Quality at Speed: The Evolving Role of the Agile Quality Analyst
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More and more of us are working from home, buying our goods and services online, and connecting with family and friends electronically. It's predicted that this is the “new” way of life.
This new way means we will be using platforms, services, and technology not only to keep us connected but to engage in online shopping, consult with our doctors and maintain our lifestyle. Circumstances have forced businesses to find solutions that provide their customers with what they need within a shorter time frame. Time is of the essence, solutions providers are fighting to get to market faster to account for our new digital reality.
How does this new way of doing business apply to the Quality practice when it comes to delivering digital experiences? We must think differently about what testing we do as part of a solutions delivery team and adapt our quality approaches to fast-tracked timelines. This is especially true when teams are trying to be agile within an existing framework that was not intended to be agile.
Delivering fast is only part of the equation. Speed without quality can cause major impacts to an organization and brand. Quality Assurance practitioners must constantly evolve with radical changes in technology. This need to evolve is crucial now that the virtual experience is part of our daily interaction.
One of the primary skills that Agile Quality Analysts (AQAs) have at Rangle is the ability to support and contribute to a lean, agile delivery team. We coach. We learn. We deliver.
What is an Agile Quality Analyst (AQA)
AQAs provide both tangible and intangible value to the product. The main commitment of an AQA is to preemptively detect (thus avoid) the majority of bugs. We accomplish this through our early involvement in the development of the product and each specific feature. AQAs help define what quality means for the product and proactively engage in requirement analysis to define what quality means for each individual feature of that product. The AQA’s goal is to establish that the product being delivered meets or exceeds the client's expectations.
There are three significant quality practices AQAs apply that effectively speed up the delivery process and put quality first.
1. Drive the Quality Culture
Engaging in agile testing methods of testing early, testing often, incrementally and continually enables faster-to-market delivery. By evaluating quality at every stage, and applying appropriate quality standards from project conception to hand off, we can drive the culture of quality.
What does that mean for an AQA? We position ourselves as the voice of quality in all our interactions with the broader team. We remove the perception that we are the “defect police”. We treat developers as peers. We hone our technical skills. We learn project management principles. We apply our learnings to our day-to-day work to add value beyond the validation of features. We become more than a tester. As a result, the delivery process is more collaborative and leads to higher quality solutions that are shipped on time, without sacrificing quality.
2. Create a Meaningful Quality Strategy That Actually Gets Used
Working closely with clients to understand their business and crafting a quality strategy that meets their needs and capabilities positions our clients to succeed. It’s long been the practice to create a long and detailed document to define a project’s test process. If you google “test strategy” you’ll see over 1,520,000,000 results. There’s no shortage of instructions on creating a document. Documents have the habit of disappearing into a folder and getting forgotten about.
Several years ago, I participated in a replatforming of a large ecommerce business. The QA team provided a thoughtful, thorough quality strategy at the beginning of the project. When we finally delivered the completed solution, the document was long forgotten - in fact, most team members didn’t know where to find it! Out of sight, out of mind. That’s why creating a strategy that is relevant to specific client needs makes more sense. It is the documentation of the checks in place to deliver what we promise - a working application that supports their business goals. It also acts as a guide for the delivery team, a living artifact that maps the process.
3. Be a Trusted Advisor and Not Just a Bug Finder
The definition of a Trusted Advisor, according to Benefit Mall, is “someone who has exceptional, targeted knowledge in a particular industry or with a specific product; one you can expect to provide unbiased advice.”
QA has often been seen in a negative light, as those who are always thinking of what could go wrong on a project. Rather than taking on the role of the pessimist, an AQA should stand as an expert of quality, providing clients with information on why quality first will put them in a winning position. They advise on test solutions that show tangible results. A strong AQA will use risk management to drive the Test approach so that teams are comfortable with not testing everything all the time.
Be Bold in your Quality mission
Being the voice of Quality is hard work. In difficult times, it’s challenging to motivate yourself and others to bring their best to the table. As an AQA, our mission is to evaluate quality at every stage and be the constant reminder that, as Henry Ford stated “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking”.