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Tester 2.0 - Definition of an Agile Tester

Thu 03 Jul 2008

I have been to a number of SIGiST Conferences over the last year and have always been impressed by the calibre of the speakers there. There has been a theme lately talking about Agile Development and Agile Testing but the thing that always seems to missing is someone giving their interpretation on Agile Testing. To actually describe what an Agile Tester is! And what they should be doing.

Below I am going give my opinion of what an Agile Tester by describing skill set needed.We are after all only as good as our skill set! I am going to rate them from 1 to 10 with 10 being needed and 1 being desirable.

Skill Score Reason
Creativity 10 A good tester needs to be extremely creative when trying to test applications. Developers like to think that they are clever and get all the bugs before its released. Unfortunately this is not true when a tester starts being creative in the way they test the application and breaks it very quickly!
Innovation 10 A good tester needs to be able to innovative with the tools that they have. An example would be in SaaS(Software as a Service) companies who constantly striving to be the next big thing and competing against the likes of Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, etc. This drives innovation in development which means that it drives innovation in testing!
Test Automation 9 Every Agile tester needs to be able to do some form of automated testing. I am not saying that the tester must know how to use every tool that is out there but they need to understand how to create the automated tests.
Exploratory Testing 7 Agile Testing tends to mean Exploratory testing. I know that some people will disagree with this but because testing tends to happen on the fly and appears ad hoc but it isn't. Exploratory testing does have a set of rules that need to be adhered and will mostly bring a number of bugs to the surface just as well as normal scripted testing.
Communication 7 One of the main pillars of Agile Development is communication. This is very important in my opinion because a good tester must be able to communicate bugs to developers and requirements to end users. A good tester will also be able to challenge technical architects on their ideas. I know the last sentence can be very hard to achieve in large organisations but it doesn't mean that you can't send them an email to make suggestions.
Development 5 An Agile Tester should not be afraid to look at a developers code and if need be, hopefully in extreme cases, go in and correct it. I am not suggesting for one minute that they must be able to code entire applications but must have the confidence to look at a bug, spot the error in the code and either write a unit test to break it or point out the line where they think the issue is. An example of this is where doing Paired Programming with one developer we shaved of nearly 70% off the time it took to run a unit test test suite just by doing a one line change to their tests which got them to make one other small change.
Ability to work in pairs 3 I am a fan of being able to knock ideas off each other. I wouldn't do paired programming all the time but I like the concept and how it seems to get things done properly with little fuss.

This is not a comprehensive list but these for me are the most important things. Tester 2.0 is something that a number of testers need to strive for if they do not want to get left behind. There is a definite blurring of lines between development and testing. Gone are the days of "I have finished my part, over the wall it goes!". There is also a move to more "Grey Box" testing because of this blurring.

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