Testing Role in Scrum

Instructor: Stephen Meyer

Stephen has worked as a Project Manager and is PMP certified, as well as certified by the Scrum Alliance.

Traditional project methodologies make clear distinctions between team roles, particularly between developers and testers. This difference often occurs in Scrum, an Agile methodology that should provide an alternative. Learn about the testing role in Scrum in this lesson.

Scrum Background

Madison is planning to start using Scrum, an Agile methodology, with her project team. Her team has heard a little bit about Agile and Scrum, including the goal for the team to be cross-functional. The testers on her team have shown some concern. They do not know web development and are worried that they will not be useful in Scrum and eventually be replaced. Madison understands their concerns but assures them they are not true. Not only will they be useful in Scrum, but they will also play a larger role than they ever had before.

Purpose

Agile is an approach to projects that moves away from traditional methodologies that break projects into phases that must be completed in sequential order. This requires little interaction between the individuals from each phase. Instead, Agile emphasizes engaging people throughout the process, creating more collaboration and interactions. The goal is to reach a common understanding of what is needed, generate ownership by everyone involved through engagement, and then to produce quality results.

There are a number of methodologies that are used to implement Agile. Scrum is the most popular. It breaks down project work and project timelines to make them more manageable. The work takes the form of user stories, which provide functionality for specific end users. They are written at a high level so that team members can add more detail through discussion. User stories are completed in repeated cycles known as sprints, which are the broken-down form of the timeline. Producing tangible results in more frequent intervals (and in smaller amounts) is intended to improve quality.

Team

Unique to Scrum are the different roles that make up the Scrum team. These include the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and development team. The Product Owner is the primary stakeholder responsible for user stories. Others give input, but the Product Owner is the decision-maker, ensuring the right product is built. The Scrum Master oversees the Scrum process and facilitates interactions of the project team. The goal is to ensure that things are done in the right way.

The development team rounds out the Scrum team and is responsible for developing and testing the product based on the criteria from the user stories. In Scrum, the goal is for the development team to be cross-functional, which is what intimidates the testers on Madison's team. They interpret it as multi-functional, thinking they must be able to develop and test. Madison assures them that this is not the case and that the emphasis is not on being able to perform every function but on functioning in and being engaged with user stories throughout the sprint.

Testing Role

For Madison and her team, the testing role in Scrum is not a specific position or job for an individual. Using this approach, as traditional methodologies do, keeps roles distinct or separate, which reduces interactions because it is unnecessary. This goes directly against the collaboration that is at the heart of Scrum. In Scrum, the testing role is no longer limited to the measurement function. Instead, the testing role is more about the skillset of the individuals who excel in that function. The skills used in testing, like problem-solving, analysis, critical thinking, etc. are valuable throughout the project. This is why Madison's testers will have a larger role in Scrum because they will contribute to each aspect of the process.

Requirements

In Scrum, user stories outline functionality at a high level, but the goal is to add specific detail through discussion between the Product Owner and development team. These specific details are known as acceptance criteria, which provide the conditions that must be met in the user story. For example, a user story that focused on login functionality would have acceptance criteria around the ability to enter a username, the ability to enter a password, validation to determine if the user name and password are correct, etc. One aspect of the testing role is to write, or at least contribute to acceptance criteria.

In addition to the specific function associated with acceptance criteria, the testing role has more extensive involvement in requirements. The analytical skills and attention to detail that is necessary for testing can be applied to reviewing requirements to make sure they are valid and that they detail everything that is needed with nothing missing. Without this, the likelihood of confusion and misunderstandings increases.

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