Friday, December 24, 2010


I am wide awake Christmas Eve day at 5:20 AM.  I should be sleeping!  Instead I am reading a book by David Anderson, Kanban.  Why as a tester am I reading Kanban?  Well one of the teams I work closely with is about to implement kanban in 2011 as an attempt to improve their process.  So I ponder how does test have to change on order to fit into this paradigm.

I am not even going to attempt to describe kanban in this post, but I do want to convey I get a bit excited when I see the first step David Anderson recommends for moving to kanban.  He says the first step is to "Focus on Quality".  As a tester you have to like hearing those words.

I also agree with these points.
  • Both Agile and traditional development approaches to quality have merit.
  • Code inspections if done right can improve quality.
  • Collaborative analysis and design improve quality. I believe testers should get involved early in the process!
  • Using design patterns improve quality.
  • Use of modern development tools improve quality.
As pointed out in the book all of these things improve trust and confidence in the process.

The team using kanban will be doing weekly releases.  They have been doing weekly releases, but development and test cycles were taking four weeks (2 in development and 2 in test).  The product owners were not getting their new features in a timely manner.

In December the team has been focusing on reducing the backlog of defects and discussing the implications of kanban.  In my opinion, the biggest fear of this change is coming from the testers.

I contend there is nothing to fear.  A story will move through this flow:

Idea > Design > Work in Progress (code, unit test, code review, automation) > acceptance test > final test > production

If there are 10 stories in the pipeline and 5 testers.  Then a tester is responsible for 2 stories.  Testers should be able to test 2 stories in a week.  Right?  OK it does depend on the size of the story.  The fear comes from the regression test phase.  My philosophy is automate regression tests where possible and focus on Exploratory Testing.  If testers cannot get over their fear perhaps any manual regression testing should be focused on the area(s) of highest risk.

I predict that the process will be bottle-necked in two areas.  The first bottleneck will be in design.  As part of design the team will be writing Cucumber tests.   Through collaboration the cucumber tests will make sure everyone is understanding the feature and testers will know what to test early in the process.  This process will take time.

I believe acceptance testing will go fast, but the second bottleneck will be the final testing phase.  Unfortunately testers are still focused on "Perfect Software".  I contend that the testers will have to implement test strategies that can be completed in 1-2 days.

I am looking forward to seeing this in action.

The extremely nice thing about kanban is that you know your pain points because you see them on the flow chart.  More importantly kanban expects you to change the process in order to remove the pain points.

Over simplification?  Maybe!  As Larry the Cable Guy might say "Git R done"!

I am definitely looking forward to this challenge in 2011.  I would welcome any comments from testers who are actively doing kanban.  I suspect there are not many.

No comments: