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Regression Testing in the Agile Universe

March 20, 2023

In 2023, “software is eating the world.” Software drives most companies today. This means that more and more companies are becoming agile—and so are the processes and methods by which these companies function. Most companies are on the lookout for methods that reduce their products’ time to market, which can be challenging for in-house teams such as testing teams. As a result, software-testing professionals need to curate a solid approach that lets them keep up with all the changes, updates, and operations.

In agile, regression testing can help teams focus on new functionalities, but also preserve the stability of each product increment and update. Teams use regression testing to ensure that tested software continues to perform well after every modification.

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However, regression testing has developed a reputation for being difficult to execute— especially in an agile environment that has no down sprints. In this exploratory article, I’ll attempt to cover the basics of regression testing in an agile environment. I’ll also discuss the challenges of regression testing and share strategies that help teams to overcome these challenges.

Understanding Regression Testing in an Agile Context

In an agile environment, testing needs to develop with every sprint. Testers must ensure that the new changes do not affect the existing functionality of an application. This type of testing is known as regression testing and ensures that the previous versions of features or functionalities continue to work effectively and changes do not introduce new bugs to the system.

Why Regression Testing Is Necessary for Agile

In agile, an application undergoes continuous changes and frequent build cycles. This makes regression testing essential in agile environments. Teams must employ regression tests from the onset of product development—whether to implement a small, localized change or a larger, global change. Testing professionals must ensure that new code does not conflict with older code.

Advantages of Regression Testing

In an agile environment, regression testing is a crucial aspect of software testing. Let’s consider four benefits of regression testing, as follows:

  1. Test coverage—Regression testing ensures the most test coverage and aims to execute test cases for all the features of an application.
  2. Resolution of defects—Regression testing lets teams discover defects in the software in advance. It helps developers to resolve these defects and prevents incidents during production.
  3. Delivery of high-quality software—Regression testing helps ensure the delivery of high-quality software by safeguarding system stability— even when you’ve added new features and bug fixes to an application.
  4. Cost-effectiveness—Automating regression tests benefits companies and reduces costs by minimizing team size. Resources can focus on more crucial tasks. For example, you won’t need to create a new test suite for an upcoming sprint cycle. The regression test suite from previous cycles is readily available for the test- execution phase. This kind of testing generates a high return on investment (ROI). It is also less time-consuming because all testing is executed via automated tests.

Where Does Regression Testing Fail and How Can You Remedy Failures?

In agile, testing teams perform regression testing to ensure adherence to quality standards. Many challenges can make this process difficult for agile teams.

1. The Scale of Regression Testing

Regression-test growth is a common challenge in agile environments because the scale of the regression testing keeps increasing with each sprint. On large projects, regression tests can quickly become unmanageable.

How to Deal with This Issue

Using automation can be a good strategy to ensure that regression testing is manageable at a large scale. Automating redundant tasks that take up too much time can save teams the hassle of managing every task manually. Teams can also set up frequent review tests to eliminate obsolete and ineffective test methods from the process. They can also do away with traditional test-last tools with playback features until functionality is ready.

2. Need for Special Testing Skills

As a project advances, teams need more specific and specialized testing skills. These become essential when integration and performance testing are necessary.

How to Deal with This Issue

Teams should leverage testing specialists, whether from within the team or other parts of the company. You can also seek external help from specialists or agencies that can gather and plan testing requirements. A team must include a specialized tester from the absolute beginning—or at least have one in the organization who can help whenever necessary.

3. Changes in Requirements

When handling a large project with multiple teams and sprints working toward one end goal, changes tend to be very common. Changes in requirements usually come from management and customers.

Sometimes changes go beyond the requirements and can be so volatile that an entire iteration could get wiped out. This poses a serious risk to any test strategy, including automated ones. Plus, time constraints can make such changes more challenging for agile organizations.

How to Deal with This Issue

The biggest benefit of regression testing in an agile environment is that it empowers companies with the ability to get fast feedback about the latest build when changes are frequent. The best way to deal with this problem is to integrate the regression suite into the release cycle, which helps you to manage time constraints as well. This approach encourages everyone on the team to keep their test suites running as smoothly as possible. Everyone would be affected equally by an out-of-date test suite.

4. Traditional Automated Testing Tools Don’t Work in an Agile Environment

With traditional tools, teams need to wait until the functionality is ready to employ record-and-playback features. On large-scale projects in an agile environment with time constraints, traditional automated tools often fail.

How to Deal with This Issue

The only solution to this problem is finding the right balance between automated and manual testing tools. In general, automation and regression testing go hand in hand because regression tests run frequently and tend to be repetitive.

However, you cannot automate all the regression tests. If a feature is in the beta stage, it is not stable enough for automation and all the frequent changes. Plus, if an application needs human interpretation, you’ll need to hand that off to human testers.

5. Communication Hurdles

Communication is a common problem when more than one team is involved. The testing team, business analysts, UX professionals, developers, and stakeholders need to collaborate and communicate effectively as they work toward a single goal.

How to Deal with This Issue

You must adopt an open-door communication culture throughout the organization. Ensure that everyone has a common understanding of all changes to the product, features, and new updates. Ensure that everyone aligns on the new regression tests, the ongoing changes, and what changes need to be closely tested.

6. Test-Case Maintenance

The more test cases that you automate, the more you can verify the quality of existing functionalities. Plus you’ll need to increase your test-case maintenance efforts. Two issues can arise in relation to test-case maintenance, as follows:

  • If your test cases are loosely coupled with the product’s functionality, they may pass even when issues exist.
  • On the other hand, if your test cases are too rigid, you’ll end up updating them with every small change to the system.

How to Deal with This Issue

A good way to deal with this problem is to choose an automation tool that minimizes false failures. A false failure occurs when a test fails because of an error in the test rather than in the application.

For example, when a user-interface (UI) change breaks a test, it will continue failing unless you refactor the test to match the new UI. If you neglect to fix broken tests, your test suite will become obsolete and start returning more and more failures. This is dangerous because, if your regression suite becomes outdated, your team will lose faith in it and may stop using it altogether. This is why you must ensure that the tool you choose does not break your processes or that they are easy to fix if it does.

Final Thoughts

In an agile world, regression testing is critical to maintaining crucial functionalities of your systems and keeping them up and running despite iteration. Ensure that you choose an automation tool that is compatible with agile development. These should be tools that let anyone on the team build, run, interpret, and fix automated regression tests for the applications under development. Ensure that regression testing doesn’t become a bottleneck and slow down your sprints. 

Content Writer at Koru UX Design

Pune, Maharashtra, India

Sanjoli JainSanjoli graduated with a degree in electronics and communications.¬†She loves discussing technology and its ability to shape our everyday experiences. Her goal is to enable her readers to develop a coherent understanding of technology.  Read More

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