Maximising QA efficiency - By Martin Sutcliffe 
In a nutshell, a quality assurance strategy is a workable guide to help an organisation to achieve its QA objectives and goals. It commonly consists of a set of processes and procedures that should be followed as part of the QA delivery of any project or programme of work, and should normally underpin a higher-level Test Policy, which is a set of key principles for an organisation to embed as part of both its process and culture within a delivery methodology. 
Within a QA strategy, a wide variety of areas can be covered, including: 
Types of test phases to be adopted 
Approach to test automation within an organisation 
Detail around risk-based approach to regression testing 
Approach to test tool selection and usage 
Exploring areas around test data management 
The test environment landscape to be used 
A company-wide approach 
The goal of a QA strategy should be twofold. Firstly it must outline a common approach across all teams engaged within QA inside an organisation, ensuring controls can be met whilst acting as a central artefact for how testing should be delivered. 
Secondly, it should provide transparency and clarity across all teams outside of QA, factoring in the approach to risk-based testing, and also the requirements that may sit outside of QA - which must be clearly defined in ensuring the strategy can be implemented. 
Establishing and evolving the QA approach 
In general, most organisations have some form of QA strategy in place. This may not always be clearly documented - and also not be followed or updated. However, it’s critical that strategies are regularly reviewed in relation to changes in tools, business drivers and risk appetite. 
What’s more, the QA function must continually strive to ensure the strategy is shared across all business and IT areas, remain transparent, and is followed. It is important, in any organisation, that when deviations are made from the defined QA strategy, these are reviewed and assessed to allow for real time improvements. 
Socialising the strategy 
Many organisations tend to see a QA Strategy as a point-in-time deliverable rather than an ongoing piece of work that must be regularly reviewed to ensure its relevance. 
Quality assurance is the responsibility of everyone within an organisation, so socialising the up-to-date strategy with all business areas is key to ensuring it delivers on a company-wide level and not just through an IT lens. 
Quality meets cost savings 
A solid QA strategy is one that lays down the foundations for how an organisation can measure both its effectiveness of testing AND the efficiency of that testing. Along with quality, cost savings in all organisations will continue to be a clear driver. Being able to measure quality (effectiveness) from a QA strategy, along with cost (efficiency), are two key areas that allow for the measurement of the success of an implementation of a QA strategy. 
Measuring the effectiveness and efficacy 
Having a QA strategy in place that allows the measurement of effectiveness and efficiency is key to determining how successful an organisation’s QA strategy is, but more importantly, provides outputs as to where changes may be needed to improve either of these areas. 
Organisations that don’t have a QA strategy in place will undoubtedly need to be able to quantify why there is a need, and metrics around effectiveness and efficiency allows that discussion with senior stakeholders to take place by showing the value of a solid, robust and detailed QA strategy. 
The metrics 
There are many metrics that can be utilised by an organisation to inform the success of a QA strategy, but it's not always one size fits all. Successful measurement will depend on things like the development methodology, how organsiations are set up internally, and the approach to risk appetite. 
It’s important, during the QA strategy development, to ensure all relevant parties agree to a set of KPIs and the metrics which will be used to report these, whilst fully understanding that these may evolve and change over time. 
Capturing metrics to inform how a KPI is performing is integral in being able to self-manage and improve a QA strategy within an organisation. They provide the ability to be transparent to all stakeholders about how a QA strategy is performing and if it's providing the level of information in order to inform on success. 
Once metrics are being successfully captured and feeding the key performance indicators, it is imperative that these are utilised to ensure that the documented QA strategy is being followed by all parties within the testing community. What’s more, depending upon the direction of the KPIs, metrics can be used to inform the evolving QA strategy on an ongoing basis - IF there is a company-wide appetite and willingness to improve the organisation’s approach to QA. 
There's more to testing than just finding defects 
The real driver is to ensure that a product can be delivered to meet the requirements of the product owners, the business and, ultimately, the customer. Ensuring a product delivers both functional and non-functional requirements is an integral part of quality assurance, but planning, analysis and reviews all form part of the overall process. 
There is a wide range of testing businesses should be considering depending upon the nature of their business. For example, non-functional testing is beginning to be more prominent in the minds of businesses, looking at things like performance and security, which, when organisations get wrong, can impact brand reputation due to security breaches or poor performance. As such, the variety and use of testing tools is exponentially increasing to support the amount of additional testing being carried out by organisations. 
The Testing Pyramid 
To help an organisation understand the level of testing must be carried out, the testing pyramid provides a good guide. Also known as the test automation pyramid, the pyramid outlines the order and volume of tests that should be executed at each phase of the process. For example, the bottom of the pyramid is where unit testing occurs; this is the largest area and should be where the majority of tests are built, automated and executed. As you move up the pyramid and through the test phases, you will see a reduction in the tests which need to be executed. 
Iridium works with clients to help develop and implement QA strategies 
One of the key challenges when going into organisations is understanding the current position of the QA strategy. In order to work through their challenges, the first questions that Iridium looks to answer are, how effective is the testing within the organisation and how efficient is the testing that is being completed? 
Many organisations are unable to answer these questions, and this forms the basis of how we can determine a current state assessment and then measure the changes which have been developed. Being able to quantify metrics in a tangible way is key to assessing both current state and showing, once a roadmap has been implemented, whether changes have been successful. 
Iridium’s unique approach is transparent and looks to address the fundamental challenges around quantifying both the effectiveness AND efficiency of the test process within an organisation. 
About our QA Practice  
Headed up by Martin Sutcliffe, who has worked in quality assurance for over 20 years within the utilities and financial services sectors, Iridium’s QA Practice delivers solutions to organisations who require support with their approach to QA, whether this is around streamlining services, reducing costs or resolving capability gaps. 
The practice delivers experienced and cost-effective resources, along with a service catalogue with tangible tool deliveries, to allow clients to be self-sufficient and effective when it comes to QA. This comprises the augmentation of existing teams with dedicated Iridium QA resources, providing managed QA services, and supplying dedicated teams to support in areas such as non-functional testing, and specific consultancy services. 
Iridium’s service allows businesses to quickly tap into highly skilled and experienced test resources as and when required, without the need to take on significant numbers of permanent test resources. And whilst Martin Sutcliffe and his team provide a bespoke and personal approach to solving clients' QA needs, their ultimate goal is to embed new processes into businesses' QA approaches to enable them to be self-sustainable in the long term. 
Contact with any questions or feedback. 
Tagged as: Quality Assurance
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