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Creating a culture of quality assurance in software development

by Robert Duff
in , , on Mar 23, 2020

Quality assurance team working on a software product

 

What comes to mind when you think of quality assurance? Is it an activity that you can check off a list? If so, you’re in the majority. But, quality assurance (QA) needs to be more than that — it needs to be part of your company culture.

Quality assurance can benefit digital products by improving reliability, speed, and customer satisfaction. But, what does great quality assurance require? When we talk about QA, we don’t just mean completing all the steps in a process; the mindset with which your team approaches QA plays a major role.

In contrast to software testing, which is a step in the development process, quality assurance spans the entire process. The biggest mistake teams make is prioritizing process over quality. QA is critical whether you’re using agile, waterfall, or any other methodology. But, getting it right often has to do more with your team’s perception of the importance of quality. Leadership needs to start with company culture if they want to ensure quality at every stage.

How can you create a culture of quality in your organization and help shift your organization’s mindset? It starts from the top down. This means your executive team must first buy into the value of QA before you can inspire your employees to do so. Instead of a “do as I say and not as I do” way of thinking, leaders must show that they prioritize quality. Prioritizing QA doesn’t always make immediate fiscal sense, but it brings long-term benefits to your organization. In short, your long-term business health comes from putting the customer first.

To do quality assurance right, you must prioritize your clients

In the past, subscriptions were plagued with contracts that locked you in. But, technology has changed that. Software subscriptions are almost required to provide free trials, and most subscriptions have no contract. This reality means that users no longer think twice about jumping ship for the potential of a better experience.

Companies try to get around this by offering discounts for paying upfront for the year and other tactics, with some success. But, the truth is that experience is king. If you’re not living up to customer expectations, then your product is destined to fail. Companies that provide a digital experience for their users can’t afford to give them a buggy experience or their customers will leave.

When you prioritize the customer experience, you build trust with your customers and loyalty to your brand. But, good quality assurance takes work. One component of a strong QA team is a diverse set of skills.

Great quality assurance happens at every stage of development

Person writing out stages of a project

 

A great quality assurance team needs to know what’s happening at each step of the software development process. To do this, your QA team needs a wide set of skills; QA needs to be able to understand the goal of the project as a whole, but they also need to be able to dig down into the details. They need to understand a diverse set of development methods, environments, and coding languages.

A strong QA team will do more than prevent buggy software — they’ll ensure that the digital products your company produces meet all of the client expectations. The QA team should combine planned and systemic models with agile thinking. This requires well-documented quality control systems and an understanding that every project is unique.

The description of the ideal quality control team may seem more aspirational than realistic, but that’s not the case. The characteristics you’re looking for from your QA staff are well-rounded abilities instead of single expertise. They don’t need to be a superstar in every area of software development but instead be knowledgeable of multiple disciplines. However, your QA team is just one component of great quality assurance. You also need a plan.

Leverage the power of the software quality assurance plan

Without a plan, quality assurance is destined to fail. Why? Creating an SQP (software quality plan) helps you analyze the requirements of your digital product from a high level and plan the steps accordingly to ensure project success.

One of the first components of an SQP is the purpose of the project. Honing in on purpose over functionality allows your team to respond in an agile way to issues. If a certain functionality is causing too many problems, you can consider replacing or removing it as long as you maintain the original purpose. Teams that get stuck on functionality don’t have that option.

Apart from a high-level overview, the SQP provides your team with a roadmap of how things will be done. The SQP will cover everything from software audits to the sequence of testing steps and ensure your whole team is aligned on how QA should be done. It also proves your commitment to quality internally, which is a big step toward creating a culture of quality.

Are you trying to improve the quality of your digital products and create a culture of quality? Talk to one of our QA experts to learn more.

Robert Duff

Robert Duff

Chief Operating Officer

Rob has worked in the consulting industry since 1992. At Coherent he is responsible for the operational management of the company. His prior experiences include management consulting, technical architecture, and program/project management. Rob holds an MBA from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and a BA in Economics from the University of Notre Dame

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