Agile Quality Assurance: Making the Mind Shift

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting Inc., an Ontario, Canada-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

A friend of mine is married to a QA analyst for a large company, and she has been testing software products for quite a few years. Recently she started working with software developed through Agile methods and she is struggling to understand how she can add the most value in this very different way of building systems. Some of her colleagues have suggested that the job is no different, it’s just that they see code earlier in the process and in smaller chunks. But my friend’s wife knows that there’s more to it than that--she’s just not sure quite what that is.

This seemed like a good topic for an article, so here are my thoughts on how QA needs to evolve in order to best support Agile development practices.

Back to basics
Before we go too far into the weeds, let’s look at the purpose of quality assurance. It frustrates me when QA is seen simply as “testing”; in truth, it’s so much more than that. There may be a series of tests that are executed in order to verify that the application is performing as expected and required, but that’s only the very last piece of the puzzle. Much more important is all of the work that goes into planning for those tests--determining “how” quality will be determined within the application.

It’s this “how” that is so important to QA:

  • How do we…

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