Wednesday, January 04, 2012

31 Days of Testing—Day 23: Acceptance Tests & Criteria in the Real World

UPDATED: I goofed and Andy caught it, thankfully. They’re using Watir, not WatiN in their work. I knew that and still fat-fingered the post. Fixed!

Index to all posts in this series is here!

Today’s post is by Andrew Vida, another smart pal in the Heartland region. I’ve chatted with Andy a number of times at various conferences, and I’ve enjoyed hearing about the work he and Bramha Ghosh do at Grange Insurance in Columbus, OH.

We three have spent a pretty good amount of time moaning about our shared pain in getting great, reliable, valuable functional test suites in place. Andy and Bramha are working in Ruby and Watir, but their issues are my issues are the same issues seen in any technology: dealing with data, environments, timing, and of course the inevitable hardest part: “soft” problems in ensuring clarity of communication between folks on the project team.

Andy offered up the following article for my series based on the work they’ve done trying to get a smooth flow around well-defined acceptance criteria. This is a perfect follow on to yesterday’s post by Jon Kruger!

Using Acceptance Tests to Define Done

Have you ever been on a team and was asked "What is the definition of done?"  You respond by saying, "When all of your automated tests pass, and there are no bugs, then you have satisfied the acceptance criteria.  Done!"  Which then is responded to by "Well, how do I define the acceptance criteria?" Good question!

Understanding the Feature

First things first - you have to understand what feature you'll be building. Building the right product and building the product right takes communication and collaboration between your product owner and your team.

The reason for all of the collaboration is that we're trying to build a shared understanding of what needs to be done and also produce examples that are easy to maintain. There are many ways to work collaboratively and ultimately, you have to decide what works best for your team.

The team I'm currently on has found that smaller workshops work best for us. Those workshops, otherwise known as "Three Amigos", include a business analyst, a developer and a tester who share a similar understanding of the domain.

Lets hypothetically say you're discussing a shopping cart feature for your site.  Start by defining the goals of this feature. By starting with the goal, you'll let everyone know why they're spending their time on implementing the feature.  If you can't come up with a good reason why, then maybe the product owner is wasting everyone's time. 

We've used the Feature Injection template from Chris Matts and Liz Keogh to help us successfully describe why:

As a <type of stakeholder>

     I want <a feature>

So that <I can meet some goal>

Here's our feature description:

As an online shopper
I want to add items to my shopping cart
So that I can purchase them

Determining Acceptance Criteria

Next, your team needs to determine what the system needs to do to meet those goals-the Acceptance Criteria.

In your Three Amigos meeting, be sure to ask questions to clear up assumptions, such as "Are there any products that cannot be purchased online?" or "Does the shopper need to be authenticated to purchase?”

Remember, the scope of feature should be high level as we only want to identify what the application needs to do and not how it's implemented. Leave that part to the people that know how to design software. It was determined by the team that the following are in scope:

  • Only authenticated shoppers can add items to the shopping cart.
  • Cannot add refrigerators to shopping cart.
  • Only 25 items can be added.
  • Shopper can remove items from shopping cart.
  • Shopper can change quantity of items after adding it to the cart.

Hey, now we have some acceptance criteria!

Acceptance Criteria lead to Acceptance Tests

We've used communication and collaboration to determine why a feature is necessary and what the system needs to do to at a high level, so now we can come up with some examples to test our acceptance criteria.

To do this, we'll write some Cucumber scenarios.  We've chosen Cucumber for all of the reasons mentioned in Tim Wingfield's post on Day 15. If you haven't read it, go back and check it out.  It's an excellent post on the benefits of employing Cucumber.

Here are a few scenarios that were created:

Given the shopper is a guest
When they try to add an item to their shopping cart
Then they will receive the error "Only authenticated shoppers can add items to their shopping cart."
Given an authenticated shopper
When they click the "Add Item to Cart" button
Then they will have an item in their shopping cart
Given an authenticated shopper with an item in their shopping cart
When they click the "Remove Item" button
Then that item is no longer in their shopping cart

These are only a few of the examples that were developed as part of the Three Amigos meeting.  On our team, the output of the Three Amigos is a Cucumber feature file.  We now have a shared understanding and a definition of done!  We can pass on our failing acceptance tests to the Dev team to begin their work.  They will begin by creating failing unit tests and writing enough code to make them pass.  Once they are passing, they can then run the acceptance tests.  Once those are passing then the feature is complete.  We're done!  Those acceptance tests will be added to the regression suite to be ran anytime to ensure that the feature remains done.  Now the feature can be demonstrated to the product owner at the next review. 

What we've just done is taken a trip around the Acceptance Test Driven Development cycle.  Just remember, it's not about the tools or the technology, but rather the communication and collaboration.  Our ultimate goal is to deliver high quality software that functions as the product owner intended.  By including QA in the entire process, we can eliminate many of the problems that plague us earlier so that they don't make it to production.  Quality is not just a QA function, it's a team function.

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