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In-Sprint Planning and Automation Testing: How to do it?

Unlike traditional software development methodologies like Waterfall, Agile delivers small incremental updates to the application in short intervals called Sprints. For every sprint, there will be planning, and executing the planned tasks is crucial. One significant advantage of agile is that testing and development happen in the same sprint. The features that are developed are tested in the same sprint. The testing team creates automation scripts while developers develop the functionality and execute those scripts once it’s ready.

Thus, the QA team keeps pace with the development team. Let’s learn more about in-sprint planning and how to effectively perform automation testing in the same sprint.

Understanding In-Sprint Planning

One of the critical components of Agile methodologies is in-sprint planning. Here we usually plan the activities that occur within the sprint itself. We can define in-sprint planning as a process of organizing tasks and activities within a sprint, thereby ensuring that the team can achieve the sprint goals effectively. This approach gives more importance to flexibility, continuous improvement and collaboration among team members. Let’s see how we can effectively carry out an in-sprint planning.

Setting Clear Objectives

Sprint goals and objectives are defined clearly in advance before the sprint. These goals should align with the overall project roadmap and should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART).

Collaborative Planning

In-sprint planning should be a collaborative effort involving all the team members like developers, testers, product owners and stakeholders. Everyone’s participation helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the team can identify any potential blockers at early stages.

Backlog Refinement

The product backlog should be revised continuously to ensure all the backlog items are well-defined and prioritized. This helps the team to easily select the items from the backlog for the upcoming sprint.

Estimation and Capacity Planning

It is important to measure the team’s capacity and estimate the effort required for each task. For this, we can use techniques like planning poker or T-Shirt sizing to get accurate estimates. To perform realistic sprint planning, it is always important to understand the team’s capacity.

Task Breakdown and Assignment

Breaking down user stories into smaller, manageable tasks and assigning them to team members helps in distributing the workload evenly and tracking progress effectively.

Defining the Definition of Done

Done‘ can be defined as no more pending activity on a particular task. This means the feature related to that particular task is fully developed, review is completed and all sorts of testing like unit testing, and integration testing is completed and is good to release.

Integrating Automation Testing in In-Sprint Planning

Automation testing is a crucial element of modern software development, providing numerous benefits such as increased test coverage, faster feedback, and higher test accuracy. Read this Test Automation Playbook.

To effectively integrate automation testing into in-sprint planning, consider the following steps:

Define Clear Testing Objectives

Before starting a sprint, define clear testing objectives that align with the sprint goals. Determine which features and functionalities need to be tested and to what extent automation can be applied. This step ensures that the testing efforts are focused and relevant.

Identify Test Cases for Automation

Not all test cases are suitable for automation. Identify test cases that are repetitive, time-consuming, and critical to the application’s functionality. Prioritize these for automation to maximize efficiency and coverage. Examples include regression tests, smoke tests, and performance tests. Read: Which Tests Should I Automate First?

Design Test Automation Framework

A robust test automation framework is essential for maintaining and scaling automated tests. The framework should support the following:

  • Reusability: Components and scripts should be reusable across different test cases.
  • Maintainability: Easy to update and maintain as the application evolves. Know How to Write Maintainable Test Scripts: Tips and Tricks.
  • Scalability: Capable of handling an increasing number of test cases. Read about Test Scalability.
  • Integration: Seamless integration with continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines.

Examples of common frameworks are Appium for mobile applications, and JUnit/TestNG for unit testing in Java. Know: How to Build a Test Automation Framework.

Develop and Execute Test Scripts

Develop test scripts based on the identified test cases and the designed framework. Ensure that the scripts are well-documented and follow coding standards. Execute the scripts continuously as part of the CI/CD pipeline to provide immediate feedback on code changes.

Review and Refactor

Regularly review and refactor the automated test scripts to ensure they remain effective and efficient. This process involves updating test scripts to accommodate changes in the application, optimizing performance, and removing obsolete tests.

Best Practices for In-Sprint Automation Testing

To maximize the effectiveness of automation testing within a sprint, consider the following best practices:

Early Involvement of QA

Involve QA engineers early in the sprint planning process. Their insights can help identify potential testing challenges, define clear test objectives, and ensure that the development and testing efforts are aligned.

Collaborative Approach

Foster collaboration between developers and QA engineers. This approach ensures that both teams understand the requirements, share knowledge, and work together to achieve the sprint goals. Pair programming, where a developer and a QA engineer work together on a task, can be particularly effective.

Incremental Automation

Start with automating high-priority test cases and gradually expand the automation coverage. This incremental approach allows the team to see immediate benefits and continuously improve the automation process without being overwhelmed. Read: Why Do You Need Test Automation?

Continuous Integration

Integrate automated tests into the CI/CD pipeline. This integration enables continuous testing, providing immediate feedback on code changes and ensuring that issues are identified and addressed promptly. Know: Continuous Integration and Testing: Best Practices.

Test Data Management

Effective test data management is crucial for reliable automation testing. Ensure that test data is consistent, representative of real-world scenarios, and easily accessible. Consider using data generation tools or maintaining a test data repository. Read more about Optimizing Software Testing with Effective Test Data Management Tools.

Monitor and Analyze

Regularly monitor the execution of automated tests and analyze the results. Use metrics such as test coverage, test execution time, and defect density to assess the effectiveness of automation and identify areas for improvement. Read more: Understanding Test Monitoring and Test Control.

Challenges and Solutions of In-Sprint Planning

Integrating automation testing into in-sprint planning presents several challenges. Here are some common challenges and their solutions:

Time Constraints

  • Challenge: Sprints are short, typically lasting 1-4 weeks, which can limit the time available for developing and executing automated tests.
  • Solution: Prioritize automation efforts by focusing on high-impact test cases. Utilize parallel testing and optimize the CI/CD pipeline to reduce execution time. Additionally, consider adopting a modular test automation framework to facilitate rapid script development.

Skill Gaps

  • Challenge: Team members may lack the necessary skills and knowledge to develop and maintain automated tests effectively.
  • Solution: Invest in training and upskilling for the team. Encourage knowledge sharing and pair programming to build expertise. Alternatively, consider hiring or consulting with automation experts to bridge the skill gap.

Maintenance Overhead

  • Challenge: Automated tests require regular maintenance to keep up with changes in the application, which can be time-consuming.
  • Solution: Design the automation framework with maintainability in mind. Implement practices such as code reviews, refactoring, and version control to manage changes efficiently. Utilize tools and libraries that support easy updates and maintenance.

Flaky Tests

  • Challenge: Automated tests can sometimes produce inconsistent results, leading to false positives or false negatives.
  • Solution: Identify and address the root causes of flaky tests. Common causes include timing issues, dependency problems, and environmental inconsistencies. Implement robust error handling and synchronization mechanisms to improve test reliability. Read: Effective Error Handling Strategies in Automated Tests.

Tools and Technologies

Several tools and technologies can facilitate in-sprint automation testing. Here are some popular ones:

testRigor

It is a codeless automation tool powered by generative AI. Many codeless automation tools are available in the market, but testRigor stands out from all of them because of the powerful features the tool offers. So, let’s dive to know more about those features.

  • Cloud-hosted: testRigor is a cloud-hosted tool, so you need not invest money and resources to set up an environment and do maintenance of the software. Just subscribe and start creating automation scripts in plain English (or other natural languages).
  • Eliminate Code Dependency: testRigor helps to create test scripts in plain English, eliminating the need to know programming languages. So, any stakeholder like manual QA can create test scripts and execute them faster than an average automation engineer creating test script using coding. Also, since it’s in natural language, anyone can create or update test cases, thereby increasing the test case coverage.
  • One Tool for all Solutions: testRigor performs not just web automation but below as well:
    So you don’t have to install different tools for different types of testing, testRigor takes care of all your testing needs. Here are the testRigor benefits.
  • Stable Element Locators: Unlike traditional tools that rely on specific element identifiers, testRigor uses a unique approach for element locators. You simply describe elements by the text you see on the screen, leveraging the power of AI to find them automatically. This means your tests adapt to changes in the application’s UI, eliminating the need to update fragile selectors constantly. This helps the team focus more on creating new use cases than fixing the flaky XPaths.
  • Integrations: testRigor offers built-in integrations with popular CI/CD tools like Jenkins and CircleCI, test management systems like Zephyr and TestRail, defect tracking solutions like Jira and Pivotal Tracker, infrastructure providers like AWS and Azure, and communication tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams.

You can go through more features of testRigor here and start getting used to testRigor.

Selenium

Selenium used to be a common UI automation tool for many companies. The main advantage of Selenium is that it is open-source; anyone can customize the framework. However, using Selenium has many disadvantages, such as code complexity. As the automation code count increases, debugging becomes impossible, and more time will be spent on maintenance tasks.

There are many other reasons why Selenium is not used for automation testing anymore. Here, we are not covering much detail about Selenium, but if you would like to know about building Selenium tests, you can refer to this blog, or read this for a Selenium Alternative.

Appium

Appium is an open-source automation testing framework supporting mobile app and browser testing. Appium supports hybrid, native and web apps for both iOS and Android devices. Appium uses the WebDriver protocol to interact with the application under test, allowing it to perform actions like tapping buttons, entering text, swiping, and validating UI elements. Appium supports testing frameworks like XCTest for iOS and Espresso for Android. Appium uses the underlying Selenium WebDriver libraries to communicate with mobile devices or emulators.

Though Appium is one of the commonly used tools, there are a few major drawbacks of using it, such as:

  • Appium doesn’t provide any device cloud repo. For test execution, we may need to buy licenses for other device cloud providers.
  • As the number of automated test cases increases in Appium, the complexity of the code also grows. This complexity results in more time and effort for debugging and maintaining the code. Consequently, the QA team may have limited time available for creating new test cases while needing to allocate more time towards code maintenance.
  • Appium doesn’t provide any inbuilt integrations to reports, test management tools, or Continuous Integration tools.

To combat these drawbacks you can go through this Appium Alternative.

JUnit/TestNG

JUnit and TestNG are two of the most widely used testing frameworks for Java applications. JUnit, known for its simplicity and ease of use, is commonly used for unit testing and follows a test-driven development approach. TestNG, on the other hand, offers more advanced features such as data-driven testing, parallel test execution, and flexible test configurations, making it suitable for both unit and integration testing. Both frameworks support annotations, making it easy to define test methods, setup/teardown methods, and manage test suites efficiently.

Jenkins

Jenkins is a widely used open-source automation server for CI/CD. It supports various plugins and integrations, making it a powerful tool for managing automated tests within the CI/CD pipeline.

Postman

Using Postman, we can test the API integration between different layers. For example, Saleor uses GraphQL, we can use Postman to conduct API integration tests. Postman is a popular tool used for API testing. Using it, we can create a collection of API requests that mocks the production or development usage of the application. We can test not only the responses but also the structure, data integrity, and performance.

Case Study: Implementing In-Sprint Automation Testing

To illustrate the practical application of in-sprint planning and automation testing, let’s consider a case study of a software development team at a mid-sized company.

Project Overview

The team is developing a web-based e-commerce application. The project follows a two-week sprint cycle, and the primary goals for the upcoming sprint include:

  • Adding a new product search feature.
  • Enhancing the user interface (UI) for the checkout process.
  • Fixing several high-priority bugs.

Sprint Planning

During the sprint planning meeting, the team defines the following tasks:

  1. Development Tasks:
    • Implement the product search feature.
    • Enhance the UI for the checkout process.
    • Fix identified bugs.
  2. Testing Tasks:
    • Define test cases for the new product search feature.
    • Automate regression tests for the checkout process.
    • Execute manual tests for the new UI enhancements.
    • Validate bug fixes.

The team allocates time and resources for each task, ensuring that both development and testing activities can be completed within the sprint.

Automation Testing

The QA team identifies the following test cases for automation:

  • Regression tests for the checkout process to ensure that the enhancements do not introduce new issues.
  • Smoke tests to verify the overall stability of the application after implementing the new product search feature.

The team uses Selenium for web automation and Jenkins for CI/CD integration. They design the automation framework to be modular and reusable, facilitating rapid script development.

Execution and Continuous Integration

As development progresses, the QA team develops and executes automated test scripts continuously. The tests are integrated into the Jenkins pipeline, providing immediate feedback on code changes.

The team monitors the test results and addresses any issues promptly. They also review and refactor the test scripts regularly to ensure maintainability and reliability.

Retrospective and Improvement

At the end of the sprint, the team conducts a retrospective meeting to review the outcomes. They analyze the test metrics, identify areas for improvement, and plan for the next sprint. The continuous feedback loop enables the team to refine their processes and enhance the effectiveness of in-sprint automation testing.

Conclusion

In-sprint planning and automation testing are integral to the success of Agile development. By implementing effective in-sprint planning, teams can ensure that they are well-prepared to tackle the challenges of the sprint. Automation testing, on the other hand, enhances the speed and accuracy of testing, ensuring that the final product is of high quality.

To achieve the best results, teams should adopt a collaborative approach, continuously refine their processes, and leverage the right tools and techniques. By doing so, they can deliver software that meets the needs of their users and stands the test of time in an ever-evolving technological landscape.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you ensure effective collaboration during in-sprint planning?

Effective collaboration can be ensured by involving all team members in planning meetings, encouraging open communication, using collaborative tools like Jira or Trello, and fostering a culture where everyone’s input is valued. Regular check-ins and stand-up meetings also help maintain alignment and address issues promptly.

What is the importance of continuous feedback in in-sprint automation testing?

Continuous feedback is crucial as it allows teams to identify and address issues quickly, ensuring that defects are fixed early in the development process. This feedback loop helps maintain code quality, reduces the time and effort required for debugging later, and supports a more agile and responsive development environment. Automated tests play a key role in providing this continuous feedback by running tests frequently and reporting results in real-time.

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