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Should the QA process always include the business side?

Quality assurance professionals need to start thinking about bringing business along for the ride. Expert Amy Reichert offers tried-and-true advice to get started.

Does quality assurance have a business value? Or is it only useful for satisfying regulatory requirements or meeting marketing needs?

QA's business value is testing applications to improve customer experience. Secondly, the QA process provides business value in verifying regulatory requirements are met. Software application providers don't want customers experiencing immediate, can't-miss defects after a release. In this case, defects cause customers to abandon using the app or to search for something better. In the case of regulatory software, missing a requirement carries significant negative financial impacts, as well as customer dissatisfaction that rarely is repairable afterwards.

But does the QA process truly pay for itself? Does QA need to create additional business value beyond software testing? With the expansion of AI capabilities and test automation, it is necessary to increase QA business value in order to remain competitive and viable.

First, you don't want to reduce testing effectiveness by taking on secondary responsibilities. Plan for the impact on the QA process workload and for conflicts, in addition to defining priorities clearly. Once you set the stage, determine how your QA team can provide additional business value by extending their skills and talents where needed.

In the second part of this series, we'll cover crossing over to automated test development or user documentation. In this article, we'll cover combining the scrum master role and QA, as well as bringing customer or technical support into the QA process.

QA + scrum master

Recently, I've come across several QA job postings that combine QA testing with the scrum master role. I find it both a compelling and curious combination. Being a scrum master requires the ability to be assertive and authoritative, while enabling development team members to get work done. The role is part project manager and part trainer/coach. Filling both roles as a QA team member requires leadership, project management experience of some kind and the ability to train, persuade and achieve team member compliance. If you've ever worked in a scrum or even Kanban Agile development team, there's typically at least one pocket of difficult, but very important, members who won't comply without a tussle. Granted, most QA testers develop the ability to work successfully alongside a wide variety of coworker personalities. However, can time be devoted to both roles in peak release delivery periods or when there are issues with the team?

The other question is: How much testing is expected? The amount of time available for testing may be limited based on the scrum master demands. It may be feasible but requires a person with the ability to prioritize, align a team, keep projects on track and, of course, test. That is quite the list of job responsibilities.

QA + customer support

This combination is fairly common in smaller application companies with fewer customer-reported issues. It is a sensible combination both in terms of knowledge accumulation and a customer-focused approach to testing. The ability to prioritize tasks proves essential because addressing customer issues always comes first and testing falls to second.

If enough customer issues arise and cause a constant interruption to testing, then you may have a growing and continuous problem. For example, if customers' issues are resolved but testing time is continuously reduced, then more customer issues will arise. Eventually, little -- if any -- testing occurs, and all the work time is spent resolving customer issues. It may be workable if backup support exists for testing in case the workload for support is taking more time than planned.

Combining and expanding the QA process is a good thing overall. However, as with most items, it's important to plan and define priorities. Part of the plan needs to include backup resources in case the team member becomes overloaded and is unable to complete his/her work in a reasonable timeframe. 

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