It is a common mis-perception that agile methodologies view planning and documentation as dated, time-wasting practices that should be avoided. While it is true that the agile manifesto asks us to value response to change over adherence to (static) plans, and working code over comprehensive documentation, it does not ask us to push planning and documentation aside all together. Recently, I’ve encountered inadequate planning and under-documentation by agile teams in defining test strategy and test plans.

I became acutely aware of this deficiency during a recent engagement. It was a massive effort requiring a dozen teams spread across seven locations world-wide. While the individual teams were adopting SCRUM/XP practices and beginning to realize delivery benefits, the enterprise was suffering with serious integration issues, defects in high-risk areas and a general lack of cohesion with regard to test approach.

Upon inspection, I found several opportunities for improvement. The deficiency that struck me in particular, was the lack of a clear test strategy. Apparently, the QA team had consciously decided to eliminate a documented test strategy in an effort to “become agile”. While I understood the intent, this felt like a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The planning and written communication of the plan is not wasteful. In fact, they are necessary on complex initiatives.

After a few short, facilitated sessions we created a single poster that depicted most of the information you might see in a traditional test strategy (business risk areas, what to test/not to test, approach, tools, team skills and training required etc). These pictures were distributed, and helped ground the organization in the priorities and approach to ensuring quality.

As you move forward in your agile adoption, remember that some planning and documentation are necessary and the agile founders won’t disown you for it!

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