As QA teams become leaner and more focused, and testing processes become more deeply integrated with product and development workflows, knowing where the quality buck stops can be a challenge. But even for teams without a full-time QA team, having a clear, accountable quality owner is essential.
Why does quality need an owner?
No matter what your product is or how your team is organized, quality matters. But quality isn’t something that magically gets done that happens organically without someone pushing it forward and advocating for it. In order for the efficiency of quality processes and the end result of product quality to reach their full potential, QA must have an owner.
Quality Assurance Must Be Integrated into the Application Lifecycle
Traditional QA testing, siloed at the end of development as a gatekeeper to production, can’t keep pace with the need for faster software development cycles. A testing process that doesn’t start until a feature or application is nearing completion provides slower feedback on code quality and increases the risk of bugs being missed before launch.
“Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of an intelligent effort.”
– Josh Ruskin
The Role of the QA Owner
The role of the QA owner isn’t just to make sure testing gets done — they need to be an advocate for customers, an interpreter for the QA team, and a trailblazer for the product’s quality. There are four main responsibilities that a high-performing QA owner must fulfill — whether they are a full-time QA or QE, or someone fulfilling the role of quality owner on another team.
1. Shift Quality Left
To optimize for efficiency and minimize bugs in production, QA testing needs to start happening as early as possible. The QA owner ensures that quality starts happening during the earliest stages of feature planning and design.
2. Communicate on Quality and QA
The impact that QA has on business goals isn’t always clear. In fact, a good QA process can be hidden — bugs that don’t reach production, releases that don’t get delayed because of issues, and customers who don’t churn. The QA owner must communicate what initiatives the QA team is working on, how those efforts are impacting business goals, and what the team needs to hit their goals.
3. Manage Quality Assurance Processes
Quality happens from the beginning of the development process and continues through into production. The QA owner must ensure that these processes are unified, and that every team understands how their work plays a part in the quality lifecycle.
4. Iterate the QA Strategy
In order to move the needle on product quality, QA needs to be strategic — see our section on designing a QA strategy for more info. The QA’s job needs to push for more innovative initiatives and help the team focus in on the testing activities that will have the greatest impact.
Learn More about the Role of QA Owners
Check out these resources on how quality process owners can have a greater impact on their teams.
According to a study by IBM, the cost of fixing a bug during development is around 6x more expensive than the same bug found in the design phase — and bugs found in testing are 15x more expensive to fix than those found during development.
Communicating what your team is doing and why is essential. In this session, Rainforest’s CEO and Director of Professional Services come together to discuss how teams can map QA initiatives to overall business goals.
Check out this writeup by Daria Mehra, Director of Quality Engineering for Quid, on how her team approaches quality for a great example of why QA at scale and at high speeds usually requires multiple points of input.
Learn more about how QA teams can move towards a more strategic model of quality assurance in our section on strategy.
QA Ownership Without a QA Team
A QA owner is essential to creating a high quality product. But as development teams become leaner and move faster, some organizations are opting not to hire a QA team at all. This raises the question, how do you ensure product quality without a QA team?
When developers own QA, there’s a tendency to lean into automated testing as a time-efficient way of doing QA without doing testing. But managing the time and cost of automation can be its own challenge, and many end up creating a large amount of technical debt when they try to automate too much, too quickly.
A developer-owned QA process requires developers to self-manage their own code from end-to-end. Ensuring that developers understand what their responsibility is when it comes to QA.
Product teams who own QA have the advantage of intimately knowing how the product is supposed to work — they designed it, after all! But product teams don’t generally have the QA experience to be highly strategic about testing. Nor do they often have the technical expertise to automate tests effectively.
To ensure quality as effectively as possible, product teams should strive to think about quality as they write feature stories. They may want to rely on 3rd party or beta user exploratory testing to identify bugs and potential issues early on. Product-owned QA must often collaborate very closely with developer teams to ensure that unit tests and other test automation are done effectively.
The Challenges of QA without a QA Team
No matter who owns quality, scaling test execution and test case management is one of the biggest tangible challenges for teams that don’t have dedicated QA teams. QA-less organizations must find a way to scale testing without creating additional work for other teams within the org.
However, it’s important that these teams do not neglect developing a strategic approach to QA. Many teams benefit from doing a quarterly audit of their QA strategy to assess whether they can make improvements.
QA without a QA Team Workflows
QA without a dedicated QA team is all about defining a testing and triage workflow. See the section on Ideal QA Workflows to learn more about how developer teams and product teams can integrate QA into their workflow.
Learn more about how organizations are approaching quality without a QA team.
Developers are taking on more and more of the QA process, especially as test automation becomes more prominent. But is handing QA over to dev teams an efficient quality hack, or a distracting time sync? Engineers Edward Paulet of Rainforest and Rob Miller from Guru discuss the pros and cons of dev-driven testing in this session.
QualPay has grown their product, team and customer base without hiring a single full-time QA. Learn how they’ve approached quality without eating up development resources.
Avoiding hiring a QA team entirely is an option that some Agile and CI/CD-focused organizations are testing out. During this session, Rainforest CIO Derek Choy is joined by two members of his team to discuss what QA looks like for the development and product teams here at Rainforest, in the absence of a traditional QA team.
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