Why Moving from QA Tactics to QA Strategy is Good for You

Advanced Topics — Published November 27, 2014

Your development team is stretched-thin as demands increase, but Quality Assurance takes a lot of effort—not just in running the actual tests, but in maintaining the tests, communicating with developers and creating new test cases. With this as your reality, how can you be expected to do more with less?

Fast forward to the future: you’re in QA, but you’re not chasing software releases, you’re not thinking about how to design the next test case, and you’re not worried about what test cases are outdated. You’re just focused on strategy. 

The modern development shop is moving more and more toward the idea that QA is not the static role of one person, but the function and responsibility of everyone. For the QA department, this means that instead of being in the weeds dealing with QA tactics, they can move to a focus on QA strategy. In fact, this role is so substantially different that the team will likely need a new name, possibly Quality Engineering, DevOps or even Shared Services.

Sharing QA Responsibilities

QA strategy means a directed focus on how quality is increased and maintained, and determining the policies and practices that support high product standards. In a development shop that uses QA strategy, testing execution will be the responsibility of front-end and backend-developers, while everyone will be held accountable for fewer bugs and better software quality. The first line of defense for quality software is where the code is created, so this accountability is not just in regards to unit testing, but also end-to-end, including functional and visual testing.

When this type of system is in place, developers will need direction because they will be focusing on new features and won’t be involved directly in overall testing process. As such, they’ll also need to be kept updated on how testing is going, what can be improved and what aspects of the product require attention. But hopefully after this strategy has been implemented they won’t be focused on chasing down bugs!

Successful Implementation Strategies

The opportunity to make this fundamental change starts with the team, and this type of paradigm shift can cause disruption to current teams. As departments adapt to a new way of thinking and executing, it’s likely that quality chaos will take over. Development teams will be demanding bugs be caught sooner, but at the same looking to reduce the spend on resources to do it. The right tools will ensure that the implementation of a QA strategy is successful, but buy-in and proper resource allocation is also required.

The Hard Way and the Easy Way

At this point in the move from QA tactics to strategy, organizations will fall into two categories: those that succeed by learning the hard way and those who succeed more easily by optimizing their use of QA Strategy.

Organizations that learn the hard way will make the unfortunate choice to reduce their QA teams while still demanding better quality. When it comes time to blame someone, a time that will surely come, there will be no one left to blame but themselves, and the resulting cost to fix the mess will be huge. Assuming they can recover before their users jump ship, they’ll then be forced to use QA strategy properly as they move forward.

The entire process will be easier for organizations that recognize DevOps is focused on results, and that quality results are only accomplished with good QA at both the beginning and end of every delivery pipeline. By approaching the transition openly, using the below strategies, these organizations will find success.

  1. Empower QA staff – Allow them to dictate tools, have a budget and be equal to the Dev Team.
  2. Change team structure – QA should be engaged at every step of the development and delivery process, and participate in application roadmap and strategy sessions.
  3. QA will morph into a strategy unit and be staffed as such – QA Teams will be expected to design test case strategies, vet tooling and implement application wide scripting only.
  4. QA will own the integration labs and will tell the developers not only to use the labs but also how to use them.

The modern development shop is not only far more streamlined and less contradictory, it’s closer than we think. Of course, the transition will be painful for some and collaborative for others, but when QA professionals are spending less time on test semantics and more time improving the quality of applications, the entire team will benefit!

To read more about Applitools’ visual UI testing and Application Visual Management (AVM) solutions, check out the resources section on the Applitools website. To get started with Applitools, request a demo or sign up for a free Applitools account.

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Chris Riley is a technologist. Helping organizations make the transition from traditional development practices to a modern set of culture, tooling, and processes that increase the release frequency and quality of software. He is an O’Reilly author, speaker, and subject matter expert in the area of DevOps Strategy, Machine Learning, and Information Management.

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