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Choosing Agile Tools & Agile Methodologies

How does one decide?

QAC supercharges Agile development by leveraging and tailoring our proven Waterfall testing approach to the unique demands of Agile projects. In Agile environments, all types of testing tools and methodologies are used, depending on the technical requirements. For example, we have undertaken regression testing, load testing, and security testing to name but three use cases. Additionally, we made our proprietary and production-proven methodology, Quality Point™, Agile-ready. Its practical and risk-based approach is ideal for dynamic and iterative testing styles as well as minimizing project cost and risk. The use of an Agile scrum methodology in a multi-release/project-based environment requires a specialized testing framework. QA Consultants’ Agile testing methodology includes processes and standards for Agile in addition to more traditional development methods such as waterfall. We are currently supporting many clients with both waterfall and agile projects.

Figure – QAC Agile Scrum Methodology

 

Our approach to supporting our client’s Agile transformation

QAC can utilize our Discovery Portfolio Assessment (DPA) methodology as part of the kickoff and pre-launch program for our engagement responsibilities and client objectives. Such methodologies provide a steady state QA service capable of supporting Agile QA methods.

The QAC DPA program is designed to provide a full review of Agile QA parameters of a client’s applications, current test strategies, quality assurance philosophy, incumbent protocols, business requirements, all for the purposes of transitioning to the soon to be established MTS. A test assessment can be conducted which defines an implementation roadmap for all of a client’s QA service requirements:

QAC can utilize a proprietary DPA methodology to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the current infrastructure, stakeholders and existing ecosystem that will include people, process, and technology. The DPA is designed to accurately assess the complexity of the client’s Development & QA environment, and provide a real-world assessment of what will be required to achieve the business, financial, and quality objectives of the Agile QA service.

This effort is critical and necessary to deliver the project requirements, identifying the potential risks that may impact the expectations, timelines, and most importantly, outcomes.

Figure – Discovery Portfolio Assessment (DPA) Process

DPA process

The QAC Team members can conduct an in-depth discovery assessment and review both business and IT metrics for success. This includes the objective of understanding the client’s current program delivery capabilities and environments, supporting technologies, business processes, integration services and existing API’s, interfacing with existing applications, technologies, and environments that will form the basis of the client’s MTS platform.

The QAC DPA is a comprehensive assessment of the client’s applications portfolio/environment. The DPA will identify all factors required to include project transition risk and will identify the current and future stakeholder actors, required SME disciplines, project management metrics, KPIs, and timelines. The program will outline the dimension of work effort required to move the environment from the current (in house state) to the new MTS. This effort will establish the required governance, compliances, and risk factors associated with customers who transition to a new world. 

Our approach to mitigating risks in an Agile transformation

Key to a successful MTS and supporting Agile Testing processes is the understanding that it is a transformational initiative and requires a considerable amount of time and a series of phases. It is important to acknowledge that “change is a process, not an event”. Our experience with implementing an MTS has shown that managers are pressured to show results fast, as a result of which process adherence is compromised, and steps are skipped. Skipping steps in any of the phases only create an illusion of speed and never produces satisfying results. Chances for a successful MTS implementation are increased not only when there is an adherence to the process, but also when there is an understanding of the challenges unique these to each stage.

To mitigate these challenges, QAC has adopted a change management framework that focuses on the following:

  • Establish a sense of urgency. Starting a transformation effort without the cooperation of all stakeholders involved does not produce results. One of the common mistakes in this stage is underestimating the difficulty of driving leaders out of their comfort zones. Another common pitfall for this stage is when executives become paralyzed by the downside of risk, either fearing that there will be push back from employees with more seniority or that short-term business results will be jeopardized by the change initiative.
  • Form a powerful guiding coalition. Getting executive sponsorship and support for the change is not sufficient. Successful transformations require a critical mass, otherwise, progress is slow. It is essential to form a leadership coalition with a shared commitment to lead the change effort. It is important to empower individuals and encourage them to work outside their normal hierarchy. Two of the common pitfalls for this stage of the change process are: 1) no prior experience in teamwork at the top and 2) relegating team leadership to an HR, quality, or strategic-planning executive rather than a senior line manager.
  • Create a vision. Once the change coalition has developed a shared understanding of the company’s problems and opportunities, it is essential to create a vision that directs the change efforts. The scope of the vision should be beyond specific numbers tied to three and five-year plans. The vision should provide a clear direction in which the organization needs to move. Once the vision has been through several revisions and is clear and concise, the next step is to develop the strategies required to realize the vision. A common mistake for this stage is presenting a vision that is too vague or too complicated to be communicated in five minutes. If the vision cannot be communicated in five minutes or less and create a reaction that indicates both understanding and interest, then the vision requires further fine-tuning
  • Communicate the vision. Transformation is impossible without getting the buy-in and the willingness of employees to help to the point that they are ok with making short-term sacrifices if required. To achieve this stage of employee, buy-in, and commitment, it is essential for executives to “walk the talk” and to become a living symbol of the new corporate culture. A common pitfall for this stage of the change process is under communicating the vision. Communication on its own alone is not sufficient. It is important for executives to exhibit actions and behaviors consistent with the vision.
  • Empower others to act on the vision. The success of this stage relies on removing or altering systems or structures that undermine the vision. It is also imperative to encourage risk-taking, non-traditional ideas, activities, and actions. By its nature, change can often be met with resistance and reluctance. A common mistake for this stage of the change process is a failure to eliminate obstacles early on. Often, the obstacle could be a powerful individual who resists the change effort. Failure to eliminate obstacles becomes antithetical to the vision and the commitment for change and renewal, resulting in growing cynicism and collapse of efforts.
  • Plan for and create short term wins. To keep momentum, it is important to define and engineer visible performance improvements. Very important for this stage is also to recognize and reward employees who contribute to the improvement efforts. One of the common mistakes for this stage of the process is leaving short-term successes up to chance. Another common mistake is a failure to score successes early enough in the change process.
  • Consolidate improvements and produce more change. The success of this stage is characterized by hiring, promoting and developing employees who can implement the vision. Using increased visibility from early wins is a powerful tool to change systems, structures, and policies, undermining the vision. It is essential to consistently invigorate the change process with new projects and change agents.
  • Critical mistakes during any stage of the change process can have a devastating impact on the overall initiative. One of the common pitfalls for this stage is managers declaring success too soon, resulting in loss of momentum and quick reversals to doing business the traditional “old way”. It is important to realize that new approaches are fragile and subject to regression and can take several months until changes sink deeply into a company’s culture.
  • Institutionalize new approaches. If there has been an intense level of urgency, a powerful coalition and a clear vision for the change initiative to succeed, important in this stage of the change initiative is to institutionalize the new approaches. To achieve this goal, it is essential to articulate the connections between new behaviors and corporate success.

Summary

Organizing a team towards an agile process requires the help of human resources, agile project management, cross-functional teams, and of course a development team. Between user stories and the product owner, developing software takes on an iterative approach when it comes to agile teams, agile methods, and agile practices. To complete time-sensitive projects, such as launching a product to market, software development teams require a development process within specific time boxes. Pair programming is often fruitful and aids in the overall workflow.

The secret behind any successful project is to have selected the right tool(s) and people for the job. QAC can aid with both requirements. Whether through staff augmentation or team extensions, our OnDemand model provides relief. Only pay for what is necessary be it staff or project duration. This type of operational flexibility can only aid product to market timelines.

For further information on this topic and performance testing please contact:

Todd Merritt
Senior Director, Client Service Organization
(416) 580-0590
tmerritt[@]qaconsultants.com