Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Test Planning Workshop has Changed

I work on a system with five immediate teams, and at least another ten I don't care to count due to organizational structures. We had a need of some test planning for the five immediate teams. So the usual happens: a calendar request to get people together for a test planning workshop.

I knew we had three major areas where programmer work is split in interesting (complicated) ways across the teams. I was pretty sure we'd easily see the testing each of us would do through the lenses of responding to whatever the programmers were doing. That is, if one of our programmers would create a component, we would test that component. But integrating those components with their neighbors and eventually into the overall flows of the system, that was no longer obvious. This is a problem I find that not all programmers in multi-team agile understand, and the testing of a component gets easily focused on whatever the public interface of the team's component is.

As the meeting started, I took a step back and looked at how the discussion emerged. First, there was a rough architectural picture drawn on the whiteboard. Then arrows emerged in explanation of comparing how the *test automation system* works before the changes we are now introducing - a little lesson of history to frame the discussion. And from there, we all together very organically talked on chains and pairs and split *implementation work* to teams.

No one mentioned exploratory testing. I didn't either. I could see some of it happening while creating the automation. I could see some of it not happening while creating the automation, but that I would rather have people focus on it after the automation existed, I could see some of it, the early parts of it as things I would personally do to figure out what I didn't yet even know to focus on as a task or a risk.

Thinking back 10 years on time before automation was useful and extensive, this same meeting happened in such a different way. We would agree on who leads each feature's testing effort, and whoever would lead would generate ways for the rest of us to participate in that shared activity.

These days, we first build the system to test the system, explore while building it and then explore some more. Before, we used to build a system of mainly exploration, and tracking the part that stays was more difficult.

The test automation system isn't perfect. But the artifact that we, the five teams, can all go to and see in action, changes the way we communicate on the basics.

The world of testing has changed. And it has changed for the better.

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