In a traditional model, a QA team member’s activities are explicit: testing the developers’ work before it gets released (Functional Testing or Automation Testing), detecting bugs, communicating findings, and advocating for problems to be fixed.
In Agile Testing, all cross-functional team members, with unique expertise contributed by testers, ensure delivering the customer’s business value at frequent periods. In every interval, testers need to perform explicit activities such as detecting bugs, communicating findings, and deal with timing to complete testing activities in a specific period.
Every model has risks; how can we move from regular Quality Assurance to the modernized Quality Assurance model?
Some years ago, an Engineer Manager mentioned that a strong focus on Quality could adversely affect the development of innovative new products. At the beginning of my career in Quality Assurance, those words made me think about how we can change that paradigm.
Before talking about Quality Culture, we need to understand where we are as a company; it’s imperative to make a self-assessment to recognize the need for change, otherwise introducing a new set of norms, values, and beliefs won’t take the expected result. People need to be convinced about the move, having a clear vision and clear expectations rather than coerced to change.
I always mention that Quality culture is not only a set of process and instructions, “Quality” is a way of life, so the Quality culture should be a set of practices and behaviors applicable to all levels in our Organizations.
In all organizations with a strong Quality culture, Quality is virtually in every aspect of the organization, including Talent acquisition, promotion, employee orientation, ongoing training, compensation, management style, decision making, organizational structure, and work processes.
As mentioned above, Quality must be everywhere; for practical purposes, I would focus on the software process segment; remember that Quality is considered a moving target; this is a never-ending journey for continuously improving the Quality of our products and services.
In a quality culture, close cooperation between managers, employees, and departments must accomplish. Teamwork is crucial as it creates a sense of ownership and commitment.
From traditional Quality Assurance to Quality Ambassador
It sounds trite just swapping from Quality Assurance or Tester and re-naming to Quality Ambassador, but believe me; it is more than only changing the role’s name.
I want to share my vision of the modern Quality way and empower our teams about high-quality software. The same as any transformation, it requires much effort to convince positively and provide results. As QA Ambassadors, we must facilitate this transformation, and we can take advantage of the following points.
A Quality Ambassador is a person who can create a positive impact on the testing landscape, having experience in traditional methods, continuous learning about new methods/techniques/tools, and finding innovative ways to achieve Quality.
Quality Ambassadors don’t be afraid to try new things and provide creative solutions focusing on high-Quality. We need to be flexible on our Testing activities, encourage best Quality practices to the whole team, and think outside the box (Provide real value to our Customers’ products/services).
Training about Quality
All team members of our team can test thoroughly, as long as they are aware of how to do it correctly (Everyone can learn how to test appropriately, instead of the simplistic one of everyone can test). As QA Ambassadors, our responsibility is to train them in specific testing activities, embrace a QA mindset, and increase their product knowledge to make them better testers.
Remember, Testing is not Test automation only; we must still encourage other testing practices.
“Humans are still smarter than machines.”
“What matters is a product or service delivered with high-quality and valued by your customers.”
Consider the following, tedious testing activities, repetitive steps, and low-value; it looks like we are doing something wrong; this is not inspiring to someone trying to embrace testing. We need to encourage the whole team about learning and seeing Quality valuable, challenging, and necessary activity.
We must help the team defining testing activities, organize testing sessions, and facilitate the right testing tools and correct test data they need to test efficiently.
Be very careful about incentive Quality in our team; every team is different. It could be something simple like fun activities such as test-a-thons or bug bounty programs and choose the right rewards; these external rewards can motivate your team to do things like embrace Quality.
Implementing & Experimenting Quality
“Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.”Guy Kawasaki
The teams must write features, test those features, and deliver them to production by themselves. We must not rely on one single role to certify their work, as this role may act as bottlenecks.
Implementing a new quality process will require time and effort for the whole team to be responsible for the group’s Quality, instead of relying on one specific role. If team members believe that only Testers should be catching the bugs, the model will never work.
The whole team must have a sufficient level of training so that they know how to test effectively (Training about Quality mentioned above is a key in our model). If the developers are the only ones testing a user story, then a lack of training could not help deliver high-quality.
Be open to experiment with testing process changes; sometimes people are reluctant to change, so let’s try those changes as experiments, and be prepared to drop the change if it doesn’t provide the benefits as expected. If the process change shows a tiny improvement, we can consider it a permanent practice that should be an easy sell and a great win to our Quality implementation.
One story about experimenting with Quality is Zero Bug Policy, first discovered by Tom Walsh and Gareth Bragg.
Walsh’s team at Redgate implemented their zero-bug policy by running it as a short one-month experiment to see if it was something they wanted to pursue long-term. Walsh mentioned that they re-triaged their existing backlog of 100 bugs and closed around 90 of them, which they deemed not necessary enough to fix. They then committed an entire sprint to fix the remaining bugs, leaving them with as clean a slate as possible.
“Each team has its context and is expected to do experiments and adapt the Quality process to validate the results of those experiments.”
Only saying, “Now the whole team is doing the testing,” will increase the risk of quality problems if we do not verify and readjust in case of any glitch. There are several ways to mitigate this; we can help the team get into the swing of things. However, the whole team should see us as guides to test their work better or recommend the right Testing tool; our role is to provide quality advice.
Finally, as QA Ambassadors, we should encourage the team to explore and learn more about the applications, humans building software for humans.
One of the most important things that many consultants don’t talk about and that slows down the company’s adoption of Quality processes is the number of toxic employees. I strongly recommend that you always pair up with a mental health professional if you believe there is a toxic person in a team. They will undoubtedly help you create an excellent strategy to deal with the situation.
Remember that not every aggressive or manipulative person is a toxic person, so generalizing is never a good idea.
Quality does not affect product innovation in cross‐functional teams. However, motivation given to cross‐functional teams to take risks leads to more innovative products. While a quality orientation improves product correctness, this is a never-ending journey, and we need to continue learning, growing, and calibrating our process and QA mindset.
“In strange times, it is the learners who inherit the future.”Eric Hoffer
Perhaps this QA Ambassador model may reduce the need for a dedicated testing team; I can not guarantee that your experience will match mine with this model; still, we can try as an experiment to change from a traditional model. It will be a journey and probably not an easy one; nevertheless, you will have to change and adapt to grow in the QA area.
“A good Testing strategy can accelerate business; a bad one can slow you down.”
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Happy Bug Hunting!
“Quality-oriented Organizational Culture,” Ovidius University Annals, Economic Sciences Series, Ovidius University of Constantza
More Agile Testing: Learning Journeys for the Whole Team, Janet Gregory
Enterprise Continuous Testing Transforming Testing for Agile and DevOps, Wolfgang Platz, Cynthia Dunlop