Tips for Transitioning from a TCoE to Agile Testing

A traditional, structured Waterfall process provides comfort, security, and time to anticipate and execute test plans. A centralized Testing Center of Excellence (TCoE) allows testers to work in a silo environment, only interacting with other team members outside of testing when there is a problem. But, change is inevitable! What happens if your TCoE is disbanded and you find yourself a member of an Agile team reporting to a Development Lead or Scrum Master? How do you successfully make this transition? The Agile world is very different and the change can be a career altering experience! If you are immersed in this change process, it is a huge paradigm/cultural shift. As you make this transition, you will find many differences in the approach and your day-to-day job activities. The changes fall into three major categories:

Communication Style

In an Agile team, testers have greater interaction with everyone. It starts with the Discovery where all team members (including testers) scope out the entire project and consult with the process owners and stakeholders to ensure all wants/needs are accurately represented. During Discovery, the tester is expected to be an integral part of the team and proactively provide valued input and observations.

During Sprint planning, the team must decide how to “size” each user story, based on the acceptance criteria agreed upon by the team. Testers provide estimates for testing user stories and are expected to apply critical thinking to the architectural structure and wireframe layouts of the UI. This collaborative interaction between testers, developers, business analysts, product owners and project managers/scrum masters, requires far more openness and communication during day-to-day activities. To successfully transition to Agile, you must be willing to ‘speak up’ to contribute to building in quality.

Team Participation

In an Agile team, the testers participate in daily standup and other project milestone meetings. They report to the Scrum Master or Development Lead of the team, rather than a QA Manager who serves as their “boss”. Testers are in the trenches with the rest of the team as the application is being built, gaining insight as to any problem areas to anticipate once testing begins. Since they are interacting closely with developers, testers become aware of the successes and “road blocks” encountered by the team. This gives visibility as to what aspects of the software faced challenges during development, what went smoothly, and how the application infrastructure is being changed to support the new product. All of these points are very valuable input to test planning and test case development. To successfully transition to Agile, be sure to learn from your fellow team members and use this project knowledge to help them find defects as early as possible.

Process Improvement

The final milestone in the Agile process is Retrospection, where the team does a self-assessment of the sprint to identify what went well, what went poorly, and what to try in order to change the process, so the team is a “well-oiled machine” for future sprints and projects. The Retrospective meetings are a perfect place for testers to give their insight as to the root cause of defects and failed tests, and provide metrics as evidence for change. To successfully transition to Agile, you will need to shift your thinking to ways the team can prevent defects instead of focusing on how to find defects through testing activities.

If your company reorganizes and you are no longer part of a centralized TCoE, don’t worry! The need for testers is just as great on an Agile team as it is for Waterfall. But the role that you play, the expectations of you as an Agile team member, and your day-to-day activities do significantly change. Knowing the different ways of communicating, how to participate within a team, and how to contribute to process improvement will allow you to successfully make the transition to Agile and far exceed all expectations.