Agile development needs the support of Agile website testing strategies. Because when it comes to delivering change at ‘warp speed’, slower, more reactive testing methods just aren’t cutting it anymore.
Agile development continues to dominate
According to the State of Agile report (2019) 97% of organisations are now practising Agile development methods, while 52% report than more than half of their development teams are following Agile practices.
The appeal of Agile for developers and businesses is obvious and well-rehearsed. Agile accelerates the pace of innovation through constant software updates. In fast-moving sectors, it helps developers deliver cutting edge customer experiences more rapidly and efficiently. New features can be rolled out faster and then optimised, improving customer satisfaction and increasing revenue as a result.
Aggressive release cycles steal the competitive edge
Agile adoption has resulted in ever-shortening sprints, more iterations of software and more aggressive release cycles. As a result, it’s transforming the way businesses deliver on their digital change agenda. According to the State of Agile Report, 40% of engineers are now employing continuous delivery practices in their work, while 35% are working in a cycle of continuous deployment.
But the speed and quality outcomes of testing regimes have to keep pace with the speed of development, or risk missing revenue leaks and destroying hard-won customer loyalty.
And this is really the principal battleground for online retail right now, as the dependability of our digital interactions begins to define our relationships with brands. As the World Quality Report 2019 points out:
“Dependable quality assurance and testing have always been of high importance in this sector – but we are currently witnessing times when they will be absolutely, make-or- break, crucial.”
When velocity threatens the quality of testing
In his latest book “The Age of Agile’ – practitioner Stephen Denning describes the process that online craft seller Etsy, went through to find the right testing regime for their agile development process. At first, he says, they were working in short sprints of three weeks:
“They had put in place continuous integration and automated testing that, in theory, ensured that the effects of any change in the code could be ascertained in a staging area that was an exact replica of the operating site.”
This kind of testing, though helpful, was not necessarily predictive of what would happen on release, which would often cause unexplained dips in revenue and other issues.
Denning identifies these shortening sprints and release cycles bundling multiple changes in successive deployments as moments of high stress and unhappiness within the business. They became the source of sleepless nights for testers and developers alike:
“In practice, unexpected things kept happening in deployment. Users sometimes did unexpected things, like launching a flash sale that inundated the site with a huge number of users at once instant. Or there could be some unexpected interaction between the actual hardware and the software. Or sometimes in a bundle of many changes it was difficult to figure out the cause of the problem”
Quality of testing must keep pace with the speed of releases
Speed is of the essence in agile testing, but in a multi-platform, multi-device world the scale and quantity of testing that has to be done to validate multiple, successive software updates can be daunting.
Global, hyper-scale businesses like Amazon and Facebook might have the personnel to conduct thorough regression and functional testing to these kinds of timetables, but a typical internal QA function of a leaner business may struggle to match their pace.
In these cases, automation may seem a good bet, but automated testing still can’t replicate the observational powers and rigour of human testers. The alternatives might be to draft in extra manual testing contractors, at great expense, to fill gaps, or simply ‘push and pray’ to avoid falling behind with tight schedules. Neither decision makes long term strategic sense.
An alternative is ‘community-sourced testing’, which can bring the necessary speed and scale to bear on the process, reducing the time taken to test major releases from a matter of days to a matter of hours.
The future of Agile
But the future of Agile for many will mean moving beyond short Sprints of a few weeks, into a state of continuous deployment, just as Etsy did.
Now, they claim they are deploying an ‘average of thirty changes to their website each day’,
“Each of the changes is small, but a small change can be significant, sometimes adding millions of dollars in sales. Doing all this change in tiny increments at warp speed within the framework of a central strategy enables extremely rapid innovation and learning, as well as much greater facility in spotting and fixing any problems that may emerge”
The promise of higher-quality testing
In these conditions, the nature of testing changes altogether. Testing must find high-priority bugs earlier and more quickly to lower the risk of late fixes and increased costs. Speed and scale of response remains of the essence, but testing becomes a 365/24/7 operation, with the need for a constant feedback loop to exist between developers and testers.
But if the legacy testing function of a waterfall development process is unable to adjust to short and aggressive release cycles, they might equally be phased by the stress of continuous deployment, too.
The right community testing function can contribute hugely to alleviate this stress, rapidly mobilising with the full range of real devices and browsers (rather than emulators) to stress and regression test each individual deployment.
Conversion Rate Optimisation through ongoing agile testing
And beyond this standard testing, a crowdsourced testing team can become part of an ongoing and exploratory testing process that is truly agile in scope and practice.
With a brief to explore your application to uncover those hidden and shifting usability problems impacting U/X and revenue growth, they can keep driving the development agenda to accelerate performance.
In a dynamic live environment moving at ‘warp speed’, an agile testing team can become an integral part of a company’s commitment to continuous improvement.