AcceptanceTesting

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Top 5(ish) reasons why teams fail with acceptance testing

  1. No collaboration
  2. Focusing on 'how' not on 'what'
  3. Tests unusable as live documentation
  4. Acceptance testing is not considered as an 'value-adding' activity
  5. Expecting acceptance tests to be a full regression suite
  6. Focusing on tools
  7. "test code" is not maintained with love - automation code is not considered as important as 'production code' - 'it's only test code' - normal code rules are not applied
  8. objectives of team members not aligned
  9. no management buy-in
  10. underestimating the skill required to do this well

Acceptance tests are a specification of a system - in order to be a good specification, they should be exemplars, but don't need to be dealing with every single edge case (if they are to remain readable/useable as documentation)

You could split out more exhaustive testing into a separate section, separate suite, or (better?) a separate tool.

Don't reject acceptance testing because you don't like the tool - start with the tasks you need to achieve. If it is difficult to automate, it doesn't mean it can be ignored - it is still an 'acceptance test' and it still needs to be run.

Definition of 'acceptance test': whatever you've agreed with the client (not just that that can be automated)

Dislike term 'acceptance testing' - could mean definition as above (Test Driven Requirements, Example Driven Requirements, etc), but often is thought as being equivalent to 'UAT' - this is *not* what is being discussed. 'Specification Workshop' has been successful as a term.

Using tools during a 'specification workshop' is too slow (esp. with senior sponsors) - use a whiteboard, formalise them and send them as "meeting minutes"

Business people and testers collaborating

Currently in 2nd Sprint

  • Result for earlier approach was not good
  • 50k hours in one release
  • Siloed teams
  • It was 9 months before the software was finished
  • now switching to 6 scrum teams (2 designers, 1 tester, 4 developers)
  • (but switching to new application also)
  • positive results so far

Collaboration as a sys admin -> team 'hand over' the application ...

  • lots of arguing during deployment
  • team started to ask sysadmin to verify things 'up front'
  • then brought sys admin into team
  • eventually contributing to prioritisation of stories

Another story

  • Waterfall model, siloed
  • To help a move to agile, have management showcase the project
  • Writing requirements is a collaborative activity, involving the whole team
  • Everyone can voice an opinion + help define the acceptance criteria
  • Try to automate as much as possible

The way the F15 was designed

  • Customers said 'we want a 2.5 mach airplane'
  • Designers attempted it, and couldn't (for the right cost)
  • Go back, and asked 'why?'
  • We need to get away from Russian planes really quickly
  • How would a more agile plane work?
  • Yes, yes - that would be fine!
  • Developers know the technical limitations - tell them what the problem is, and maybe they'll come up with a different/better solution - get everyone in the same room to discuss it

If you have a waterfall project with lots of specifications, should you throw them away?

  • Yes - but be mindful of the political ramifications - perhaps suggest that they need 'clarification'?
  • If you write specifications as tests, you are a 'test analyst', not a 'business analyst' (but you win out in the end! :) )

A sad story

  • Project was successful, working in a collaborative way, delivering value
  • The BA left the team
  • The new BA refused to sit with the team - and was supported in this by management (as it was not part of the 'global process' to work in this way)
  • ...

Some things about writing stories

  • backlog items tend to look like 'tasks' not 'stories' - aim for 'things we want the system to do'
  • story is 'intentionally vague' - 'a promise/invitation for a conversation'
  • important factor is the 'shared understanding'
  • acceptance criteria are the examples that are an output of the conversation, and limit the scope (or are the specification)
  • Ron Jeffries - "the most important thing on a requirements document is the phone number of the person who wrote it"
  • 3 C's "card", "confirmation", "conversation"

For software vendors, with 1000s of customers - how do you manage 'the customer'?

  • eg. iPlayer - customer is 'the british public' 50M users! - as with TV, use focus groups - and the 'producers' = product owners
  • affordable sessions - just members of the public (who belong to a specified group) - for an hour at a time

How to decide how something should work, vs. whether something is 'in' or 'out'?

  • need more than just a single 'truth'
  • it is a conversation that needs to happen
  • involve wider stakeholders - eg. financial controller, who can estimate a cost/value


"collaboration doesn't happen when people have different objectives"

A failure: only collaborate during the workshop, then after:

  • BA - deliver specification on a certain date
  • PM - deliver a project on a certain date
  • Tester - test what is built by a certain date
  • no-one had objective of building a quality product

A success: everyone was able to share the same tool (fitnesse)

  • everyone was working on the same 'document' - with the same goal
  • nothing 'lost in translation'
  • but was a different team (perhaps more of a people thing)

In the beginning, there is often lots of resistance to collaborate

  • but sometimes the arguments win through
  • and this earns respect
  • and then people will approach before

Resistance Factors

  • Your work is being questioned
  • Code ownership
  • need "evidence" of the value-add of collaboration, to engender buy-in

How to make this visible

  • Track time fixing issues, doing rework, cost of bugs

Note that some companies benefit by charging time for maintenance work :(

Other notes

  • not easy - because of silo-culture
  • the problem of fractional people
  • it is an accounting issue - and you should refuse to carry the burden of the cost of a partial resource when you aren't getting the benefit
  • should be looking at throughput of delivered value, not the costs of utilisation of resources
  • also, risk of resources being pulled, 'unreliable resources'
  • don't take a requirements document, then write acceptance tests from that
  • 'translation problem': http://www.brokenpicturetelephone.com
  • If you are in a situation where 70-80% of projects fail, "I did my bit" is a way to maintain sanity
  • You need to invest time in learning and practicing


  • Transition to collaborative acceptance testing involves a large organisational change
  • Lots of people have new/changed roles/habits
  • You can't 'hide it' from management
  • Calling it 'specification with concrete examples' only gets you so far

write-ups on web

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