COVID-19 has thrown businesses into the deep end, in all senses of the phrase. From budget cuts to remote working, the new “normal” is almost unrecognisable says Yoav Ziv, chief operating officer at Qualitest.
As remote work will most likely continue to exist in some form for years to come, companies have been sharply prompted to rethink best practice. In particular, the synchronisation of various SCRUM teams once believed to only be possible when all teams co-locate in the same office needs to be considered with care.
Even before COVID, the ability to synchronise various SCRUM teams has been crucial for companies transforming into Agile ways of working. From my experience, Agile, and in particular Scaled Agile, is the best and most promising advancement the software development industry has seen for years.
When done right, it solves the fundamental issue of synchronisation, enabling teams to produce value quickly across various applications. As work is shifted from project-based activity into a continuous stream of small value adding packages, each package is simpler, involves less coordination, is closer to the business intent and can be developed and tested with ease.
The challenge begins with software that requires multiple SCRUM teams to produce a single package. These depend on one another and need to work in harmony for the sprint to produce a software package that can be tested and deployed. This is easier said than done, and is one of the main reasons many organisations are stuck in “Wagile” Agile in development, but Waterfall in testing and deployment.
COVID has amplified this challenge, as teams do not co-locate and have less opportunities to synchronise “on the fly”. The result is that development sprints produce non-testable software, prolonging the time it takes to drive value to production and increasing the cost.
The way to address this issue is to synchronise the SCRUM teams before they begin a sprint, and ensure that whatever they work on collectively can be tested and deployed. This is best performed by a skilled test architect who can analyse the desired scope and break it into packages which are testable (and hence deployable) and still provide business value.
It also requires all SCRUM teams to be synchronised to produce test automation scripts, which together represent the full business process to be tested as the sprint is complete.
Achieving this synchronisation requires having a cross-SCRUM function that drives uniformity between the various teams, which can ensure the sprint scope is testable, that the automation activities performed in each sprint accumulate into meaningful business-flow automated testing and that all automation is performed according to the appropriate standards and coverage requirements.
It is typically called “QMO – Quality Managed Office” and companies find an urgent need to establish (and sometimes re-establish) this capability, now more than ever.
Another advantage of a QMO group is that it can place quality engineering professionals into the SCRUM teams and ensure that the produced software not only meets the technical specifications, but also meets the business intent of the product owner. COVID is making it much harder for product owners to continuously examine and validate that the software produced by the SCRUM team meets their business intent.
A professional quality engineer can and should partner with the business owner of the process flow, understand how to test the business aspects of the software produced while it is being developed, and create the automated scripts that can ensure alignment with the business owner. It is not only easier for a quality engineer to perform this task than a developer, it is also simpler for the business owner to stay synchronised with one person compared with the entire remote SCRUM team, ensuring better results.
How businesses structure their testing teams to accommodate the new workforce set up is the key to successfully adapting to these changing pressures. Having skilled QA specialists sitting within and across teams not only provides an understanding of the behavioural aspects of testing, but simultaneously injects a thorough comprehension of the overall business need flow of said application.
Whilst testers know enough about the technicalities and the business perspectives respectively, they will never be an expert in both fields you always need someone to bridge the gap. Put simply, how can one better communicate between teams when the language being spoken is not coherent to all? By making sure that someone embedded in your team does speak that same language.
This change in mindset can have a stark impact on companies’ ability to protect their brand and reputation, and maintain velocity throughout their development processes. As companies return to the office, they must make sure they leverage the power of quality engineering professionals and organise them in a way that will provide both effective business-centric testing in sprints and cross-SCRUM coordination.
The author is Yoav Ziv, chief operating officer at Qualitest.
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