What is BDD and why is it needed? Before we answer this question, let’s understand a little more about agile.
In Q2 2020, McKinsey exhibited how organizations that adopted agile development methodologies before the pandemic were better equipped to handle the COVID crisis.
93% of these companies reported relatively high customer satisfaction and operational performance amidst the pandemic. 76% also affirmed better employee engagement.
Agile, DevOps, Lean, and other modern methodologies have become the norm for identifying and fixing issues faster and more efficiently. With the current pace of technological development and innovation, businesses can’t afford to operate under a traditional waterfall model. However, adopting such methodologies has its logistical challenges, especially when there is no clear definition of what they are.
A recent analysis by Digital.ai has outlined “inconsistencies in processes and practices, cultural clashes, resistance to change” as common hurdles to overcome when transitioning to these methodologies.
Favorably, the answer to these challenges lies in the implementation of behavior-driven development (BDD). This agile software development process/model originated in the early 00s – thanks to Dan North.
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An Overview of BDD
BDD is a user-driven development process that focuses on the collaboration between business and technical stakeholders.
The primary goals of BDD are to:
- Deliver software oriented toward solving business problems
- Align cross-functional teams, who often have different perspectives
- Introduce the use of a shared vocabulary (i.e., a common language)
- Promote a thorough understanding of the software’s acceptance criteria
- Expand the development of automated tests with continuous improvement.
Thus, BDD test entails having profound conversations pertaining to the system’s behavior — i.e., how a user will interact with it and how it will behave in different scenarios. Several automated tests are generated and executed based on these conversations to ensure the system acts per the acceptance criteria.
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An Example of BDD in Action
Let’s assume a scenario for the development of a B2C web application.
The Traditional Process
- The product owner lets the idea known to the business analyst.
- The business analyst develops the idea into a formal requirements document, or “user story.”
- The developer picks up the user story, converts the requirements into a full-fledged technological schematic, and begins coding.
- The tester picks up the user story, converts it into a test plan, and then begins executing the tests against the developer’s code (i.e., the developed feature).
- The technical writer converts the test results into technical documentation.
Pitfalls? There’s a probability of a massive gap between the business requirements and the final approved code. Additionally, most of the tests may not prove to be comprehensive as they focus on narrow scenarios and don’t account for corner cases.
The BDD Process
- The product owner and business analyst work together to formulate the feature’s requirements. They go through requirements and fill in the blanks regarding the envisioned behavior.
- The business analyst, developer, and tester come together to define the acceptance criteria. This criterion is laid out in the form of Gherkin statements, which describe each scenario as a feature/behavior pair.
- The developer converts the Gherkin statements into automated tests that can be executed against the system. The result is a concise, comprehensive test suite.
- The tester builds on these automated tests to perform exploratory testing that also focuses on the feature’s edge cases.
- The technical writer converts the test results into a well-documented and thorough project artifact.
With BDD, the application stands a much better chance of being perfectly integrated with the business requirements.
The Many Benefits of BDD
As we’ve seen above, BDD is the ideal solution for addressing the challenges associated with transitioning to and running an agile development model. To that end, the benefits of BDD include:
Because BDD is a user-centric process, it automatically leads to a reduction in the waste associated with traditional methodologies.
BDD allows developers to focus their efforts on critical areas of the system, such as:
- Guidance and User Experience
- Performance and Security
- UI and UX Design
- Dependability and Reliability
- Coding Standards and Quality Assurance
Faster Product Delivery
BDD is a collaborative model that focuses on user insights — i.e., what the user wants to achieve, and how they will achieve it. Besides, the value proposition of BDD lies in filling the gap between technology and business stakeholders.
Such clarity and concreteness in direction, alongside frequent conversations, product demos, and review sessions, help encourage the early detection and resolution of issues at an early stage of development. As a result, the development team is able to deliver a platform/application with the desired behavior within the stipulated time frame and budget.
Changes in the Workflow and Process
With the introduction of BDD test, the entire workflow and process of a project are remastered. More specifically, there is a shift in responsibility amongst all members. The business analysts, developers, and testers share the same stage throughout the development process.
As such, teams can quickly address feedback and manage changes, saving time in the long run. Moreover, stakeholders can now focus on developing working software instead of spending time writing comprehensive documentation.
Automated Test Case Management and Completeness
Given that BDD focuses on writing automated tests, the overall completeness of applied tests is significantly higher than other development models.
With increased test coverage, there is a reduction in the number of defects as well as the rework required to fix them. Further, the automated tests are sources of feedback ideal for continuous improvement of the quality of software being shipped.
Challenges of BDD
Since we’re talking about keeping the entire system behavior in check — i.e., how it acts in various contexts and scenarios — there is always a requirement for utmost engagement across the team. In that light, the commitment and involvement of every stakeholder is a significant challenge for BDD.
If the process is somehow siloed and the stakeholders are not involved in the iterative development process, then BDD may miss out on addressing several issues at the code level. Further, you may end up with an application that doesn’t work as expected.
In a Nutshell
BDD is a surefire way to enhance team productivity while also improving the quality of the delivered product. It’s a collaborative, user-centric process that enables teams to focus on consistently delivering high-value features.