How Risk-Based Testing Benefits Agile Development

Modern software shops are adopting Agile development practices with vigor. An HP survey of more than 600 development and IT pros found that a majority described their company as either “pure Agile” or “leaning towards Agile.”  Development teams like Agile because it’s fast-moving, flexible and delivers higher quality products attuned to customer and market needs.

The premium Agile places upon frequent releases and change risks producing lower-quality software. This is where testing becomes imperative. Yet testing shouldn’t slow things down needlessly, nor introduce rigid processes on teams—that goes against Agile thinking and values. For these reasons, risk-based testing is a great fit for Agile projects and teams. Quite simply, it cuts the fluff out of testing.

Risk-based testing optimizes testing by prioritizing test cases based on what matters most. The idea is to eliminate the risks that could have the most negative impact on users and revenues if released into production.

Risk-based testing starts as a collaborative effort involving developers and business experts. First, they assess and calculate risk levels for the performance of individual features of the application. Then they map over and prioritize test cases based on high to low risk. Risk levels are defined through analyzing several measures relating to business criticality and the probability of failure. Testers tackle the high-risk scenarios first; low-risk tests can be skipped when time and budget constraints demand.

This approach is okay with most Agile experts. Agile projects aren’t designed to create perfect software, but software that is good enough to deliver benefits to users and work reliably without critical problems. Risk-based testing avoids the common occurrence of over-testing, which drags down projects and often doesn’t provide real-world benefit.

Other benefits of risk-based testing to Agile projects include:

  • Ability to properly balance speed with quality under pressure. Risk-based testing provides quality assurance teams with a sensible framework for setting priorities when testing during tight time frames.
  • Alignment with Agile’s focus on business alignment. Testers can apply a risk-based analysis during each sprint, identifying the high-risk user stories to test first.
  • Cost containment. Agile’s frequent release cycle means that developers and testers alike must be extremely efficient with their time. Risk-based testing is a way to optimize precious technical resources based on the top features and functions from a quality and usability perspective.
  • Improved strategy. Risk-based analysis may crystallize the development focus for each sprint, with a heightened awareness of the business and technical requirements for success.

To learn more about how risk-based testing works and its advantages, download our white paper.

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