The Future of QA: Testing with Benefits

We’ve established that professional Quality Assurance (QA) didn’t just spring up out of human nature- it’s a modern discipline born of modern needs. Today we’ll discuss why applying traditional QA practices to software development creates a disconnect that can lead to problems, from production bugs to general stagnation- which no organization can afford.

The rest of the story is where new benefits and efficiencies start emerging. The term “evolution” is used very specifically here: we aren’t talking about the shiniest app or newest methodology, we’re talking about an established culture in which we have an ever-changing variety of tools and ideas from which we can choose. The way things get created usually changes slowly- and once in a while it all changes instantly. Evolved QA is enmeshed in, and adds value to, the entire creation process. Regardless of your shop’s preferred methodology mix (that’s for another post), the role of QA has expanded beyond “testing”. Testing is still fundamental for Evolved QA, but it doesn’t just happen at the end. Quality-related functions are performed throughout the development cycle, sometimes as a central focus, sometimes as valuable corollaries. 

This is the heart of Evolved QA. It accepts the technology, sees that it renders many old procedures redundant or inefficient. Then instead of asking, “How do we cram our old way of doing things into these new tools?”, we ask “What can we do with these tools to streamline as much as possible? Would that change the way we all collaborate in a good way? Would we be able to focus more on exploratory testing and other human-specific tasks?” 

Here are some of the benefits that Evolved QA professionals bring to their organizations. Could any of these contribute to your QA evolution? 

Specific Benefits of EQA

  • Cultural: 
    • Attitude- an Evolved QA professional doesn’t just love breaking things or pointing out mistakes. When a test gets a false fail, or new features have unexpected results, or an-end user reports a “creative” workflow that doesn’t quite work, they will reach the right teammate in a helpful format, with pertinent information, and triage steps if needed. And the quality of those items will continue improving- an Evolved QA professional is always learning more about development and business needs.
    • Perspective- everything is seen as part of the quality process and does not focus solely on a new feature or bug. When there’s a brittle test, a communication issue, or a fragile tool, they will define and communicate the problem and if appropriate, help hone a solution. 
    • Facilitation- collaboration comes “built-in” with that attitude and perspective. Helping teammates identify and overcome obstacles is part and parcel of genuine quality.
  • Technical: 
    • Testing- of course this remains the core function of most EQA professionals. Other needs and personal expertise may arise, but understanding the users, the applications, the general natures and locations of external dependencies is fundamental. The ultimate value still lies with work like creating, executing, and maintaining test plans as part of larger strategies, understanding and supporting the release cycle in terms of resolving testing issues, and so on.
    • Test Automation- Exactly what role automation will play in your org, and how large that role should be, is probably still under discussion (maybe it should always be- best practices and tools are developing faster than the industry can keep up with). One thing is for sure though: it will play some role and your EQA pros will lead those discussions, and know what’s needed to deliver the executables you and your team decide on. 
    • Administration- an EQA professional has meaningful communications with Devs, PMs, and everyone in between in the course of a day. That collaboration level means he knows what isn’t getting tracked or documented, and steps up to just do it or ask for guidance if necessary. 
  • Business: 
    • Hone Requirements- Squeezing clear requirements out of user stories can be a game of “Telephone” sometimes. EQA pros are great at supporting PMs, BAs, and Devs in shared terminology and vision for features and feature sets.
    • Be a SME- Represents the product accurately in internal discussions or user demos, from a “middle” perspective: not limited to the GUI, but not as technically-oriented as a Dev.

 Failing to explicitly include these “evolved” qualities in your vision for QA can contribute to:

  • Stagnation: “We can’t ship too often, because regression takes a month and QA will miss bugs”
  • Inefficiency: “The test server has been going down every day, and no one said anything until just now”
  • Lack of QA employee retention: “I want to do more than manual regression, but I won’t get any buy-in on other contributions”. 

Unfortunately, I’ve personally seen examples of each of those.

The expansion of software QA into your cultural and technical structures allows your company to safeguard efficiency and innovation. Sharing these ideals and expectations with the team helps to reveal, develop, and retain the most valuable- the most evolved- QA professionals.