Three Amigos – by Jon Hall, Test Manager at Eliga Services


Eliga’s favourite tester, Jon Hall returns, making a compelling case for the Three Amigos delivery method across tech and business teams.


This is no joke. Imagine this…

The year is 1996. A Tester, a Developer and a Business Analyst walk into a Sunset Bar in the wild west. They approach the barman with everyone staring at them thinking, ‘What are those three doing together? Aren’t they enemies?

Tester says to the Developer and BA, ‘First round on me.’ He asks the barman for three beers.


Barman asks, ‘Are you sure you want to buy a drink for them? I didn’t think you guys got along.’


Tester responds, ‘These guys worked hard and helped me all week. Of course, I do. They are my teammates.’


We take collaboration for granted

Almost three decades ago, the concept of these roles working and socialising together would be unfathomable. Back in the 90s, even early noughties, testers didn’t have a great reputation with other members of a project team as they were labelled for ‘criticising people’s work.’ Even testing books were written to encourage testers to be more ‘sensitive’ when issues were found as they could upset developers’ feelings.

Those days are long gone; now, it is all about teamwork and collaboration. Whether that be a waterfall project that is expected to last a year or an agile scrum team working in 2-week sprints, testers are a fundamental part of a successful project.

This article is about the ‘Three Amigos’ process. It’s written from a test perspective, using my experience testing in different organisations.


What is Three Amigos? Isn’t it a movie from the 80s?

Yes, it is a movie, but nothing to do with my article. I have not seen it, but I’ve heard it’s worth a watch.

The primary objective of a Three Amigos session is to come away with a shared understanding of a requirement. For testing, it is about discussing and agreeing on the acceptance criteria of a requirement.

  • Each session should be around 30 minutes or less, depending on the requirement you are discussing.
  • The sessions should happen before coding begins.
  • Usually, I recommend the sessions should take place after sprint planning or, if possible, before (for better estimation in the sprint planning ceremony).

Different companies have a different way of approaching Three Amigos.

Taking inspiration from Jeremy Clarkson’s ‘Some say’ Top Gear series, we can approach Three Amigos with this framework:

Some say: A Business Analyst has to lead the sessions as they have the best understanding of the requirement.

Some say: The developer should lead as the system matter expert (SME) and is physically making the code change.

All we know is… The tester organises and leads the session as they will make sure it happens with no questions left unanswered.

I prefer the tester taking responsibility for arranging and leading the sessions. The reason being it is in the tester’s best interest to have this session. It is their chance to ask questions and document the test scenarios agreed with the experts. It is their best shot at having the best coverage for test execution.


Who should be in a Three Amigos session?

At a minimum, it needs a Tester, Developer and a Business Analyst/Product Owner. However, I would encourage anyone to attend in your team. The purpose of the session is to gain a greater understanding of the requirement. So, technically, it can be a 4/5/6 Amigos session. Whatever works for you.

As long as the session doesn’t spiral into a meeting with a different agenda, anyone can attend and contribute. This is also why I recommend a tester leads the meeting. Selfishly, they need the outcome of the meeting focused on acceptance criteria and test scenarios.


What benefits does a Three Amigos session bring to an agile team?

Collaboration, teamwork and communication – all of which are the best attributes and skills used in these sessions. These sessions bring out the best in the team. It’s all about teamwork.

‘We’re a team. One person struggles, we all struggle. One person triumphs, we all triumph.’

– Jason Lyle (Coach Carter)

It also adds value in the long run for a tester. The understanding should be clear after the session. If not, arrange another one. There should be no confusion when it comes to executing test cases after a successful Three Amigos session. It’s your chance to ask all the questions you need to create test scenarios. The Tester may even suggest a knock-on impact to an area outside the scope of the change, which the Developer/BA would not have thought of. This actually applies to anyone in the 3 Amigos sessions. Everyone has different views and experiences. Bring it to the session!

It will also add value for the Developer and the BA. Both will have confidence that the test coverage is sufficient (as they will have input into the session with any gaps from the tester’s initial scenarios). The BA can then feed this back to the Product Owner/business stakeholders that the test coverage has been collated and collaborated with the engineering team.


To summarise

No matter what your role is in an agile team, think about what value Three Amigos could add to your team. Maybe you’re already doing it, which is great. If you aren’t, have a discussion with your colleagues. Encourage them to give it a go with test-taking the lead. I assure you; it will add value, bringing testers out of their comfort zone, leading meetings and asking questions. Let the Three Amigos show you what they are thinking about regarding the requirements.

While you’re at it, check out Jon’s other article on exploratory testing here.