As software development companies grow, it becomes more important to have a formal quality assurance (QA) process. In this article, Veronika Olshevskaya discusses six mistakes that you might do when you set up your QA department and suggests solutions to avoid making them.
Author: Veronika Olshevskaya, QA Globo Consulting, http://www.qagloboconsulting.com/
You have decided that your company is mature enough and that it is the right time to create a QA department. Let me add up front that by QA I don’t mean software testing. Testing is important, but it is different from QA. I want also to clarify that by the QA Department in this article, I don’t mean a huge department with a complicated structure. I mean the QA Department, which would be affordable by any small company that is looking to improve its product quality.
You know what you need, but you have no idea where to start, and you have a million different questions, such as: How many people do I need? What should their level of knowledge and experience be? How do I organize their work effectively?
There are some simple key factors that can make your QA department effective and help you escape some very common mistakes.
Mistake #1: Hire QA specialists on your own
Why shouldn’t you? Because you don’t know how to check their knowledge and experience
You should give this job to professionals. I mean recruiters. You have however to be careful that you use recruiters who work particularly with IT professionals. Otherwise they may have no clue on how to check the knowledge and experience of QA professionals.
Mistake #2: The number of testers = the number of developers
The number of testers should be the same as the number of developers.
The number of testers you need has nothing to do with the number of developers you need! There is no accepted industry standard ratio. It totally depends on the company’s needs, budget and other reasons. Linda Hayes has described it very well in her article: “The Wrong Ratio: How Many Testers Do You Need?”
Mistake #3: Let a development team member manage and lead the QA Department
Some companies practice it. And it is totally wrong, because being a good developer doesn’t mean being a good QA manager. Why? Firstly, a developer’s primary role is to create. A tester’s main task is to test. Then a developer and a QA manager should have the different skills.
Of course, software developers and QA specialists are representatives of the same sector -IT – but their original tasks and even mindsets are different. You should therefore assign the management of your QA department to a professional who has the required professional experience and skills such as: being a good QA engineer, effective communication, developing people, bringing out creativity in others, motivation people, team building, decision-making, etc.
Mistake #4: Hiring people in the wrong order
According to the budget, your own opinion and maybe some other reasons, you decided how many people your company needs. The next step will be, of course, to hire all these people, and it doesn’t matter in what order.
Let’s imagine that you first find a QA specialist. So then what is the next step? Do you already have a plan about what he or she will be doing the first day at the office? Do you already know how to organize his or her work effectively? Do you already know what tools he or she will need to use?
I would strongly recommend beginning with searching for an experienced and qualified QA manager or QA team lead, depending on your budget and needs. There are many reasons for this:
- An experienced QA manager or team lead can make an assessment of the job that should be done, its complexity and difficulty.
- After having found this person, an estimation of the number of team members can be provided, as well as their level of knowledge, experience and professional skills. It may help you save money, since you will not overpay an employee for skills and experience that are not required.
- The professional QA manager or team lead can also help with searching and choosing the test tools, such as the test tracking and management tool, the test automation tool, etc. This can also save you money, because you will buy exactly what your company needs, and will not overpay for functionality, complexity and brand name.
- Finally, the QA manager will set up the work of your QA department effectively and keep each team member active. Hopefully, everyone should be busy from the first minute.
Once QA people are hired, the department has been created. It may look like everything is in the right order, but here are more not-so-obvious mistakes that could occur and potentially ruin all the previous efforts.
Mistake #5. Not properly defining objectives.
Many QA departments are established with objectives such as:
- Improving quality
- Implementing a new methodology
- Process improvement
- Achieving CMM level X
These are good secondary objectives, but do not forget that the primary objective of any QA department is to ensure successful projects. What is a successful project? I can define it as encompassing two major criteria: the client is satisfied and the business is profitable.
Mistake #6. QA department is not involved in the company’s life and planning
Very often QA departments are positioned very low in organizations, and this causes many issues:
- Miscommunication with other departments.
- The QA department cannot be staffed properly because of insufficient compensation, skills issues, etc.
- It is more difficult to escalate issues to the proper level of management that can solve them, etc.
At one of my previous company, I was even told that QAs were not allowed to use bug
tracking tool, because it was only for developers!
The QA department must be a part of or positioned higher than the application development organization. The QA staff responsible for conducting the reviews should be at a peer level or higher than the project managers. To effectively address more than superficial software-quality issues, the QA department needs to both understand software development and work closely with the people developing the software.
If you have escaped all these simple mistakes and your QA department operates effectively, then very soon you will notice some of those benefits:
- Significantly increased project profitability.
- Improved customer satisfaction.
- Visibly increasing the company’s competitive advantage.
About the author
Veronika Olshevskaya is a QA manager at QA Globo Consulting. She has more than 7 years of extensive experience as a QA Engineer and QA team lead.