Exploratory Testing: Manual Testing for the Agile Age

Software testing 101

Exploratory Testing: Manual Testing for the Agile Age

There are many who have claimed that Agile has killed manual testing. That’s not (quite) true. 

It is far more accurate to say that Agile has forced software testing to evolve, just like it has forced software development to evolve. The fast feedback loops, accelerated product iterations, and demands of Agile continuous delivery have necessitated a push towards automated continuous testing. Executing a test manually that could easily be automated is simply a waste of valuable time and resources. 

This doesn’t mean however, that manual testing is dead. Instead, manual testing is transforming more and more into exploratory testing; a process of testing that includes learning a product, designing test cases, executing test cases and interpreting test results at the same time.

Exploratory testing is manual testing’s answer to Agile. There are several reasons Agile teams are enthusiastically adopting and integrating exploratory testing into their day-to-day work. 

1. Exploratory Testing helps you expose defects that automated and manual testing miss

By scouting and exploring new product features from various perspectives, exploratory testing has the power to quickly expose defects that would be missed by scripted testing.  

Even if exhaustive automated testing was possible (which it’s not in compressed Agile sprints), the types of defects discovered in exploratory testing still wouldn’t be found. To put it simply, scripted manual or automated testing helps you check if expected paths are free of predictable issues. Exploratory testing helps you discover what dangers might be lurking beyond the primary paths, including in territory that’s not accessible to test automation.

2. Exploratory Testing helps many different team members collaborate to expose more types of defects

Exploratory testing has the power to bring a together diverse group of people, ranging from developers and business analysts, to technical writers and more, to contribute to the testing of a feature or product. Since no specialized test automation or scripting knowledge is required to conduct exploratory testing, each of these people can bring their different specialties and perspectives to the table. 

With a larger and more diverse group examining the application, you can expose a broader variety of defects and reduce the risk that a critical defect goes unnoticed. There’s never enough time or resources to test absolutely everything. However, if you perform exploratory testing from many different perspectives, you can get more risk reduction from whatever time and resources you can allocate to testing.

3. Exploratory Testing lets you find functional defects when automated testing is not (yet) viable

There are situations where automated testing isn’t feasible or the smartest testing approach. In these situations, exploratory testing is perfect for performing a quick sanity check on new functionalities and their impact across an application. If you use an exploratory testing tool to automatically record and document your efforts, any defects found can easily be reproduced later on. 

Exploratory testing is not a substitute for automated testing. You still need an automated regression test suite to determine if the changes you’ve made compromise your existing functionality. Exploratory testing can, however, go further beyond your automated tests to uncover defects that would not have been discovered otherwise. 

Paired with automated testing, exploratory testing is the future of manual testing for Agile teams.

Exploratory Testing for Agile

Want to learn more about how exploratory testing removes testing bottlenecks for agile teams – and how to get started? Watch the on-demand webinar Transform Your Agile Processes with a New Approach to Exploratory Testing

You’ll learn how to:

  • Introduce exploratory testing into agile sprints and continuous delivery processes
  • Apply exploratory testing in a way that complements and accelerates your existing testing strategy
  • Choose among exploratory testing strategies (session-based, tour-based, polychrome, etc.)
  • Plan and coordinate exploratory testing involving a variety of team member perspectives

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