High Touch Retrospectives for Distributed Teams Using Trello

Some of us in the Agile community are not fortunate enough as to work within collocated teams all the time (is it most of us already?). Some of us may spend a significant part, or even all, of our effort as part of geographically distributed or dispersed teams. Just one of the myriad difficulties when working in such teams is to replicate the high-touch techniques to increase participation and collaboration in team events, such as planning and retrospectives. Recently plenty of online tools have reached maturity, allowing teams to collaborate in real-time, in simple and effective new ways, that is, closer to the same room experience.

This post describes in detail a real-life example of using Trello to run a retrospective. Please note no technique or tool is universally applicable and these ones are no exception. You will need to check the circumstances and forces influencing your own problem before applying any specific tool to solve it. Expect some story telling ahead.

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Finding Done

How can a facilitator help a team finding what done means for them, considering their environment and their work. How do I facilitate the Definition of Done (DoD) discovery workshops. What you can find below is my current standard practice. There might be better options for your teams and I’m sure I will keep evolving it and I will uncover a better way but it worked for me a few times and I don’t know better as of today. I hope it can be helpful to some of you.

How to Run a Definition of Done Workshop

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Agile Test Expertise Roadmap

My Intent

I have been asked by a friend and colleague to help her define the transformation plan for the tester’s team in a software development organization. The goal is to help testers learn agile testing techniques, so they can better help the agile development teams they belong to. As generalizing specialists, the organization wants them to be the agile testing experts within their teams.
I am by no means an agile testing guru, even though I have done my fare share of testing in agile teams, but I have seen a few repeating scenarios in the teams I have coached and it is my purpose to document them in this post, as it can be useful to somebody in a similar situation to my friend and in the hope of receiving useful feedback.

Structure of this Post

  1. Starting Points a description of different roles and stereotypes frequently found in development teams. It will help us understand where we are, that is the beginning of the trip, and what the next steps could be.
  2. An Agile Tester… tries to define what characterizes an agile tester and provide some guidance on the destination of this trip.
  3. Agile Testing BOK is a simple list with short descriptions of the different disciplines included in agile testing, structured around the world-famous _agile testing quadrants_.
  4. Some Frequent Journeys describes some examples of trips to agile testing mastery, starting from a few different realities.
  5. Learning Resources compiles links to books and articles that can help understanding agile testing and its practices.

Starting Points

It all starts where you are now. My intention in this section is to acknowledge there are as many different starting points as people willing to start a journey. Even seeing such wild diversity I think we can still recognize some common patterns that can be useful as you or the people you are trying to help finding their path may be close to what described herein.

Traditional Senior Tester
  • Proficient defining test specifications based on requirement or design specifications
  • Performs ad-hoc exploratory testing looking for bugs
  • Errors are defined as software behaviors that are out of specifications.
  • In borderline cases identifies together with other team members when there’s a specification or implementation defect.
  • May have some automation experience for repetitive tests (i.e. regression, performance measurement…).
Traditional Junior Tester
  • Completes test specifications by filling in details like in/out parameters, developing additional test cases, etc.
  • Executes manually or using automated scripts the test cases defined in the specification.
  • Raises issues on cases when expected behavior does not conform to the specification
Traditional Programmer
  • Tests and debug component code informally as it gets created, normally in isolation from other components.
  • Creates and executes Unit Test specifications at module / class / component level.
Traditional Architect / Senior Developer
  • Defines interfaces for system components and assigns responsibilities to them.
  • Creates Integration Test Specifications together with Senior Testers.
  • Creates and executes difficult performance / load test specifications using highly specialized tools.
Business Analyst
  • Defines Business Model and requirements for the system. Sometimes he/she can participate in the component breakdown definition providing specific requirements for each component.
Traditional Product Manager
  • Defines the product roadmap.
  • Participates in the requirements breakdown at the system level.
Agile Coder Mid-journey
  • Practices TDD, creating test specifications for each component / class / method before they get implemented that are executed continuously to ensure no regression error is introduced.
  • Co-creates, together with Business Analysts and Agile Testers, the system-wide requirements specified in the User Stories, sometimes even creating tests as the specification (BDD or Spec By Example).
  • Co-responsible for quality of the final product together with the rest of the Agile team.

An Agile Tester…

  • focuses on delivering business value.
  • is an Agile team member and knows and has applied Agile Software Development basics:
    • Manifesto
    • Principles
    • A simple framework as Scrum and / or Kanban
  • knows rudiments of XP Technical Practices and the synergy / relationships between them.
  • practices Agile testing, i.e. ATDD, Specification by example, BDD.
  • leverages automation as much as it’s practical.
  • is flexible, takes a whole team approach to software development.
  • is a generalizing specialist so she practices or learns from:
    • PO and BA. What the customers need. Domain knowledge. How to write good specifications using tests.
    • Developers. TDD, white box testing, architecture and design rudiments and some coding techniques.
    • Other Quality experts about non-testing aspects of software quality.
  • teaches others in the team about Agile testing (their specialty) in general.

Agile Testing BOK

This section is based on the Agile Testing Quadrants first introduced by Brian Marick here http://www.exampler.com/old-blog/2003/08/22/#agile-testing-project-2 and later refined by Lisa Crispin here http://lisacrispin.com/2011/11/08/using-the-agile-testing-quadrants and in her Agile Testing book http://techbus.safaribooksonline.com/book/software-engineering-and-development/software-testing/9780321616944.
If you are not yet familiar with Lisa’s book, do yourself a favor and read it now, it’s a great use of your time even if you are already in your agile testing trip.

Another great resource to acquire insights that can change your view of testing in a record time is Scott Ambler’s magnificent article Agile Testing and Quality Strategies: Discipline Over Rhetoric http://www.ambysoft.com/essays/agileTesting.html. Go read it, now… really!
This is my take on the agile testing quadrants, it contains a combination of ideas obtained from the aforementioned sources plus my own material (of course all errors are only my own).

Q1: Technology-Facing Tests that Support the Team
Purpose Go faster, do moreCreate flexible code that adapts gracefully
Shortest feedback cycle
Types Automated Unit Tests
Automated Component Tests
Toolset xUnit frameworksmockobjects
build automation tools
source code control
Audience developers: create, use and maintain test suites
test experts: assist in defining functional content and data sets to be used
Risks / difficulties technical debt: legacy code with low (even zero) unit test density
complex / heavy / slow dependencies (i.e. databases)
Execution of test suite takes longer than acceptable to the team so it’s not run often.
Frequent Practices TDDObject Mocking
Design for testability
Q2: Business-Facing Tests that Support the Team
Purpose These tests help provide the big picture and enough details to guide coding
Clarify and specify requirements
Risk identification / mitigation in obscure / risky areas of the product
Detail conditions of satisfaction
Increase the domain knowledge of the team
Functional regression safety net
Types Automated Acceptance Tests
Story Tests
Functional Tests
Simulations
Manual Prototypes
Examples
Simulations
Toolset Eliciting Requirements
– Flow-diagrams
– Mock-ups (i.e. paper prototypes)
– Wireframes
Testing behind the GUI
– xUNit frameworks
– BDD tools (Cuke4Duke, Cucumber-JVM, Concordion, easyb and JBehave for Java, NBehave and NSpec for .NET, and Cucumber and RSpec for Ruby)
– FIT / FitNesse / SLiM
– CrossCheck, Ruby Test::Unit, soapUI for testing Web Services
Testing through the GUI
– Record and playback tools
– Scripting tools
* Watir for Ruby
* Selenium
* Canoo WebTest
Test Management Tools
– Geminy
– HP Quality Centre
– IBM Rational Quality Manager
– TestLink
– Wiki
– FitNesse
Audience Test experts
* Define together with BAs the tests
* Implement automated tests together with developers
BAs
* Define together with Test-experts the tests
Developers
* Support the test automation effort
* Consume tests as specification and verification tools
Risks / difficulties Tests take long to be specified during the sprint.
Build tests incrementally to feed the development team high-level acceptance tests early on.
Tests are not maintained after the sprint in which they were introduced.
To avoid it make sure all tests always pass in your system.
Execution of test suite takes longer than acceptable to the team so it’s not run often.
technical debt: legacy code with low (even zero) unit test density
complex / heavy / slow dependencies (i.e. databases)
Frequent Practices BDD
ATDD
Specification-by-example
Data-driven testing
Testing-behind-the-UI
Testing-through-the-UI
Q3: Business-Facing Tests that Critique the Product
Purpose
Types Exploratory TestingScenariosUsability Testing

UAT (User Acceptance Tests)

Alpha / Beta Usage

Toolset Test Setup Automation using any of the tools mentioned in Q2 and Q1Test Data Generation tools (i.e. PerlClip)Log File Monitoring Tools (i.e. Unix’s tail, LogWatch)

Simulators

Emulators

Scenarios and Workflows

Audience Test-experts

  • Perform exploratory testing
  • Collaborate with developers in step automation.
  • Define domain-relevant scenarios.
  • Perform UAT.

BAs

  • Check the product is fit for the purpose it was built for.
  • Define domain-relevant scenarios.
  • Perform UAT.

Technical-writers

  • May do exploratory testing to learn about the product when writing user facing documentation.

Developers

  • Assist with automation of steps
  • CX, UX, Usability Experts
  • Help define and sometimes perform usability testing
Risks / difficulties Difficult to automate as it needs “a brain” to critique the product.If Q1 and Q2 tests don’t leverage automation properly there will be no time for Q3 testing.Sometimes it’s difficult to engage the relevant stakeholders into this kind of testing, especially when done in a rolling-wave iterative approach as some of them are accustomed to end-of-project testing stage.
Frequent Practices DemonstrationsEnd-to-end systemTest-behind-the-UI

Soap Opera Testing, a term coined by Hans Buwalda [2003]: Take a scenario that is based on real life, exaggerate it in a manner similar to the way TV soap operas exaggerate behavior and emotions, and compress it into a quick sequence of events. Think about questions like, “What’s the worst thing that can happen, and how did it happen?”

Use Automation to help in exploratory testing (i.e. setup, frequently performed sequences).

User Needs and Persona Testing for Usability testing

Q4: Technology-Facing Tests that Critique the Product
Purpose Verify nonfunctional requirements including configuration issues, security, performance, memory management, the “ilities” (e.g., reliability, interoperability, and scalability), recovery, and even data conversion.
Types Performance and Load TestingStress Testing”ilities” testing

  • Security
  • Reliability
  • Stability
  • Maintainability
  • Compatibility
Toolset Performance and Load Testing ToolsUnitl Level Perf Tools: JUnitPerf, httperfOpen Source: Apache JMeter, The Grinder, Pounder, ftptt, and OpenWebLoad

Commercial: NeoLoad, WebLoad, eValid LoadTest, LoadRunner, and SOATest.

OS Profiling Tools

Ethical Hacking Tools

Audience Developers

  • Develops and maintains all or parts of the tests to be performed.
  • Assists external experts in evaluating the testing needs as the product tech experts.

Test-experts

  • Assists external experts in evaluating the testing needs as the product behaviour experts.
  • May create the non-functional test specs and run them when they don’t require fully dedicated experts.

Security expert (Ethical Hacker)

  • May be requested to analyze or try to break a system security. Typically not focused on a single project.

Database Experts

  • Sometimes called in to design DB load tests or data conversion tests. Typically not focused on a single project.

Performance Test Expert

  • Normally a senior developer with specialized skillset and tools that designs and runs performance tests for a number of projects and systems. Typically not focused on a single project.
Risks / difficulties The team may get focused on the business requirements and forget about the non-functional ones. This may be even perceived as something to be dealt with by developers only.When they are perceived as low-risk for a project they may be missing completely from the test plan.They need special knowledge and expensive tools to be performed so they are “faked” or skipped all at once.

Access to the required experts is difficult. i.e. there’s a lead time to them and projects are asked to batch their testing, add it to a queue and wait for results.

Cross-functional tests are expensive and hard to do in small chunks.

Frequent Practices Incremental Nonfunctional Testing (from the start and building upon)Baseline Performance before TuningTest Environments (simulating, emulating or replicating production environments)

Some frequent journeys

Traditional Programmer
  1. Q1
    1. Code along a TDD intro book
    2. Practice TDD pairing with experts and novices
    3. Read on advanced techniques
    4. Practice TDD pairing with experts and novices
    5. Help others learning TDD
  2. Q2
    1. Prototyping
      • Wireframes
      • Mock-ups
    2. ATDD + Test Automation
      1. Read intro book
      2. Guided by an expert, implement one automated test suite behind-the-GUI
      3. Experiment with different automation tools
      4. Work through-the-GUI
      5. Learn how to write AT specifications
      6. Use the automation tools beyond AT
  3. Q4
    1. Support an expert by providing application specific info
    2. Implement Q4 Testing for a simple low-risk case
  4. Q3
    1. Support role: Work along test experts in the team providing them with the support they need (i.e. white box testing design)
Traditional Senior Tester
  1. Read Agile Testing intro book
  2. Q2
    1. ATDD, Test Automation
      1. Read ATDD intro book
      2. Learn writing AT specs pairing with an agile expert
      3. Get some hands-on practice using some BDD / ATDD automation tools
      4. Pair with experts and novices on automation tasks
      5. After TDD learning, pair with experts on test harness implementation tasks
  3. Q3
    1. Agile Exploratory Testing
      1. Pair with an Agile expert to learn timeboxing skills
      2. Learn how to use log watching tools
      3. Learn how to use Test Data Generators
      4. Design, tool and implement automation that reduces time-consuming tasks (i.e. setup)
    2. Scenario Development
      1. Pair with a senior test expert learning to execute already defined Test Scenarios
        • Workflow
        • Persona-based
        • Soap Opera
      2. Try developing new Scenarios including
        • Workflow
        • Persona-based
        • Soap Opera
  4. Q1 – TDD basics
    1. Acquire basic coding skills and TDD understanding
    2. Pair with programmers on project tasks (focus on learning xUnit tools and coding)
  5. Q4 – Support role
    1. Support an expert by providing application specific info
    2. Implement Q4 Testing for a simple low-risk case
Traditional Junior Tester
  1. Read Agile Testing intro book
  2. Q1 – TDD basics
    1. Acquire basic coding skills and TDD understanding
    2. Pair with programmers on project tasks (focus on learning xUnit tools and coding)
  3. Q2 – ATDD, Test Automation
    1. Read ATDD intro book
    2. Pair with experts on automation tasks
    3. Pair with experts on test harness implementation tasks
    4. Learn writing AT specs pairing with an ATDD expert
    5. Pair with experts and novices on Q2 tasks
  4. Q3
    1. Pair with an Agile test expert learning how to do Agile exploratory testing
    2. Pair with a senior test expert learning to execute already defined Test Scenarios
      • Workflow
      • Persona-based
      • Soap Opera
Business Analyst
  1. Q2 – ATDD, Test Automation
    1. Read ATDD intro book
    2. Learn writing AT specs pairing with an agile expert
  2. Q3
    1. Pair with an Agile test expert learning how to do Agile exploratory testing
    2. Pair with a senior test expert learning to execute already defined Test Scenarios
      • Workflow
      • Persona-based
      • Soap Opera
Agile Developer Mid-journey
  1. Q1
    1. Read on advanced techniques
    2. Practice TDD pairing with experts and novices
    3. Help others learning TDD
  2. Q2
    1. Prototyping
      • Wireframes
      • Mock-ups
    2. ATDD + Test Automation
      1. Read intro book
      2. Guided by an expert, implement one automated test suite behind-the-GUI
      3. Experiment with different automation tools
      4. Work through-the-GUI
      5. Learn how to write AT specifications
      6. Use the automation tools beyond AT
  3. Q4
    1. Support an expert by providing application specific info
    2. Implement Q4 Testing for a simple low-risk case
  4. Q3
    1. Support role: Work along test experts in the team providing them with the support they need (i.e. white box testing design)

Learning Resources