The Purpose of QA
What is the purpose of functional testing, regression testing, load and performance testing, stress testing, and any other type of testing done at the end of the product development life cycle? If you said something like, “to improve the quality of your product”, keep reading. You cannot QA quality into your product. The quality of your product or service is determined to a large degree long before any test is performed. The reason for this is that QA’s purpose is not to ensure quality but rather to check if all the other quality affecters have been included, providing a warning if they have not been.
We would put forth an argument that feature prioritization and resource allocation is the very first step in determining the quality of your product. Mess this up and you are building your product on a shaky foundation. Ensuring that the product team has clear guidance on business priorities and that these do not change every week sets the ground work for a high quality product. Changing direction is intensely distracting for the entire organization and should only be done when there is a clear business necessity. A litmus test is that if a change in direction happens more than once per quarter there is a problem.
The next crucial step in ensuring high quality is a set of well defined requirements that include the purpose, expected benefits, user functionality, and methods of verification. Depending on the development methodology this set can be developed all at once or incrementally.
Of course engineering has the largest and most direct role in determining the quality of the product. A professional engineering shop that can continuously deliver high quality features are usually places that are a joy to work in and make everyone better for being part of the team. Some things that a team such as this are likely to have in place are mentoring programs, coding standards, unit tests, logging framework, and even documentation requirements.
Don’t make the mistake that so many technology executives do and either blame QA for poor quality or think that by dedicating more time or resources to QA your quality will improve. Do this and you will likely get more warning signs such as more bugs but you will not improve the overall quality of the product. For that you must look further back in the product development life cycle.