For software development projects large and small, there are several advantages to having a dedicated Quality Assurance (QA) team when it comes to testing. Many project managers attempt to cut costs by having all team members engaged in the testing process to keep things in-house. Sometimes it works well, but after experiencing the contrast of an organized QA team, many project leaders swear to never go that route again as the benefits of a formal QA team become immediately evident.
A fresh set of eyes
Have you ever written something and reviewed it yourself in tenfold only to have a colleague point out an error in two minutes flat? The same goes with testing and software developers. Teams may look to developers as the natural choice when it comes to testing, and the super-efficient Project Manager might even have the idea that developers can fix the code as they detect problems. There are applications that will test code as it is written, which is a great start, but only one piece of the puzzle. This grand efficiency idea when it comes to a major testing event can turn into a lack of efficiency in reality. The developers may have already stared at the code so much that their eyes may gloss over the fine details, and paint a summary in their brain instead. In that summary, the functionality worked 10 iterations ago, so that theorem (statement to be proven) becomes more like a postulate (defined truth) in their heads. This very natural behavior leads to unintentionally missed defects.
A formal QA process is very structured and organized. This structure brings a sense of order to all testing activities that ensure explicit attention to detail. From initial testing to retesting, there is a specific process to it all. A structure such as this enables a project manager to gauge the current state and ongoing expectations when it comes to time, quality, resources, and cost.
Attention to detail
We just mentioned the attention to detail paid in a structured approach to QA. Let’s expand on that for a minute. We will start by comparing getting directions to go somewhere by two methods:
- First, we would ask a friend for directions. It may start with “go on over in the directions of the fairgrounds, then head East and take a right at the next light.”
- Compare that to an app like Google Maps, and your result will be much more specific and highly detailed. Both sets of directions are correct, but which example is more likely to be susceptible to mistakes?
People involved in the project already, just like the developers, will gloss over and summarize the details of a task. In doing so with a minor task, a major bug may go undetected, wreaking havoc through the entire deployment efforts. Bringing in that third party starts a distinct shift, forcing everyone to look closer and slow down. It starts when the test script is being written, for the individual writing the script must capture and state each and every step with the expected result. and not just what it’s supposed to do (happy path), but also a lot of attention is on what it’s not supposed to do. Nothing is overlooked to the smallest detail.
A special set of skills and discipline
Professional QA testers are skilled in different testing principles like boundary testing, etc., testing processes, as well as different QA applications, and platforms, a result of their prior education and experience. Compare that to a (non-developer) standard user… perhaps a subject matter expert (SME). While these SMEs have their own area of expertise, the project at hand is merely a tool in their overall objective. For that reason, a disconnect may occur with their lack of testing principles and knowledge.
When it comes to retesting a corrected bug, for example, the experienced QA tester has the discipline and forethought to test additional functionality, such as dependencies to make sure that fixing one defect didn’t create a new defect. A SME may only think of retesting to ensure that specific bug was corrected. The QA professional not only has the discipline to follow through on expanded retesting but also the knowledge to understand the importance of such creative effort.
Bias can create several different barriers. To the coder doing the testing, they may get a new idea of improvement or a better way to represent a feature, just as we would re-read and re-word a paragraph before sending an email. This “Eureka” moment may lead to more development time, and eventually more testing, expanding the window of cost and resources. A SME or stakeholder engaged in testing may dispute the functionality or make new suggestions, putting the project at risk for scope creep or a reworking of the original requirements. Imagine the wrench that might put in the timeline and efforts up to date!
A professional QA team has only one objective on their mind, and that is the successful functionality of the developed code to meet the business need/requirements. They have no preconceived notions or opinions to cloud their goals.
So far, we have introduced the risk of defects, resources, and scope. Additional risks such as missed deadlines, milestones, and budget due to increased costs are associated with some of these events and mishaps. A dedicated QA team not only operates within the confines of their primary objective, but their sole purpose is to identify defects that may impose risks to the success of the project. And the best QA teams know how to find defects in earlier work products, therefore finding and fixing the bug before it even makes it to code.
A professional QA team can suggest different resources to increase the efficiency of testing, from automation testing as fast as the code is developed to Artificial Intelligence to handle the repetitive tasks and testing. Their process in and of itself is an efficient approach to the testing events, designed to provide good code coverage and find the maximum defects with the minimum time and cost.Quality and speed go hand-in-hand with their approach.
With the structured methods and attention to detail, the rest of the team, leadership, stakeholders and the customer develop a sense of confidence and trust in the entire development team. This trust enables these other parties to remain engaged with other contributions to the project.
At face value, the thought of bringing on a team of third-party individuals appears to be an additional cost to a project. With the value of the efficiency such a team brings, though, the efficiency, lack of re-work, missed bugs and the technical debt that follows, the cost is actually reduced.
Finally, with cost savings comes increased profits, but that’s not the only source of these profits. When a QA Team is involved with a structured and efficient process, the time to go-live or going to market is reduced as well. That means that profits and ROI may be realized sooner because of the effectiveness of the testing process.
Lighthouse Technologies is your U.S. resource for experts in software testing. Being an on-shore company, we can still save costs. Contact us to learn how we can launch your testing processes to reduce costs, increase accuracy and maximize efficiency.