Welcome to Quality Assurance Strategy for Enterprises, a new blog series for senior QA professionals and Product Owners who need to successfully navigate the difficult terrain of large/complex organizations in order to create world-class software products.
In this, the first blog in the series, I introduce enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy by answering four key questions:
- Why organizations need an enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy
- Why organizations struggle to adopt an enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy
- What kind of organizations benefit most from having an enterprise-wide quality strategy
- What should be included in an enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy
Armed with the answers to these questions, you will be able to determine when/if you should explore an enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy – given your, and your company’s, goals.
The Reason Organizations Need an Enterprise-wide Quality Assurance Strategy
Consider for a moment a challenge facing senior QA and product professionals who, like you, work in large, complex, or rapidly expanding enterprises. Specifically, each department, operating unit, office location, or project team has a hand in ensuring that the software they build (and/or rely on) meets certain quality standards. Now, given your experience in large organizations, let me ask you three questions:
- What do you think the chances are that quality assurance is consistently planned, implemented, and measured across the organization?
- How confident would you feel that the approach to quality assurance is set on a path to adapt to changing technologies and evolving market conditions?
- How devastating to the company’s brand (and/or stock price) would it be to release software products that disappoint or alienate customers?
The good news is that by establishing and sustaining an enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy, you, your organization, and your customers can realize very real benefits, including the following:
Benefits to you
- Reduced frustration associated with having to manage inconsistent QA standards and related processes
- Increased line-of-sight into the QA processes and outcomes within, and across each department, business unit, office location, and/or project team
Benefits to your organization
- Reduced duplication of quality assurance efforts and related resources
- Quality assurance goals that are uniformly rolled-out and monitored
- Increased ability to integrate new QA-related technologies
- Increased ability to anticipate, plan for, and control QA-related costs
- Enhanced reputation for building reliable and forward-looking products
Benefits to your customers
- Products that are stable and user-friendly
- Heightened satisfaction with your products
Why Organizations Struggle to Adopt Enterprise-wide Quality Assurance Strategies
The truth is that large organizations struggle to develop, implement, and manage a well-thought-out quality assurance strategy across an enterprise. The reasons, which will be familiar to you, include the following:
- Responsibility for ensuring quality in your company is limited to one area or department such as Product Development – rather than throughout every department
- There is confusion over how to balance QA (Quality Assurance) – which aims to prevent defects before they emerge – and QC (Quality Control) which focuses on identifying defects after they are produced
- Software testing is only conducted late in the software development lifecycle rather than ‘shifting left’ (i.e. executing tests earlier and/or throughout the development cycle).
Organizations That Benefit from an Enterprise-wide Quality Assurance Strategy
In an upcoming blog, I will review the things you should have in place to make sure that you are ready for an enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy. However, in the meantime, if your organization is experiencing any of the following symptoms, you will benefit from having a broad-based quality assurance strategy:
- Defect volumes that are too high, growing, or are unpredictable
- Consistently rising customer support costs and/or maintenance costs
- Inability to anticipate or address production defects
- Inconsistently applied processes for using QA resources (i.e. people and tools)
- Confusion over responsibility for QA, due to poorly defined roles and responsibilities
- Absence of, or inconsistent use of, QA/Testing metrics
- Absence of integrated QA/Testing management tools
What Should Be Included in an Enterprise-wide Quality Assurance Strategy
When the time is right for you to embrace an enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy, keep in mind that it should be developed to achieve, at a minimum, the following high-level goals:
- Increase the speed at which testing is executed
- Increase the ability with which senior management can monitor and adapt QA/Testing processes
- Help your organization stay ahead of competitors by building products that will be embraced by your target market
That means, to meet these goals, your enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy should at a minimum have the following components:
- Well-defined QA team structure that includes individual roles, responsibilities, and measures of success
- A process for evaluating, rolling-out, and measuring test- and defect-management tools
- A documented and enforced change management process
- An articulated release management process
- A test environment management process
- A process for managing test data
- A risk-based testing framework
- A defect management process and metrics that support Continuous Improvement
- A documented approach for test automation, performance testing and security testing
- A roadmap for evolving the QA and Testing Practice
In the next blog, I’ll outline what you should have in place before you begin crafting an enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy.
I welcome hearing your experiences with, or questions about, implementing an enterprise-wide quality assurance strategy. By all means, reach out to me by email (dnikolova at qaconsultants.com) or via LinkedIn.
Desislava Nikolova leads QA Consultants’ Advisory Practice