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QA Transformation in an Agile World

QA & Agile transformation

My name is Gabriella Szasz and I have spent my career working within QA at the world’s largest banks. At any given time, I have managed anywhere from a few hundred resources to 5,000. Whenever I embarked on an organizational transformation (and I have done more than five!), my first task has always been to develop an organizational skills assessment. Not as easy it seems, EVER. First and foremost, the existing regime always took great pains to let me know that all is fine. I was given many PowerPoint presentations saying that I had inherited the most skilled, innovative, and financially efficient organization in the firm. While I believe being positive about your team is important, being self-aware is critical. If, as a leader, you do not understand your gaps and your sweet spots, you are not an effective leader. Knowing what needs to change, no matter how difficult it will be, is one of the attributes of a strong mature leader. So, how does one begin on a QA transformation into an agile world?

Why am I writing about this now?

Because the world needs to move into digital now. While digital may mean different things to different companies, it always requires specific skills. They continue to be so different from present-day requirements that it will turn many industries upside down. QA needs to adjust like the rest of technology. And, in fact, lead to Agile Transformation. To get there, our leaders need to be futuristic visionaries but at the same time pragmatic. That means we need to self-assess quickly and then simultaneously plan and implement. If you will, we need to be AGILE-Minded. Adopting agile practices and agile project management methods almost become an agile manifesto in itself.

Enabling an organizational self-assessment vs. third party is key.

Understanding that the outcome of your self-assessment means not everyone is going to make it is CRITICAL. Most organizations I have been involved with have undergone self-assessment exercises and we ultimately came up with 70-90% skills lacking within those organizations. That went double for cross-functional teams, human resources, and software development teams. That number is daunting, but it does not mean people are not trainable or salvageable. However, it does indicate that aggressive and non-traditional plans needed to be invoked to begin an agile transformation quickly. And yes, some new hiring plans need to be in place, as well as training plans.

How did I apply this to my QA organizations?

Understanding your new skills matrix and where you are on the implementation plan to get there, is your most key task. Real Agile transformation and agile methodologies cannot happen before that understanding is in place with the right team members. This, by far, is the most difficult process and culturally the biggest hurdle to scale. Managers are defensive and loyal to their staff, so getting this changed is a process. Having key metrics in place (the right metrics not the volume of metrics) and an understanding of those metrics at all working levels is very important. And you must review these metrics consistently, including with your business partners as you progress. Conducting skills assessment is an interesting process. From past approaches, I find the most accurate technique is having the scrum masters, product owners, and other staff assess themselves and then have those results separately verified. This will be honest and true, unlike a management-led assessment. And this will then put you in a ready state for transforming your organization. Next week I will discuss measurements that can be used for gauging the successful QA transformation.

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Gabriella Szasz

Sr. Partner

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