Every year we are contacted by companies looking to improve their application quality, typically for one of two reasons. Firstly, they may have been hurt by critical bugs reaching the live environment or they may simply want to lower the risk of that ever occurring. Secondly, their resources are under pressure while simultaneously the business wants to increase the rate of change. How can they do more without increasing their headcount?
In many cases test automation is at the top of the shopping list – a comprehensive regression test suite will certainly act as a safety net against collateral damage and will lower the risk to the business. But such a test suite will take time to build and must be maintained as the applications under test develop. This will place an additional load on a team which is already under pressure. Perhaps it will be wiser to first look at other areas for efficiencies so that resources can be made available for a test automation initiative.
Even with an automation tool in place it still leaves a mass of testing to be performed manually. Now manual testing is an area ripe for potential improvement. Without help, manual testing is slow, repetitive and prone to rapid user fatigue as the test/defect/fix/test cycle repeats. With a manual test product in place, those cycles are reduced, and the reporting of defects is transformed by providing the developer with the exact steps needed to reproduce.
Now while it may not help the QA team directly, what will be the effect if those same gains in manual testing are applied to the end user community performing UAT? Reducing the load on the key business users will be a huge benefit to the company and it will be easier to maintain the attention and focus of the key users if the ‘distraction’ of UAT can be reduced.
And there is always the option of examining the management, control, and reporting of the application quality process. This is often based on spreadsheets or legacy test management tools which simply cannot ensure that work is effectively allocated and efficiently performed. Improvements in this area will beneficially affect every person who is involved in ensuring applications are of the highest possible quality.
So, if there is a lesson to be learned, it is this. You need to examine where your company can make not only the largest but also the quickest gains. Remember that rapid gains have the potential to slow the speeding train sufficiently so that you have time to invest in an enhanced strategic approach.