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Influences on regression testing strategies in agile software development environments

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Regression testing is a well-established practice in software development, but in recent years it has seen a change of status and emphasis with the increasing popularity of agile methods, which stress the central role of regression testing in maintaining software quality. The objectives of this article are to investigate regression testing strategies in agile development teams and identify the factors that can influence the adoption and implementation of this practice. We have used a mixed methods approach to our research, beginning with an analysis of the literature to identify research themes related to the adoption of regression testing techniques under agile methodologies, from which we developed an analytical framework for the study. This was followed by three exploratory case studies that we used to exercise the main elements of the framework, develop some key themes of interest, and devise a questionnaire for the final stage of the study, an on-line survey to explore the main issues identified in the case studies across different contexts. Within our specific sample, our results suggest that organizational maturity is a key factor in effective regression testing practices and that the adoption of such practices is helped by a coherent testing philosophy and change management processes. We also found that the return on investment in automated regression testing was positive for our respondents and that adopting these practices in the context of agile methods had been a relatively painless process for the organizations in our survey. We conclude that investing in regression testing tools and processes is likely to be beneficial for organizations. However, further work is needed in assessing how organizational culture impacts on the quality process and the financial outcomes for commercial software development organizations.

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Correspondence to David Parsons.

Appendix: Survey questions

Appendix: Survey questions

Question 1: What type(s) of software product(s) are being regression tested in your organization? (select all that apply)

  1. A.

    System software

  2. B.


  3. C.

    Application software (for in-house use)

  4. D.

    Application software (commercial off-the-shelf)

  5. E.

    Application software (for third-party clients)

  6. F.

    Other (please specify)

Question 2: What is the maturity of the development team, organization, or other relevant context within which regression testing takes place? These options are based on the 5 CMM levels of maturity from Initial (lowest) to Optimizing (highest). Select the highest level that is appropriate for your organization/team.

  1. A.

    Initial (ad hoc, chaotic)

  2. B.

    Managed (processes are planned and controlled)

  3. C.

    Defined (practices are standardized and embedded across the organization

  4. D.

    Quantitatively managed (performance data are gathered and analyzed)

  5. E.

    Optimizing (culture of continuous improvement)

Question 3: What level of regulatory compliance is required for your development context?

  1. A.

    Minimal or None (only general legal compliance is required)

  2. B.

    Limited (some external regulations have to be complied with but the overhead is small)

  3. C.

    Significant (there is significant regulatory compliance required that impacts on the development process)

  4. D.

    Major (regulatory compliance is a major concern and an essential aspect of the software)

The following questions were all free-text responses:

Question 4: What hardware configuration is used for regression testing in your organization?

Question 5: What software architecture is used for regression testing in your organization?

Question 6: How did your organization handle change and risk management when it introduced automated regression testing?

Question 7: How does your organization handle change and risk management in the on-going evolution of automated regression testing?

Question 8: What quality controls are in place for the test process within your organization?

Question 9: How would you characterize the organizational testing philosophy?

Question 10: What types of investment have been made by your organization in staff, training and infrastructure to support regression testing?

Question 11: Please provide any general thoughts that you have relating to how regression testing can be successfully introduced and maintained, in the context of different types organizations, teams, and products.

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Parsons, D., Susnjak, T. & Lange, M. Influences on regression testing strategies in agile software development environments. Software Qual J 22, 717–739 (2014).

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