It seems that every organization today has an initiative named Digital Transformation, but truth is that every business is in the midst of a Digital Transformation Journey, it is becoming a way of life for technology to stay up with and continue to support the ever-changing needs and capabilities in the Digital World.
What makes it complicated is the number of offerings, and the extent of Technology solutions & consulting companies that are available to accommodate and support transformation. Not to mention all the recommended processes, tools, and practices; everything from Dev-Ops & Agile, to Cloud solutions & SaaS, all the way to Artificial Intelligence capabilities, and that is while supporting the complexity of your current environment.
So, no matter where you are along the way (and the earlier the better), there is significant value in injecting Quality into all the aspects of your organizations Journey. First, there are a few interpretations of what QE (Quality Engineering) is or encompasses; some are not much different than what QA (Quality assurance) is, but with a little more focus and involvement in business and project management through the lifecycle, other views are along the lines of the “technical” and “engineering” capabilities and focus on the inclusion of capabilities around automation & performance, etc…
I want to introduce the idea of QE as a concept that a Quality Engineering group should take on a holistic view of Quality and is best implemented as a Governance of Quality model that oversees all aspects of technology and product/software lifecycles. This may be best described by making it a logical step in the evolution of testing; Initially, Software or Product Quality was measured by Testing at the end of the Product Lifecycle, and from there (with way too many influences, and process enhancements to mention), the Idea of Quality Assurance became the standard for assuring Quality and this included “Shifting Left” much of the Quality validation/testing.
From there, the Gold Standard became attaining a level of a QA-COE (QA Center of Excellence) where the processes and practices used, could be measured to show excellence in abilities and results. The evolution of Quality Assurance into Q.E. as a Governance & Guidance model is much more valuable/powerful as this allows a QE organization to oversee, inject and measure quality throughout the Technology organization, with a focus on every project/product lifecycle (i.e., from product Inception to retirement). In this way, there are many more opportunities than ever before to govern and measure quality, and many that would not have been considered otherwise.
Some of these opportunities to inject Quality are hopefully already part of your standards, such as the gates for accepting/rejecting code for testing, likely you have Dev test results, and many of the standard measures, but what about, code reviews complete, security testing complete, etc. As well, add gates for each phase and deliverable. The key to adding gates from a governance point of view is to make sure that everything is measured to support quality metrics/KPIs and that you have Vendor and/or internal agreements on deliverables and timelines. The most valuable opportunities are the ones that you can Shift Left as much as possible, therefore the earlier you can be involved the better.
The most successful example for me was very recently on an extremely large initiative, where I was involved in the contract negotiations and I asked for the delivery of Automated Testing with code delivery, the Vendor agreed to deliver 20-30% of their Dev testing automated (ensuring as well that this covered a 100% of core functional testing), and this would be included with every code delivery. As well, the Vendor had to ensure that the automated test ran and passed in the test environment before we would sign off on the code delivery. This resulted in very low defect rates from the Vendor and allowed for far more extensive QA testing than planned, as well, this reduced Business Acceptance testing time almost in half. If you consider that this was for a project that required over a 50-person QA team at its peak, with tens of thousands of test cases, and that it went into production on time & on budget with zero Sev 1 or 2 defects, it was a great success.
QA/Testing has always been a challenging area and likely part of what drives most that choose to work in this field, so the next challenge is the ability to look at quality from outside of the traditional boundaries and how early you can get involved and of course where quality can be injected! My advice is, to ask and negotiate involvement in project initiation, and from there, try to be involved in the contract negotiations, and project planning, and so on. Then as you can plan and implement all the potential points for ensuring quality, it won’t take long for the rest of the team members, business representatives, and external groups to realize the value and involvement of QE, not to mention, how you can make Quality a focus in your organization.
Article written by Barry Dawson, Release Manager at Gore Mutual Insurance.