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Review the typical roles QA testers interact with and how important effective collaboration is for testing quality.

Working within a team is always a challenge. Agile teams are no different. The Agile methodology has many advantages for software development because it breaks projects into smaller parts, allows for more active customer feedback throughout the project, and enables iterative releases for faster deliveries.

An Agile team begs for innovative team member input, which improves application quality and overall job satisfaction. Collaboration and emotional intelligence skills become critical for all team members to produce high-quality work repeatedly within often rapid development and test cycles.

Key Takeaways

  • What are typical Agile development team roles?
  • Discover how QA testing work flows across an Agile development team.
  • Learn the importance of collaborative working for quality QA testing.
  • Find out how to get along professionally with team members.

This guide reviews the typical roles QA testers interact with and how important effective collaboration is for testing quality.

Agile Development Team Roles

There’s no one arrangement of roles within an Agile team. The team structure depends on the organization’s implementation of software development and Agile. In many teams, QA testers only need to focus on working with developers and a list of requirements. In other teams, the QA tester may also need to heavily interact with the Product team which includes Product Managers, Designers, UI/UX and occasionally Business Analysts.

Typical Agile development team roles include:

  • Product Managers
  • Designers
  • UX
  • Business Analysts
  • Scrum Master
  • Developer
  • Tester
  • Operations

Other important outlying team roles may include:

  • Technical Documentation
  • Customer Support

QA Workflow Across an Agile Development Team

When QA testers need to collaborate with Product team members, it’s for the single-minded purpose of getting accurate and detailed requirements or acceptance criteria. Additionally, QA testers may need to confer with designers to ensure the tested product meets the latest mockups for design including branding, coloring and accessibility options. Business Analysts may be the ones creating user stories, so working with them is crucial to ensuring QA testers have testable information in each task.

The role of Scrum Master may be played by a single person across multiple teams or a single team. Most often the Scrum Master performs duties similar to a project manager but with a dedicated focus on coaching team members in Agile processes as well as keeping the team on track for delivery. Most Scrum Masters perform technical or strategic management tasks that eliminate blockers for Agile teams to move work forward. QA Analysts and Scrum Masters don’t often interact outside of ensuring work is progressing without interruption.

Developers and testers must collaborate. Without a positive working relationship with development, QA testers can find themselves outside the information loop. QA testers need to attempt to build a working relationship with their development team. That said, relationships cannot be forced but require respect and work to achieve a middle ground. Egos and an imbalanced power dynamic naturally exist between creators (developers) and those whose job it is to verify the creator’s work.

As a QA tester, remember to approach each developer as an individual with specific communication preferences. Work to accommodate all the preferences you can within your abilities. Be forthright and professionally assertive but try not to start a war. War within a team is a no-win situation and the only ones who pay are the customer and the organization. Developers are essential to testing, especially for highly complex applications and backend, API, and connectivity-related testing tasks.

QA Testing & Collaborative Working

Collaborative working relationships start when an Agile team is formed. Once a team begins to form, they establish working roles, expectations and relationships almost naturally. The product team tends to start the process when they create user stories and the team reviews them for accuracy, technical design options and testability. The tasks of backlog grooming and reviewing user story criteria are excellent moments where QA testers can make their impact felt.

Be alert and actively participate in design and user story reviews. Ask questions when acceptance criteria or application functions are not clearly explained. The less information testers have to piece together on their own, the better the quality of the testing effort. It’s a great time to take advantage of building effective working relationships. Be prepared, know your stuff and ask questions.

QA testers who have done their work, understand the requirements and actively participate build both respect and trust. Granted, it takes a while in many teams, but do the work and speak up when you have questions and eventually team collaboration grows.

Why bother? Because you need the rest of the team to answer questions and provide testing support if needed. For example, say you need to test a backend API. The developer(s) who designed the API is a great resource to get information on how it works, the data it uses, what errors it handles and how to use tools for testing APIs.

Developers can be a great source for learning technical details. Whether you are helping them out by reviewing code or learning how to execute builds or unit tests—they are a great source, when willing, to learn from. Why? They know more about tools around coding, parsing code and performing quick unit tests. Also, they use tools to mock API and database connections until the actual connection is ready. All good to know for added flexibility and expansion of software testing. The more you know, the more dangerous a tester you can be! Dangerous as in a highly effective pre-release defect finding machine.

It’s good practice to not abuse your resources. For example, don’t assume developers or product team members are there only to answer your questions. Make sure as a QA tester you search for the information from other resources first and try things out. Then, if you cannot figure it out or have questions, utilize your team members. Utilize, but don’t take advantage or start by demanding assistance.

Getting Along Professionally with Team Members

Being a collaborative team member is challenging. Simply put, it’s not easy getting along with a group of people with varying personalities, work ethics and communication styles. Good team members are professionally assertive but not domineering. Respect each other’s ideas even when you think they’re wrong. Discuss options, designs and questions. The discussion is where innovation happens.

Good collaborative team members:

  • Understand how to respect others’ opinions
  • Listen to other opinions
  • Give respectful opinions on the subject not the person
  • Provide honest and professional input
  • Are accountable for their work and open to discussion
  • Practice shared learning
  • Show interest in other job tasks
  • Practice transparency and flexibility in work practices

Transparency and flexibility simply mean honesty and the willingness to adapt to situations—this is how trust is built within teams over time. Flexible team members don’t stubbornly refuse to do work outside their roles. Instead, they learn other roles and responsibilities and perform them well when called upon to assist. Good team members share information willingly with anyone on the team regardless of role.

As QA testers, you’ll work within a diverse team with varying roles. Be accountable and respectful, and treat coworkers as team members rather than adversaries to overcome. QA testers need team members as resources to help ensure applications are tested with high quality. The more collaborative a team, the higher the level of new and innovative creation and productivity.

Understand that testers must be accountable and actionable. Don’t sit back and wait for answers—pursue them, but pursue them respectfully. Developing effective working relationships with an Agile team is critical to ensure the application is of the highest quality possible for end-user satisfaction.

About the Author

Amy Reichert

A QA test professional with 23+ years of QA testing experience within a variety of software development teams, Amy Reichert has extensive experience in QA process development & planning, team leadership/management, and QA project management.  She has worked on multiple types of software development methodologies including waterfall, agile, scrum, kanban and customized combinations. Amy enjoys continuing to improve her software testing craft by researching and writing on a variety of related topics. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, cat management and the outdoors.


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