There is no question the business world is in a state of revolution. All departments and leaders face increased pressure to keep the lights on while finding time to innovate and modernize… and often amidst staffing shortages, resignations, and budget constraints.
We are experiencing our own revolution in QE, particularly as we prepare our teams to have impact in a more modern era. At SQA Group, we believe QE leaders are navigating a rapidly shifting QE paradigm, with pressure mounting for us to have moved our teams well beyond the 0.0 and 1.0 eras — characterized by reactive testing, year-long projects, and manual data collection — and be firmly entrenched in the 2.0 era, defined by Agile, DevOps-driven continuous release and delivery of code, business resiliency, and near-real time feedback loops.
Our Chief Engineer Walter McAdams has written about the shift from the era of QE 0.0-3.0 in some of his recent blogs; you can grab his first blog here.
As we navigate our own revolution, one of our top priorities is ensuring that QE emerges as a business-driving department for the organization and that we maintain our organizational relevance. All too often, if we are not careful, QE can fail to gain a seat at the table or become established as a practice.
As a QE leader, I’ve experienced it all when it comes to organizational relevance.
I started in application development right after Y2K in early 2000. While practices and concepts such as Agile and Test-Driven Development (TDD) existed, they were not commonplace. We were a talented group of developers and maybe even ahead of our time. But we were just forming a separate QA team to perform software testing. Before that, testing was done either by the developers themselves, crowd sourced across our IT teams, or left in the hands of the business users during final stages. At this part of my career, QE felt very much irrelevant, or nonexistent, to the business.
In the early 2000s, our relevance grew, and we started to have a seat at the table. A QA team was established as a separate part of the organization next to the development team. That QA organization was challenged with developing a discipline of software testing from the ground up. The projects were mostly waterfall where all the testing was “thrown over the wall” to QA in the testing phase after implementation. And while Quality Analysts were on the project team, they were commonly left out of early phases such as requirements and design.
In the early to mid 2010s, Agile was no longer a radical idea, and was gaining steam to become industry standard. In the popular Scrum model, QA members in the role of SDETs became part of a cross-functional team. And practices such as BDD brought development, testing, and business units together. Finally, I was experiencing what we QE leaders strive for — the democratization of QE.
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Your experience may look similar or different, but I am sure you will agree that by and large, our discipline has progressed and now, many QE organizations are often well formed and have a seat at the table. They are typically integral to the IT operation, and often have significant integration with business organizations. While Agile and SAFe are industry standards, complete Agile adoption across the enterprise is often aspirational.
But we need to be striving for more than just a seat at the table. Instead, we need to make the right decisions and exhibit the right behaviors to become truly business driving, whereby QE contributes more broadly and directly to the customer experience. This moves beyond traditional quality control and QA towards the concept of total quality experience.
We have a responsibility to position Quality Engineering as a competitive advantage and growth driver, rather than just a necessary investment. (In accounting terms, moving from a cost center to a profit center.) QE leaders can increase value and influence on the organization by improving the bottom line and overall customer experience.
So how can we move towards “business driving” relevance? Here are 5 tips:
- Optimize Functional Testing: Free up the bandwidth to innovate. Functional testing is often a primary if not sole focus. Tests should be optimized for coverage and ROI rather than simply maximizing the quantity of tests. Test cases can be optimized using pairwise or other optimization algorithms such as risk-based coverage. Tests can be partially or fully auto generated. Tests should then be rationalized for automation suitability and ROI.
- Selective Metrics: Metrics provide visibility to the executive suite on business value and productivity. Be wary of metrics that are misleading or incentivize bad behavior. Judiciously select metrics that indicate the value of testing, automation, or other QE activities. Use metrics and data to quantify and measure how quality has changed in the marketplace.
- Improve Time to Market: Time to market can be quickened through automation and agility. Get the value “multipliers” of automation from combination of test data, environments, browsers, and frequency of execution. Go beyond regression suite automation towards continuous testing and design a flexible test automation suite to be CI enabled. Let automation serve the purpose of improving software delivery and ROI.
- Shift Right: By shifting right, QE ensures better customer experience from real users after the product is delivered. Incorporate proactive or reactive monitoring for reliability and responsiveness. Gather customer feedback from production releases and integrate that feedback into the software lifecycle.
- Shift Left: By shifting left, QE ensures that the right product is being built for the customers. Involve the business side and product owners in the entire lifecycle. Follow techniques like BDD as a collaborative process, not just as a technology. Improve usability and accessibility testing. In short, QE teams should know the business of their company.
Are you ready to talk about how to drive your organizational relevance? Click here to book time with me directly. I would be happy to explore any of these strategies with you.