Continuous self development

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Continuous self development

Although the mainstream agile community doesn't like talking about this much, the reality is that this phase can last anywhere from several hours to several weeks depending on the nature of the project and the culture of your organization.

From the point of view of testing the main tasks are to organize how you will approach testing and start setting up your testing environment if it doesn't already exist. During this phase of your project you will be doing initial requirements envisioning as described earlier and architecture envisioning.

As the result of that effort you should gain a better understanding of the scope, whether your project must comply to external regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley act or the FDA's CFR 21 Part 11 guidelines, and potentially some some high-level acceptance criteria for your system -- all of this is important information which should help you to decide how much testing you will need to do.

It is important to remember that one process size does not fit all, and that different project teams will have different approaches to testing because they find themselves in different Continuous self development -- the more complex the situation, the more complex the approach to testing amongst other things.

Teams finding themselves in simple situations may find that a " whole team " approach to testing will be sufficient, whereas teams in more complex situations will also find that they need an independent test team working in parallel to the development team.

Regardless, there's always going to be some effort setting up your test environment. To successfully deliver a working system on a regular basis, the team will need to include people with analysis skills, design skills, programming skills, leadership skills, and yes, even people with testing skills.

Obviously this isn't a complete list of skills required by the team, nor does it imply that everyone on the team has all of these skills. Furthermore, everyone on an agile team contributes in any way that they can, thereby increasing the overall productivity of the team.

This strategy is called "whole team". Agile teams are moving away from the traditional approach where someone has a single specialty that they focus on -- for example Sally Continuous self development does programming, Sanjiv just does architecture, and John just does testing -- to an approach where people strive to become generalizing specialists with a wider range of skills.

So, Sally, Sanjiv, and John will all be willing to be involved with programming, architecture, and testing activities and more importantly will be willing to work together and to learn from one another to become better over time.

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Sally's strengths may still lie in programming, Sanjiv's in architecture, and John's in testing, but that won't be the only things that they'll do on the agile team.

If Sally, Sanjiv, and John are new to agile and are currently only specialists that's ok, by adopting non-solo development practices and working in short feedback cycles they will quickly pick up new skills from their teammates and transfer their existing skills to their teammates too. This approach can be significantly different than what traditional teams are used to.

On traditional teams it is common for programmers specialists to write code and then "throw it over the wall" to testers also specialists who then test it an report suspected defects back to the programmers. Although better than no testing at all, this often proves to be a costly and time consuming strategy due to the hand-offs between the two groups of specialists.

On agile teams programmers and testers work side-by-side, and over time the distinction between these two roles blur into the single role of developer. An interesting philosophy in the agile community is that real IT professionals should validate their own work to the best of their ability, and to strive to get better at doing so over time.

The whole team strategy isn't perfect, and there are several potential problems: Whole teams, just like any other type of team, can suffer from what's known as group think.

The basic issue is that because members of the team are working closely together, something that agile teams strive to do, they begin to think alike and as a result will become blind to some problems that they face. For example, the system that your team is working on could have some significant usability problems in it but nobody on the team is aware of them because everyone believes that the existing UI stratey is an effective approach and believes that everyone else believes this too.

The team may not actually have the skills it needs. It's pretty easy to declare that you're following the whole team strategy but not so easy to actually do so sometimes.

Continuous self development

Some people may overestimate their skills, or underestimate what skills are actually needed, and thereby put the team at risk. For example, a common weakness amongst programmers is database design skills due to lack of training in such skills, over specialization within organizations where "data professionals" focus on data skills and programmers do not, and a cultural impedance mismatch between developers and data professionals which makes it difficult to pick up data skills.

Worse yet, database encapsulation strategies such as object-relational mapping frameworks motivate these "data-challenged" programmers to believe that they don't need to know anything about database design because they've encapsulated access to it.

So, the individual team members believe that they have the skills to get the job done yet in fact they do not, and in this case the system will suffer because the team doesn't have the skills to design and use the database appropriately.

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Or, in the case of the usability problem mentioned in the previous point, the usability problem may exist because nobody on the team has sufficient usability skills to begin with.

The team may not even know what skills are needed. Even worse, the team may be oblivious to what skills are actually needed.

For example, the system could have some very significant security requirements but if the team didn't know that security was likely to be a concern then they could miss those requirements completely, or misunderstand them, and inadvertently put the project at risk.

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Luckily the benefits of the whole team approach tend to far outweigh the potential problems. First, whole team appears to increase overall productivity by reducing and often reducing or even eliminating the wait time between activities.

Second, there is less need for paperwork such as detailed test plans due to the lack of hand-offs between separate teams.

Third, programmers quickly start to learn testing and quality skills from the testers and as a result do better work to begin with -- when the developer knows that they'll be actively involved with the testing effort they are more motivated to write high-quality, testable code to begin with.Self-Employment & Entrepreneurship.

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Continuous self development

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