Swinging the Pendulum of IT Back to QA

Content By Devops .com

I was reading Nuria Manuel’s excellent article about quality assurance (QA), and it got me thinking about the wide variety of ‘pendulums’ that impact IT. I call them pendulums because they follow the rule of “every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” and they work on fundamental truths of IT. For example, the one that has probably been going on the longest is centralization/decentralization of IT and its assets. No sooner is everything consolidated and cost savings realized than adaptability concerns and needs of individual business units start the process of decentralization. Then, once decentralization is realized, everyone is painfully aware of the chaos that fifteen miniature IT departments, each going their own way, can cause … and centralization begins again.

Quality assurance is another such pendulum. Much like soldiers in peacetime, most people don’t recognize the value of QA efforts when things are going well. And when they’re not going well, then it is considered a QA failure—assuming there is a true QA function. Otherwise, it becomes the impetus to launch a formalized QA function … until things are going well and budgets are tight. The problem with QA is that for years, timelines, budgets and Agile management styles have all conspired to swing that pendulum away from a formal QA function. Oh, companies pay the price, but they quite often don’t see it as a cry for a valid QA function, and just treat this particular issue as a one-off that they should make sure doesn’t happen again. Unfortunately, issues in production have become both commonplace and accepted because of this. The only issues in production that seem to actually generate angst are ones that keep users from accessing the product. Anything short of that and workarounds or delayed fixes are seen as okay.

But the apps you are rush-building today will still be around in 10 years—or, at least, some of them will. Some of them won’t for a variety of reasons–including quality issues. Those that are around in 10 years are going to have to be maintained. QA now can save you over the years, so why all the resistance to it? QA might delay the release of new app. It is understandable that delays are to be avoided if possible, but so are bugs, so maybe constraining how long QA can delay the release and building that number right into the schedule would be a decent compromise.

That way, QA is looking at the most important/used parts of the app, but not getting buried in the weeds (where there might be bugs, but the ROI for addressing them probably isn’t there). The app will be delivered on time because QA’s time was built into the schedule. This does require that we not allow the traditional and abhorrent practice of shortening the QA window to make up for developers not meeting deadlines. Let us be very clear about this: when developers are rushed because they missed deadlines, that is precisely the time that you want QA to look very closely at their code before release. The last thing you should do is less testing in this scenario. The absolute last thing.

This is completely doable in your environment. The only really difficult part is holding the line on QA. Business owners are going to want to meet their original timeline, but cutting any phase of testing to get there is just a bad idea, so the struggle will be to hold the line. And figure out why devs missed the deadline in the first place so that the issue can be avoided for the next project.

You all are rocking it. Make sure all that sweet code-and-deploy work is not undermined by quality issues! Go ahead, implement a QA policy and make it an actual policy. Keep rocking it, get accolades from the rest of us. Maybe even from your employer. Maybe. But definitely from us. Because you’re killing it, month after month.

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