Automating with Agile

31 12 2013

Agile is not a new word to the world of Information Technology. Automation has been said to be one of the key practices to making an Agile project possible. This in many ways may be considered true. I have been going through some good established practices of Agile, where most have been based on some basic level of automation, which helped in making a success of the project. I have penned down some thoughts on what it means to have test automation along with Agile practices.

There are many schools of thought which have gone into the agile way of doing a project and managing the various components that finally lead to the delivery of the project. When we consider Agile and its various derivatives, we come to realize that each Organization has their own way of dealing with the complexities that come with it. There is mention of starting with a session to discuss and elaborate on what the scope of the project is and how it can be broken into smaller pieces which then become the initial requirements. These can then be distributed to the team and made into story cards, attached with t-shirt sizes and put up on the scrum board to be picked up in batches by the team and worked on. In this fashion, a project progresses with the minimal of friction  and gets completed within the estimates provided by the t-shirt sizes. Most of the time this might not be entirely true, but this is how some Organizations perceive Agile and practice it; in the process giving negligent time for the automation, as manual tests take up the majority of time to complete.

When we talk of automation in Agile, it not only consists of the testing component, but an overall ‘continuous integration’ component. From the check-ins, build, unit tests, defect handling, integration & system tests to the final deployment on the ‘test’ server for doing the User Acceptance Testing (UAT).  Agile shops majorly miss out on this flow which should be the first thing to be completed for a Project to perform smoothly through its life-cycle. There are a multitude of tools available for making these tasks simpler and more robust, to name just a few which I have used – Jenkins/AntHill, Maven/MSBuild/make/Ant, SVN/Git, JIRA/FishEye, Crucible, TOSCA/QTP/pCloudy.com/Selenium.

In the path to Agile, we forget that we need to do the planning for automating our complete build-deploy process also and that includes the crucial part for integration & system tests. A thoughtful planning would be to make the initial framework using stubs for the interfaces and when these get built, replace them with the real thing. Often what I see is the perception that automation should be started when a clear and stable build is provided; yes, in a way this might be true, but not for Agile, where you really need to be agile and think on your feet. Start by implementing a strategy, wherein you have stubs ready and a CI platform available to make sure that testing can be done without code. This was the first lesson I was taught, we were to create test cases based on the ‘pseudo-algorithm’ and  the interfaces that we have written. The tests need to be developed in a way that all fail initially and as and when the code is delivered they start to pass according to the requirements provided.

If you have done this then you have taken that crucial step towards Agile automation, that will take you a long way in making the project a success for you and your Team.