Testing Throughout the Lifecycle
Figure 1 presents a high-level view of the agile lifecycle for the purpose of testing (see "Initiating an Agile Project" at www.ddj.com/dept/architect/188700850 for details). Agile projects go through an often short Initiation phase (Iteration 0) where we set the foundation for the project; a Construction phase where we develop the system in an evolutionary (iterative and incremental) manner; an End Game phase where we transition our system into production; and a Production phase where we operate the system and support users. Don't fear the serial boogeyman: The Initiation phase is not a requirements phase, nor is the End Game a testing phase.
Testing activities vary throughout the lifecycle. During Iteration 0, you perform initial setup tasks. This includes identifying the people who will be on the external "investigative" testing team, identifying and potentially installing your testing tools, and starting to schedule scarce resources such as a usability-testing lab if required. If your project has a deadline, you likely want to identify the date into which your project must enter the End Game. The good news is that you'll discover that increased testing during construction iterations enables you to do less testing during the End Game.
A significant amount of testing occurs during construction iterationsremember, agilists test often, test early, and usually test first. This is confirmatory testing against the stakeholder's current intent and is typically milestone-based at the unit level. This is a great start, but it's not the entire testing picture (which is why we also need investigative testing that is risk-based at more of an integration level). Regardless of the style, your true goal should be to test, not to plan to test, and certainly not to write comprehensive documentation about how you intend to hopefully test at some point. Agilists still do planning, and we still write documentation, but our focus is on high-value activities such as actual testing.
During the End Game, you may be required to perform final testing efforts for the release, including full system and acceptance testing. This is true if you are legislated to do so (common in life-critical situations such as medical software development) or if your organization has defined service-level agreements with customers who require it. Luckily, if you've tested effectively during the construction iterations, your final testing efforts will prove to be straightforward and quick. If you're counting on doing any form of "serious testing" during the End Game, then you're likely in trouble because your team won't have sufficient time to act on any defects that you do find.