3 Amigos in Agile from QA’s Perspective: Should You Do It or Not?

The 3 Amigos in Agile is recognised for facilitating a discussion to ensure common understanding of a feature to be developed within the team. Many experts recommend various approaches; some suggest practicing it 1-2 weeks before starting the development of a card, while others propose QAs to be ready with test cases during the 3 Amigos discussion for a feature. There are various suggestions for length of discussion and many have opinion of time boxing it for 30 mins to 1 hrs.
However, my approach differs. This blog primarily focuses on how, as a QA, I have been practicing it for my team to get maximum benefit out of this activity.

Therefore, this blog is my personal experience on a QA’s initiative in conducting 3 Amigos in Agile and guiding the process to ensure everyone contributes meaningfully to the conversation. Not necessarily my style of doing it would work in all situations but worth sharing this to community.

3 Amigos in Agile – Introduction

3 Amigos” (DEV, BA, QA) or, as some prefer to call it, “4 Amigos” (DEV, BA, QA, DESIGNER), is a brief discussion conducted before developers commence work on a feature. The primary objective of this discussion is to ensure that all contributors involved in building the feature share a common understanding of its requirements. Additionally, it serves as an opportunity to address and clarify any doubts related to the feature before its implementation. During the 3 Amigos discussion, BA, DEV, and QA engage in discussions and ask questions relevant to their respective areas.

Importance of Collaboration and Communication

Image representing 3 amigos
Image representing 3 amigos

There could be various benefits of collaboration and communication, but based on my personal experience with the 3 Amigos process, it has proven invaluable in preparing for feature testing. I utilise this conversation to highlight and discuss any assistance required from the developer or BA to ensure readiness for testing once the feature is completed. This may involve asking for test data, ensuring stubs are available in the lower environment, and discussing test coverage, among other considerations.

Additionally, I have found that the 3 Amigos process contributes to faster feedback. The shared understanding of the feature significantly reduces the likelihood of stories bouncing back and forth due to issues such as mismatches in acceptance criteria. This streamlined communication helps in addressing low-hanging issues promptly, enhancing the overall efficiency of the development and testing process.

Apart from that, as a QA I try to highlight if any end-to-end issue which might get introduced in the system from this change.

My Approach to the 3 Amigos Process

Preparation for 3 Amigos discussion

  • Feature Understanding – Prior to any discussion, I prefer to thoroughly review the Jira card to gain understanding of the feature. I ensure that I have read all supporting documents, Confluence pages, designs, etc., to obtain a clear perspective on the feature. Most importantly, I make an effort to comprehend the business value of the feature and assess its potential impact on our customers.
    I do not allocate an entire day for this activity, and there is no fixed duration.
    It’s worth noting that during the feature understanding process, it’s crucial to also review any third-party dependencies associated with the feature. This ensures a holistic understanding of the context surrounding the feature.
  • Schedule 3 amigos discussion – In one of our projects, we established a structured approach by allocating a fixed time during the day for the 3 Amigos discussion, ideally right after our daily standup. This proactive scheduling helped ensure that calendars were blocked in advance for all stakeholders involved, and they committed to being available at that designated time.
    By having the 3 Amigos session immediately after the standup, we leveraged the enabling team members working in different time zones and maintained a consistent schedule.
  • Identify stakeholders – Generally, stakeholders include contributors such as the feature developer (responsible for working on the card), QA (responsible for testing the card), and BA (who has prepared the acceptance criteria or product owner). If a designer(UX) has been involved in the card preparation, I include them in the discussion as well.
  • Supporting documentation review – I personally ensure that all necessary documentation, comments, and relevant information are available in the Jira card.

Duration of three amigos discussion

Ideally, the 3 Amigos discussion should be as short as possible, aiming to complete the discussion for each card within 20 minutes. As the team gains experience and confidence in the system, the goal is to further reducing the 3 Amigos time to a duration of 10 minutes. This optimisation ensures efficiency in the discussion while maintaining a thorough and collaborative assessment of each card.

Conducting Discussion

  • Feature discussion – First few minutes are generally spent to walk through the description and quickly touching upon the acceptance criteria. This is done by BA.
  • Addressing concerns – Next few minutes can be utilised to raise concerns.
  • QA’s perspective – As a QA, I consistently emphasize specific questions and key considerations in the 3 Amigos discussion, irrespective of whether the development involves frontend or backend changes. I see this collaborative session as a valuable opportunity to initiate the shift-left practice, QA identifies high-level issues very early or discuss the testability of the feature before development begins. This approach provides valuable insights for QAs to determine the test coverage and contributes indirectly to shaping a pyramid-style testing strategy.

List of questions which I ask in 3 amigos
– I ask if we have any dependency for this card to test. If yes, then are those dependencies are available?
– I ensure, if we need any change in stubbed environment to test this feature.
– What time of test coverage developer will be adding fo this card. Based on that, I decide whether I should add UI or API test.
– I check with BA, if there is any specific area module which I should check while testing this feature.
– Are there any edge cases that need special attention in testing?
– I look for potential error scenarios been considered, and how should they be handled?
– Whether the error scenarios will be handled in this card and there is a separate card for that?
– Availability of test data?
– What is the primary goal or objective of this feature?

Post discussion activity

Document all agreed points immediately after the discussion, I prefer to do the documentation under 3 Amigos Notes heading in the Jira card itself.

Common Challenges of 3 Amigos

  • Limited Active Participation – Since the whole purpose of the 3 Amigos is to communicate and collaborate, it is important for participants to engage actively and ask questions. If any participant go silent in the discussion or refrain from asking questions, the benefits of the discussion may not be as substantial as anticipated. Hence, it is important for participants to be active in the discussion and should not refrain from discussing or sharing common understanding.
  • Time Constraint – Another common challenge I’ve observed in different teams is the absence of a pre-decided time for the 3 Amigos; instead, it is scheduled on the fly, leading to delays in the development process. To ensure the effectiveness of the 3 Amigos, participants’ availability for discussion is crucial, and the solution may vary from team to team.
  • Poor preparedness before 3 Amigos – It is crucial for participants to be fully prepared before the 3 Amigos discussion. For example, if a developer is uncertain about the third-party dependencies for a feature, it may hinder effective discussion and problem-solving. Likewise, if a QA is encountering a feature for the first time and lacks familiarity, they might struggle to derive end-to-end scenarios or discuss the testability requirements effectively.
  • Scrum specific challenge – Typically, in Scrum, the first day involves developers starting cards for development. This poses a challenge for QA and BA in larger teams, making it difficult for them to be present in all 3 Amigos conversations.
  • Keeping the discussion short – Keeping the discussion concise is crucial. It’s common for groups to get carried away, but extended conversations can be counterproductive in the long run, taking away time from actual implementation. I have personally experienced this at many instances and best way to restrict the conversation is time boxing it.

Value addition by 3 amigos process

The 3 Amigos process plays a pivotal role in setting up a comprehensive understanding of features within a development team. By bringing together developers, QA professionals, and Business Analysts in a collaborative discussion, this practice enables the clarification of requirements, sharing of knowledge, and identification of dependencies. The inclusion of diverse perspectives ensures a holistic view, with developers gaining insights into testing requirements, QA professionals understanding technical aspects, and Business Analysts providing crucial business context. Real-time problem-solving and a continuous feedback loop further contribute to aligning the team’s efforts with project objectives.

In teams where the 3 Amigos process was not practiced, I observed a comparatively number of defects on the board due to misunderstandings of acceptance criteria. Developers often assumed details without clarifying with the product owner/BA, and these gaps were only identified during QA testing. For me, the 3 Amigos process value added in mitigating these issues as it brings a common understanding among participants, addressing potential doubts early in the development cycle.

Another valuable addition of the 3 Amigos process that I’ve observed is the enhancement of testing readiness. During these conversations, I proactively highlight all testing requirements, ensuring that developers address dependencies before marking the card as “ready for test.” The 3 Amigos process proves instrumental in establishing a clear definition of “development done,” setting the stage for seamless testing phases.

Decision Making Guideline

Team SizeEvaluate the size of your development team.Larger teams may benefit from 3 Amigos for enhanced communication. Smaller teams might find informal discussions sufficient.
Project ComplexityAssess the complexity of your project.Complex projects with intricate requirements and dependencies can gain substantial value from 3 Amigos. Simpler projects may opt for a more streamlined communication approach.
DependenciesNature and extent of dependencies within your project.Projects with interdependencies between features or teams stand to gain significantly from the collaborative nature of 3 Amigos. Projects with minimal dependencies might choose a more flexible communication strategy.
ROI PotentialTeam’s goals and desired outcomes.If your team seeks to reduce defects, accelerate delivery, and enhance overall project efficiency, 3 Amigos is likely a beneficial investment. If other communication methods already yield these outcomes, the necessity might be evaluated accordingly.

How to measure ROI

Image representing ROI text for ROI measurement of 3 amigos
  • Reduced Defects: 3 Amigos process facilitates early identification and clarification of potential issues, reducing misunderstandings about acceptance criteria. By addressing doubts before the development phase, teams may experience a noticeable reduction in defects during testing, thereby saving valuable time and resources.
  • Impact on Delivery: With clarified requirements and minimized back-and-forth between QA to dev columns of your board, the overall project timeline is expedited. Teams can consistently mark features as “ready for test” sooner, contributing to a more efficient and accelerated delivery process.
  • Test Automation Coverage: The 3 Amigos process should enhance Test Automation readiness. This is achieved particularly because the insights gained by the QA regarding the developer’s testing strategy and based on that QA can make informed decisions on whether to focus on UI testing, API testing, or a combination of both.

You should do it or not?

In conclusion, the 3 Amigos process, when implemented thoughtfully, proves to be a valuable asset for Agile teams, especially from the QA perspective. Its positive impact on collaboration, efficiency, and Testing readiness makes it a compelling practice to consider. Teams are encouraged to assess their unique contexts using the provided decision-making guide and adapt the 3 Amigos process accordingly to reap the maximum benefits in their Agile development journey.

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