Formula One has gotten us all used to amazing speed. In as little as three seconds, F1 pit teams replace all four wheels on a car and even load in dozens of liters of fuel. Pit stops are no longer an impediment to success in F1 — but they can be differentiating to the point where teams that are good at it win and those that aren’t lose.
It turns out that pit stops not only affect speed; they also maintain and improve quality. In fact, prestigious teams like Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Red Bull use pit stops to (usually!) prevent bad things from happening to their cars. In other words, pit stops are now a strategic component of any F1 racing strategy; they enhance speed with quality. But F1 teams also continuously test the condition of their cars and external conditions that might influence the race.
My question: Why can’t we do the same with software delivery? Can fast testing pit stops help? Today, in the age of the customer, delivery teams face a challenge like none before: a business need for unprecedented speed with quality — quality@speed. Release cycle times are plummeting from years to months, weeks, or even seconds — as companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Google prove.
Our bi-yearly Forrester Agile survey suggests that Agile development (or simply "Agile") continues to see consistent, strong adoption. However, the same survey data shows that only a small percentage of firms are outsourcing Agile application development due to a lack of experience with the development sourcing approaches and governance models needed to make it work. Successfully outsourcing Agile development, either fully or partially, involves redefining roles and responsibilities, change management processes, metrics and SLAs, service descriptions, and other contractual elements. Merely using traditional outsourcing language and practices risks jeopardizing the benefits of Agile. There is no single way of doing this right.
When computers were invented 60 years ago, nobody would have thought that gazillions of 0 and 1s would soon rule the world. After all, that’s all there is in any computer memory, be it a laptop, a mobile phone, or a supercomputer like Watson; if you could open memory up and visualize the smallest elementary unit, you would “see” only an infinite sequence of 0s and 1s, something that would look like this:
Interestingly, that has not changed. Computers are still processing 1s and 0s. What has changed is that we live in an age of digital disruption, an age where software applications run and rule our business more and more. To be successful, those applications need to be engaging and entertaining so that consumers enjoy and are delighted by them; they also have to be mobile and accessible anywhere and at anytime, and they have to leverage tons of information, no matter if it comes from a database, a tweet, or Facebook.
I hear people talking about Agile 2.0 a lot. But when I look at what’s happening in the application development and delivery space, I see that many organizations are just now starting to experience Agile’s true benefits, and they’re not yet leveraging those benefits completely or consistently. So let’s stop talking about Agile 2.0 for a moment and instead digest and operationalize what’ve learned so far. There’s plenty to improve upon without getting into inventing new practices and acronyms to add to the Agile transformation backlog!
What I see is that app-dev leaders want to understand how they can optimize existing use of AD&D Agile practices like Scrum, XP, Kanban, improve the practices around the more advanced ones like TDD, continuous testing, CI and CD and leverage all with what they’ve learned over the years (including waterfall). Scaling the whole thing up in their organization in order to have a bigger and more consistent impact on the business is what their next key goal is. We fielded the 2013 version of our Global Agile Software Application Development Online Survey to find out how. I present and analyze this data in my latest report. The survey addressed common questions that clients ask me frequently get in inquiries and advisory, such as:
How can we test in a fast-paced environment while maintaining or improving quality?
How can we improve our Agile sourcing patterns to work effectively with partners?
What a strange summer this has been! From Boston to London to Paris to Turin, the weather has offered weekly and even daily reversals, with continuous change from sun to rain, from hot and damp to cool and crisp. I missed a nice spring season. Even today, from 35º-38º Celsius (95º-100º Fahrenheit), we just went to 22º Celsius (71º Fahrenheit) with a perfect storm! A continuous climate and sudden change is quite unusual in some of these countries. Certainly it is where the Azores Anticyclone usually dominates from mid-late June to mid-late August, offering a stable summer. How many times have you had to change plans because you discover weather is about to change!?
You might be thinking, "What does this have to do with this AD&D blog?" It’s about change! I am wondering if, in our daily lives, getting used to unexpected conditions and having to handle continuous change favors a mindset where change is just something we have to deal with and not fight. A new mindset very much needed given the change we see ahead in how we develop, test, and deploy software!
My focus in this blog is testing, although the first change we need to get used to is that we can’t talk any longer about testing in an isolated fashion! Testing is getting more and more interconnected in a continuous feedback loop with development and deployment. (See my colleague Kurt Bittner's report on continuous delivery; I could not agree more with what Kurt says there!)
I just finished my new report on the Agile testing tools landscape. I’ll point Forrester readers to it as soon as it publishes. But there are few things that have struck me since I took over the software quality and testing research coverage at Forrester and which I would like to share with you in this preview of my findings of the testing tools landscape doc.
My research focus area was initially on software development life cycles (SDLCs) with a main focus on Agile and Lean. In fact, my main contribution in the past 12 months has been to the Forrester Agile and Lean playbook, where all my testing research has also focused. Among other reasons, I took the testing research area because testing was becoming more and more a discipline for software developers. So it all made sense for me to extend my software development research focus with testing. But I was not sure how deep testing was really going to integrate with development. My concern was that I’d have to spend too much time on the traditional testing standards, processes, and practices and little on new and more advanced development and testing practices. After 12 months, I am happy to say that it was the right bet! My published recent research shows the shift testing is making, and so does the testing tool landscape document, and here is why:
Early this year, on January 15, I published our first research on testing for the Agile and Lean playbook. Connected to that research, my colleague Margo Visitacion and I also published a self-assessment testing toolkit. The toolkit helps app-dev and testing leaders understand how mature their current testing practices and organization are for Agile and Lean development.
The Agile Testing Self-Assessment Toolkit
So what are the necessary elements to assess Agile testing maturity? Looking to compromise between simplicity and comprehensiveness, we focused on the following:
Testing team behavior. Some of the questions we ask here look at collaboration around testing among all roles in the Scrum teams. We also ask about unit testing: Is it a mandatory task for developers? Are all of the repeititive tests that can be run over and over at each regression testing automated?
Organization. In our earlier Agile testing research, we noticed a change in the way testing gets organized when Agile is being adopted. So here we look at the role test managers are playing: Are they focusing more on being coaches and change agents to accelerate adoption of the new Agile testing practices? Or are managers still operating in a command-and-control regime? Is the number of manual testers decreasing? Are testing centers of excellence (TCOEs) shifting to become testing practice centers of excellence (TPCOEs)?
DevOps is a movement for developers and operations professionals that encourages more collaboration and release automation. Why? To keep up with the faster application delivery pace of Agile. In fact, with Agile, as development teams deliver faster and in shorter cycles, IT operations finds itself unprepared to keep up with the new pace. For operations teams, managing a continuous stream of software delivery with traditional manual-based processes is Mission Impossible. Vendors have responded to DevOps requirements with more automation in their release management, delivery, and deployment tools. However, there is a key process that sits between development and operations that seems to have been given little attention: testing.
In fact, some key testing activities, like integration testing and end-to-end performance testing, are caught right in the middle of the handover process between development and operations. In the Agile and Lean playbook, I’ve dedicated my latest research precisely to Agile testing, because I’ve seen testing as the black beast in many transformations to Agile because it was initially ignored.