8 ways to ease the transition from waterfall to agile

  March 20, 2017

The rise of smart devices and mobile applications have made software development approaches of the past unviable. While waterfall practices are a tried and true approach for many quality assurance teams, teams are increasingly seeking to leverage agile testing methodologies to speed up the process while also ensuring that quality remains top of mind.

Major differences between waterfall and agile mindsets have often been discussed as the major challenges that organizations will run into when transitioning. However, by understanding these characteristics, teams can better plan to support their members and successfully facilitate a shift to agile operations with limited difficulty. Let's look at six of the ways QA can ease its transition from waterfall to agile.

1. Train staff
Springing new ideas and practices on staff members is a recipe for disaster. Many professionals likely are accustomed to one way of working and shifting to agile practices without any type of guidance is likely to result in failure. 110 Consulting noted that hiring an expert in the agile methodology you choose will be essential to appropriately training staff. These sessions will help team members understand their roles in the system and ensure that their expectations match agile values. Organizations can also look into institutions that help teams adopt agile as well as books, blogs and seminars on the topic. Decision-makers have a plethora of options that will help boost their team's capabilities and provide the best training possible to support agile.

2.Leverage automation
Agile and automation go hand-in-hand, especially as stakeholders begin tightening project schedules while keeping their expectations high for deliverables. Scrum Alliance contributor Chandrashekhar Madabhavi suggested investing in automation processes and tools as they will significantly help reduce the time to market. These solutions also ensure that each project gets the attention it deserves and will be thoroughly evaluated before being deployed. Automation generates consistent workflows and eliminates most redundant efforts. In addition, automation increases visibility into the production domain, integrating business and production interests in a joint collaboration.

3. Emphasize change of thinking
Hanging onto legacy approaches can be the death of agile transitions. While organizations can utilize traditional examples to help staff make sense of their new practices, their old ways of completing tasks should ultimately be abandoned for complete agile operations. VenturePact noted that some processes can be tweaked to match agile values, while others may need to be given up for good. While this significant change will be a challenge for teams, by staying focused on the benefits of agile, it will be much easier to stay committed and ensure that the transition goes smoothly.

One declarative of the Agile Manifesto is people over process. Being involved in excessive procedure upon transitioning to Agile is a common, and can quagmire the Agile process. Even teams that have long-term experience with Agile can fall into this entanglement. Developers and engineers engaged in transitions to Agile must learn to extend their comfort level towards initiating and experiencing collaboration over strictly performed processes. You may balk at this Agile concept, understanding that developer and QA engineer training emphasize process. Detail and repeated processes powerfully contribute to the design, coding, and software testing of products. How can emphasis on process be a problem? Agile responds that the best software development happens through the flexibly coordinated minds of people focused on accomplishing the single goal of building a quality application.

4. Communicate regularly
When moving to agile, the need to communicate on a consistent basis remains a critical part of development and testing activities. Placing everyone together in one location to report on their progress will help leaders understand where pain points are emerging and will also foster an environment that creates the best solutions to these types of issues. In this environment it's also important to be ready to react quickly to any potential changes. A lack of communication can significantly hamper these initiatives and will ultimately lead to a product that doesn't fully meet stakeholder requirements. By establishing a clear line of knowledge sharing, teams will be able to keep up with adjustments and aid in project completion.

5. Foster collaboration
Along with better communication, teams must get used to working together with entities from whom they may have traditionally been siloed. TechTarget suggested that testers be included in development to gain a better understanding of the agile methodology and determine the appropriate levels of testing. Organizations can also look to engage customers in testing to ensure that requirements and functionality are up to standard. While accommodating this type of work may take time, encouraging the opportunity sooner will help ease the transition to Agile.

Through collaboration, Agile team members integrate ideas to produce the best overall manner of reaching the development goal. ‘Melding minds’ through collaborative integration encourages the ideas of team members to innovatively unite in concert, resulting in relevant, quality software produced through an increasingly smooth deployment. Hence, Agile team members deliver value to businesses.

6. Integrate tools
QA teams are only going to successfully transition to agile if they have the right tools on hand. Agile environments will benefit from test management software, for example, due to the fact that numerous users can work on tasks at once and see changes being made in real time. This ensures that teams can easily collaborate and are always on the same page. These types of solutions also provide QA with the functionality to support agile practices and leave their waterfall testing methods behind.

7. Stay Flexible

Flexibility is the key in agile development. Over-emphasizing procedure stifles creative channels. While minimizing the importance of process is ineffective in building a sound platform. The key is to formalize a development platform that facilitates innovation while equally ensuring performance. Development teams work together under consistent project management, the processes that encourage creative innovation and quality functionality reveal themselves through team interactions. Beginning with the least amount of process control you see to be required, then add more as situations and circumstances indicate. Strategically balancing process and innovation to effectively maneuver development through shifting circumstances and conditions will get you the most outstanding results.

8. Concentrate on the End-Product

At times, we all get distracted with recurrent deliverables, such as completing in-house ticket requests. While incremental obligations must be completed, the measure of completing them should be accommodated in a manner as to avoid delaying the software build. Ticketed issues may not require mapped-out workflows. Tickets may instead be completed during development down time, possibly while a QA test is running, or a stakeholder is evaluating a build. Utilizing occasions when the development workflow is temporarily ‘in limbo’ can more smoothly intersperse the two processes with few collisions with deployment deadlines. The incremental nature of agile workflows allows for such flexibility.

While the Agile methodology is more granularly intuitive than process oriented, responding to change over established procedure, planning is a central process in the concerted coordination of Agile practices. Agile teams plan current work items, or sprints. To facilitate decision making and reduce risk, teams also use product roadmaps to effectively interact with business stakeholders on development direction and progress. However, Agile emphasizes that contributing thought processes and ideas are more important than the process plan itself. As more is learned, updating the product backlog tends to alter the details or the direction of development. Using the assimilation of new knowledge and experience, Agile implements continuous planning to increase the prospect of successful deployment.

Development projects that use Agile tend to be more highly successful than those using waterfall. However, it is not always clear in which areas businesses should focus attention to introduce Agile in the best manner for maximized ROI. The transition requires organized discipline. Entrusting teams with decisions and empowering team members to make determinations requires courage and the targeting of key issues, strategic initiatives, purpose, and projected outcomes.

Prior to transitioning to Agile, engage an executive sponsor to provide project oversight. Empower the business to propel the transition, utilizing development and QA as IT resources. Commit to Agile methodologies with progressions towards transition that inspire enthusiasm and confidence. Acquire an accomplished agile coach, as well as an experienced Agile trainer. Start with small teams and projects to inspire early successes. Use agile as a technical solution to augment your business needs.

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