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Acceptance Testing is rarely just one type of testing.

Many practitioners see Agile acceptance testing as focused solely on the business facing functionality. This is a misunderstanding; acceptance testing is more varied. The body of knowledge that supports the International Software Testing Qualifications Board’s testing certifications deconstructs acceptance testing into four categories:  (more…)

In goes the money and out comes the soda? It is a test!

In goes the money and out comes the soda? It is a test!

Acceptance testing is necessity when developing any product. My brother, the homebuilder, includes acceptance testing through out the building process. His process includes planned and unplanned walkthroughs and backlog reviews with his clients as the house is built. He has even developed checklists for clients that have never had a custom home built. The process culminates with a final walk through to ensure the homeowner is happy. The process of user acceptance testing in Agile development has many similarities, including: participation by users, building UAT into how the teams and teams-of-teams work and testing user acceptance throughout the product development life cycle.

Acceptance testing is a type of black box testing. The tester knows the inputs and has an expected result in mind, but the window into how the input is transformed is opaque. An example of a black box test for a soda machine would be putting money into a soda machine, pressing the selection button and getting the correct frosty beverage. The tester does not need to be aware of all the steps between hitting the selector and receiving the drink. The story-level AUAT can be incorporated into the the day-to-day activity of an Agile team. Incorporating AUAT activities includes:

  1. Adding the requirement for the development of acceptance tests into the definition of ready to develop. (This will be bookended by the definition of done)
  2. Ensuring that the product owner or a well-regarded subject matter expert for the business participate in defining the acceptance criteria for stories and features.
  3. Reviewing acceptance criteria as part of the story grooming process.
  4. Using Acceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD) or other Test First Development methods. ATDD builds collaboration between the developers, testers and the business into the process by writing acceptance tests before developers begin coding.
  5. Incorporating the satisfaction of the acceptance criteria into the definition of done.
  6. Leveraging the classic Agile demo lead by the product owner to stakeholders performed at the end of each sprint. Completed (done) stories are demonstrated and stakeholders interact with them to make sure their needs are being addressed and to solicit feedback.
  7. Performing a final AUAT step using a soft roll-out or first use technique to generate feedback to collect final user feedback in a truly production environment. One of the most common problems all tests have is that they are executed in an environment that closely mirrors production. The word close is generally the issue, and until the code is run in a true production environment what exactly will happen is unknown. The concept of first use feedback borders on one the more problematic approaches that of throwing code over the wall and testing in production. This should never be the first time acceptance, integration or performance is tested, but rather treated as a mechanism to broaden the pool of feedback available to the team.

In a scaled Agile project acceptance testing at the story level is a step in a larger process of planning and actions. This process typically starts by developing acceptance criteria for features and epics which are then groomed and decomposed into stories.  Once the stories are developed and combined  a final acceptance test at the system or application level is needed to ensure what has been developed works as a whole package and meets the users needs.

Are there other techniques that you use to implement AUAT at the team level?

In the next blog entry we will address ideas for scaling AUAT.

Agile re-defines acceptance testing as a “formal description of the behavior of a software product[1].”

Agile re-defines acceptance testing as a “formal description of the behavior of a software product[1].”

User acceptance test (UAT) is a process that confirms that the output of a project meets the business needs and requirements. Classically, UAT would happen at the end of a project or release. Agile spreads UAT across the entire product development life cycle re-defining acceptance testing as a “formal description of the behavior of a software product[1].” By redefining acceptance testing as a description of what the software does (or is supposed to do) that can be proved (the testing part), Agile makes acceptance more important than ever by making it integral across the entire Agile life cycle.

Agile begins the acceptance testing process as requirements are being discovered. Acceptance tests are developed as part of the of the requirements life cycle in an Agile project because acceptance test cases are a form of requirements in their own right. The acceptance tests are part of the overall requirements, adding depth and granularity to the brevity of the classic user story format (persona, goal, benefit). Just like user stories, there is often a hierarchy of granularity from an epic to a user story. The acceptance tests that describe a feature or epic need to be decomposed in lock step with the decomposition of features and epics into user stories. Institutionalizing the process of generating acceptance tests at the feature and epic level and then breaking the stories and acceptance test cases down as part of grooming is a mechanism to synchronize scaled projects (we will dive into greater detail on this topic in a later entry).

As stories are accepted into sprints and development begins, acceptance test cases become a form of executable specifications. Because the acceptance test describes what the user wants the system to do, then the functionality of the code can be compared to the expected outcome of the acceptance test case to guide the developer.

When development of user stories is done the acceptance test cases provide a final feedback step to prove completion. The output of acceptance testing is a reflection of functional testing that can be replicated as part of the demo process. Typically, acceptance test cases are written by users (often Product Owners or subject matter experts) and reflect what the system is supposed to do for the business. Ultimately, it provides proof to the user community that the team (or teams) are delivering what is expected.

As one sprint follows another, the acceptance test cases from earlier sprints are often recast as functional regression tests cases in later sprints.

Agile user acceptance testing is a direct reflection of functional specifications that guide coding, provide basis for demos and finally, ensure that later changes don’t break functions that were develop and accepted in earlier sprints. UAT in an Agile project is more rigorous and timely than the classic end of project UAT found in waterfall projects.

[1] http://guide.agilealliance.org/guide/acceptance.html, September 2015