Best Practices for Managing an Effective QA Evolution

How mature is your QA organization? And are you satisfied with that level of maturity?

The truth is, there’s never an end state to QA maturity. As the space continues to evolve, new ideas and practices will take hold and move the target for what a highly mature QA organization looks like. As a result, there are always steps you can take to improve what you’re doing.

Given this landscape, it’s critical for every QA leader to know how to manage an effective QA evolution. At Quality Jam London, Mallissa Baldwin shared how she managed the successful evolution of DPDGroup’s QA team. Here’s our summary of what it takes.

The Process Behind an Effective QA Evolution

To start, let’s look at the basic architecture you’ll need to have in place to lead a QA evolution. As with any type of organizational change, the process behind an effective QA evolution involves three core steps:

  • Benchmark the Status Quo: Clearly identify the challenges your team faces and determine where you stand in fundamental areas. Specifically, review your delivery strategy and benchmark areas like the metrics you track, the skillsets you have in place and how well you use available resources. The best way to benchmark your status quo is to conduct interviews with people in different roles and at varying levels.
  • Plan for Your Desired Future State: Outline your vision for your desired future state and determine exactly what must change to achieve that goal. To do so, you should outline the most important, meaningful objectives needed for your desired future state and then dig deep into those objectives to outline the best path forward.
  • Determine How to Measure Success: Decide what success looks like and how you will measure that success. This step requires you to identify KPIs that you can easily capture and then regularly measure your progress toward success using those metrics.

5 Tips for Managing an Effective QA Evolution

While the three step process outlined above is an important start, leading a truly effective QA evolution requires you to go beyond the basics. As you embark on your evolution, embracing these five tips can help you manage the change effectively:

1) Be Realistic

When you evaluate your current challenges and determine your desired future state, there will likely be several areas you want to change. But it’s important to remember that you can’t change the world in a day. You must be realistic about what you can take on successfully at once. For example, try picking two of your main objectives to start so that you can show early success. As you think about where to start, pick areas that can deliver quick wins and where you’re confident in how to achieve a positive ROI. In general, remember to aim for a continuous improvement model driven by incremental changes rather than trying to do everything at once.

2) Identify Champions

At the end of the day, effective change is all about the people, as you can’t get anywhere without the right support. You need to determine who your champions will be and involve them from the very start. As you pick your champions, remember to find people at all levels who can go out to the rest of the organization and help get others on board with the change. The more people you can have out there singing praises for change, the greater your chance of success.

3) Give Everyone a Voice

Looking beyond your champions, you need to constantly engage everyone affected by the change so that they know you’re all on the same side. The best way to foster this engagement is to give people a voice from the start by involving them in the benchmarking process (e.g. interviewing them about current challenges) and by asking them to help identify top areas for change. Additionally, it’s important to keep people engaged and feeling like they matter by asking questions and providing transparent updates at every step of the way. Critically, if people are vociferous, you need to determine if it’s because they’re enthusiastic champions or because they’re nervous about the change. And if it’s the latter, remember that training and ongoing transparency can go a long way toward calming those nerves.

4) Continually Validate Progress

When you first set your objectives and build a plan to achieve them, it all sounds ideal — but how do you know if what you’re doing makes a positive difference for the organization? And how can you confirm people are making the changes they’re supposed to make? While it starts with picking KPIs to measure success, you need to track those KPIs on a regular basis — in both the short and long terms — to continually validate your plan and its effectiveness.

5) Stay Flexible

Finally, it’s critical to stay flexible. You should be prepared for challenges to crop up throughout your evolution and you need a certain level of flexibility to respond to and mitigate those challenges. Furthermore, you need to be able to adjust your plan along the way as needed to respond to environmental changes or unexpected turns on the ground. This flexibility will also help you identify continued opportunities for evolution that you can tackle at a later time to keep your organization as nimble and mature as possible.

Are You Ready to Manage an Effective QA Evolution?

With these tips in hand, you have everything you need to manage an effective QA evolution. As you start your journey, remember that every QA organization is different and what maturity looks like will be unique to each one. Rather than comparing your organization to others, aim to improve what you already have in place, because as long as you continue to mature and improve over the status quo, your efforts to evolve will be a success.

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