Quality Jam 2018: One Band, One Sound

3 Things We Learned At This Epic Software Testing Conference

A key theme echoed throughout Quality Jam 2018 this week in Atlanta: Software testing is critical to the success of any business that develops software, and ensuring software quality is no longer the sole domain of the tester. It’s a team effort, and each individual across the software development lifecycle, from business leaders to product owners, developers and DevOps engineers, must be in tune with QA goals and know how to support quality as a strategic initiative. After all, even across functions, we’re all striving for the same success, and it will take support, collaboration and teamwork to get there. Or, as we like to say at QASymphony (and to borrow a phrase from the 2002 film “Drumline”): One band, one sound.

Here are three things we learned about that at Quality Jam this week:

1. In a DevOps world, the software tester is a key player in successful software delivery.

In his keynote address on Tuesday, Brian Dawson explained why so many technology leaders are interested in DevOps. “Fundamentally, we must deliver better software faster, going from concept to customer with high quality and high value, without waste — doing it fast and repeatably.” It’s a tall order, and success requires everyone to play a part. But too many organizations move forward without including QA, Dawson said, and that can be a detrimental a mistake.

One of the most challenging aspects of DevOps is the culture change it requires, Dawson explained. To improve team dynamics, Dawson encouraged attendees to riff on their teammate’s ideas. “Find shared pains, make shared goals [and] align to reach those goals.”

2. QA teams have a unique — and invaluable — perspective on users’ needs.

The world of QA is changing fast, and some testers fear what those changes will mean for their careers. In his session on continuous integration, Paul Merrill faced this fear head on.

As Merrill noted, too much of what testers do is irreplaceable, and as technology progresses, users will only demand better, more seamless software experiences. Though testing will be approached in different and new ways, and much of it will be automated, the craft of testing is about so much more.

During Wednesday’s afternoon keynote panel, “Software Testing in the Real World,” panelists agreed that not everything can be automated. Exploratory testing is a great example of this.

“There’s not an automated test that’s going to tell me this grating functionality is frustrating for the user,” said panelist Ashley Hunsberger. “You need that emotion that tells you this is really frustrating, and get that back to the product owner. Things like that can’t be automated.”

Hunsberger summed up the importance of manual testing nicely: “Manual testing is human testing. This is still a world where you need human-based testing. You need to build empathy with your users; you need to understand them.” And because a tester’s job involves replicating the experience of a user, they arguably have the best perspective on a user’s wants, needs and frustrations. That’s invaluable knowledge that can help ensure a product’s successful adoption, and businesses can capitalize on this knowledge by involving QA teams in product planning and ideation.

3. Software testers need to get better at beating the QA drum.

Quantifying testing activities is easy (especially with a tool like qTest Insights). But quantifying the business value of testing to people outside the QA department is not always so simple. As Adam Satterfield told me in an interview, QA teams are not there to catch bugs — they are there to collect information and deliver it to the business so they can make an informed decision about release readiness. That information is invaluable to business decision-making, and there are several ways QA teams can communicate that in a more effective way.

In her session on risk-based testing, Jenny Bramble pointed out that too often, executives don’t understand the value of QA until something goes wrong. Bramble asked: “What is the impact of failure? If you saw your bug on the front page of a newspaper, is that a massive bummer?”

Instead, QA teams should spend some time taking a step back, out of the day-to-day metrics, to understand, measure and report the value of what they do. As ShareCare CEO Jeff Arnold noted, a positive, bug-free user experience creates trust. And “building relationships and trust with customers drives adoption.”

We hope Quality Jam 2018 hit all the right notes for you. At QASymphony, we believe in championing the tester — and the tremendous business value that testing delivers. After all, we’re all on the same team, striving for the same success.

In case you missed it, here’s a quick video recap of the conference.

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