agile process, is a worthy investment as it can help streamline development and reduce time to market.

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