The Benefits of Exploratory Testing in Agile Environments

  May 03, 2024

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 several 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.  

While many software quality testing methods follow a structured path, they often overlook edge cases, which User Acceptance Testing (UAT) uncovers by examining user personas. In contrast, exploratory testing, characterized by its random or unstructured nature, can unveil bugs that might evade detection in the structured testing phase.

“With exploratory testing, testers can play around with a user story that follows a certain sequence. Testers can annotate defects, add assertions and voice memos, and create documentation on the fly. This is how a user story is converted into a test case. This information can also be used for QA”, wrote Deepak Parmar, Head of Marketing and Partnerships at QMetry.

Simply put, test execution happens without the need for formally outlining test steps. The exploratory testing tool acts as a gateway to automation by organizing and documenting findings automatically. No structural rigidity encourages experimentation, creativity and discovery within the teams. The almost instantaneous nature of feedback helps close the gaps between testers and developers, allowing teams to work faster, swiftly adjust to changes and maintain an agile workflow, noted Deepak Parmar.  

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.  

"Exploratory testing encourages the tester to be creative in his/her own sphere, rather than be bogged by mundane testing focused on designed test cases trying to execute 'x' number of tests per day," SiliconIndia contributor Mukesh 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.".  

Leveraging exploratory tests not only provides teams with a deeper understanding of the product, but also plays a vital role in enhancing user experience. By putting themselves in the shoes of end-users and simulating real-world scenarios, testers uncover usability challenges and unexpected behaviors that could impact user satisfaction. While Agile development encourages you to be more customer focused, exploratory testing is the first type of test that will reveal to you new customer experiences.

AI in Testing: Enhancing Quality Assurance through Innovation

When discussing automation, we cannot overlook the dynamic landscape of today, where AI is revolutionising the tech industry. The fusion of AI and exploratory testing is igniting curiosity and sparking speculation. While some contemplate the potential for AI to automate QA roles, the truth is much more nuanced. AI has the power to actually amplify the opportunities for exploratory testing, serving as a powerful tool for QA specialists to uncover hidden depths and explore uncharted territories within the product.

For instance, AI makes exploratory testing more efficient by automating test case creation and execution. It also improves risk analysis, identifying complex bugs that might slip past manual methods. Yet, the crux of the matter lies in maintaining the quality of auto-generated tests – a task that necessitates the expertise of QA professionals. While AI holds immense promise, it's essential to acknowledge its current limitations. It's a valuable asset in testing, no doubt, but it still requires refinement and human oversight to reach its full potential.  

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.

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