Sunday, August 10, 2014

The role of QA in the Agile organization

What is quality not (anymore)?

Some companies (still) think of quality as a standard set of KPI's that should be met for all projects in the company and reported on.
Those KPI's consist in the worst case for example of amount of analysis documents finished in time VS finished late, amount of test cases prepared per designed function, quotes on how well templates are being followed, bugs per test case, reopened bugs, bug fix times etc...
One role in the company is ultimately responsible for implementing quality in systems.
This role is the QA Lead or QA Manager who represent the project "head of police". They take their best-practice sheet out of the magical best practice box and start implementing it in the company.
The result of this way of implementing quality in a company producing software is a product that meets KPI's, was more costly to build and the people building it getting frustrated from working in a framework they don't support.
People on the floor don't seem to see the added value of the QA Manager and their KPI's, but those KPI's are sent way up, so they need to shine... in the worst case at the cost of product quality.
Maybe this was an acceptable way to approach quality when building products using the waterfall and V-model, and as a step to take in order to learn how to do better.
Now there are better ways to do this.

What is quality and how to pursue it?

"Quality" is like any software requirement. The idea of what an application needs to and may not do, changes over time and not all quality aspects can or should be fulfilled in order to deliver a successful project.
Each and every project member needs to understand the goal of what they are building and why they are building it. That's the first step in delivering software quality - a clear common goal.

The team with all their individual members are the owners of quality, the QA lead is their coach. 
The definition of what quality is, is formulated by it's stakeholders and can change over time.
What it means in reality is that good software quality (how stakeholders perceive quality) can only be reached when the common understanding of quality is carried by the team.
Stakeholders in this case are not only the business, but also the developers, testers, end users, release team, support teams etc...

The QA job in a project starts by making sure all stakeholders are identified in the first place and making sure they are aware they need to provide (continuous) input on what they need from a software product in order to reach the level of quality they want to achieve.
The next thing QA needs to do, is coach the product owner (or project sponsor - who owns the budget) in deciding which of all identified aspects are more or less important considering the budget and timelines. 

Then QA talks with the team on how these quality aspects will be put in place. The team will decide, together with QA on the definition of done (What are the measurable aspects of the software product that need to be fulfilled before we can ever say any component of this software has been "released".)

By doing so, the team defines how they will reach quality standards to ensure development speed, release efficiency, product maintenance, product aesthetics, acceptance criteria etc...
Based on the team's "definition of done"  that evolves over time, the individual project will gain more maturity in understanding what quality means for their project and will start reporting on measurable project related KPI's.
The QA Lead can assist in setting up and maintaining those reports, but needs to take care not to become the owner of those reports.

Projects are further monitored by testers (or test engineers, QA engineers or whatever you call the people who look for flaws in products and processes). They assess process and product, and contribute to the definition of done by testing the product, but also by checking with the team and stakeholders on the completeness and correctness of the definition of done  - that can be adapted after every iteration.

At the end of every iteration, it is important to look back on what went well and what went wrong in this project.
Lessons learned and incentives are the most valuable aspects a project can receive. Making sure those sessions take place and result in action points, can also be a QA role.

Results of implementing quality are not statistics in the means of the traditional overall KPI's anymore, but are project specific KPI's and even more importantly - they result in more successful projects, more accurate cost estimations, faster release cycles, faster delivery cycles, faster defect fix-rates, closer business cooperation and even higher retention levels of employees.

1 comment:

  1. This is very useful information .. Thank you so much for sharing this information