The benefits of exploratory testing in agile environments

  May 09, 2018

Agile software development places significant value on faster processes and better quality outcomes, but there are a lot of different techniques that teams can leverage to achieve these goals. For many, automation integration has become a major priority, but there are a number of benefits to be seen from manual operations like exploratory testing. Let's take a look at what advantages exploratory testing can bring to agile environments:

Real-time decision-making

One of the biggest requirements in agile is the ability to react quickly to changes and adapt accordingly in order to create the best projects possible. Exploratory testing can help teams achieve this goal. TechTarget contributor Michael Kelly noted that exploratory testing enables developers and quality assurance professionals to continuously gain feedback, which will be used to extend and refine their testing approaches. Using exploratory tools, teams will be able to work quickly and with confidence, which is critical to meeting agile schedule pressures.

"Above all, they are continually focused on improving their ability to interact with the software they test: understanding its business purpose, the technology and how it's configured, and establishing procedures for better control of experimental conditions," Kelly wrote. "They collect different kinds of data and look at different aspects of the software than the programming staff might."

Easy to optimize

Software development is already a complex area to pursue, but agile testing doesn't have to add to the complications. In fact, it can be fairly easy to optimize exploratory efforts when done appropriately. Quick Software Testing contributor Sanjay Zalavadia noted that specific tasks can be assigned to each team member, placing responsibility on each individual to perform up to expectations. If leaders prefer to be more active, they could join in the exploratory testing to better engage with co-workers and receive real-time progress updates. No matter what path you decide to go down, it should be a method that makes sense for your team and is easy to facilitate given the resources that are available.

"QA officials should take whichever approach best fits their managerial style and their work schedules," Zalavadia wrote. "By properly integrating exploratory testing, evaluation teams can provide real-time updates to their agile development counterparts."

Delves where automation cannot

While automation can provide a way to execute repetitive test cases, not everything should be automated - and for good reason. Computers can easily find common errors in the code that human eyes may simply glaze over, but cannot determine if the app will actually function the way a user wants. Software can't tell if the user interface is hard to navigate, or unappealing to look at. This is where manual exploratory testing comes in to provide QA management and well-needed insight. SiliconIndia contributor Mukesh Sharma noted that exploratory testing not only enables teams to determine the cause of absent detailed specifications, but encourages testers to be more creative in their daily operations. These two characteristics will give teams a better understanding of the product as well as help create quality apps from the initial release.

"Exploratory testing encourages the tester to be creative in his/her own sphere, rather than be bogged by mundane testing focused around designed test cases trying to execute 'x' number of tests per day," Sharma wrote. "Such creativity promotes better end user role play and more realistic bugs rather than bugs that the team can afford to live with."

Exploratory testing is still very much an asset to agile environments and can provide a number of benefits. By understanding the advantages of this approach and using a robust test management software, QA teams can leverage it effectively for their own success in agile development process.