QA (Quality Assurance) ensures that clients receive the best products possible by finding issues and suggesting fixes that make products more user-friendly and effective. Without their help, companies risk considerable costs due to poor-quality software. Poor software quality cost businesses $2.08 trillion in 2020, according to the Consortium for Information & Software Quality.
Finding and improving software can greatly increase business revenue, especially when QA engineers find defects in the early stages of development. It's not uncommon software bugs to be resolved after a product's release to be far more expensive than during the software’s initial design.
Because repairing software issues costs exponentially more in each stage of development, building an effective QA team can save businesses significant amounts of money.
In this article, we will discuss the qualities and responsibilities of a successful QA team, and share some useful tips on how to effectively assemble one.
What makes a QA team successful?
A QA team demonstrates its effectiveness in the results of its cooperative effort, namely the end product. The members of effective QA teams possess an array of skills to evaluate the technical and qualitative aspects of a piece of software.
To effectively apply and combine their expertise, a QA team should encourage the following skills and practices:
As members share overlapping responsibilities and form an interdependent team, their work relies on clear, effective communication. In the initial stages of a project, the QA team should meet to establish a shared goal for the product and how each member’s unique skills can help achieve the goal.
Each member needs to understand their role in the project, what the other members expect from them, and the rest of the team’s roles and responsibilities.
Throughout the project, team members should give and receive feedback on each other's work openly and frequently, so everyone can improve and work more effectively towards their shared goal. Effective communication relies on confidence, respect, humility, and empathy.
Each member should feel confident and empathetic to express ideas and criticisms openly and kindly. Each member should also remain respectful and humble to listen to other members and incorporate their feedback.
With any software product, finding hidden bugs and issues comes from asking the right questions. Before development begins, the QA team should start brainstorming potential quality concerns and suggest issues and tests throughout the lifecycle.
A curious team will continuously ask new questions, uncover problems, and improve the product, while a disinterested team may be quick to accept a product as good enough despite leaving many aspects untested.
QA teams that consistently exceed expectations and devote themselves to delivering the best products require a valuable resource: motivation. Even if a team possesses many experienced developers and QA engineers, without motivation, the team may lack the drive to thoroughly explore and resolve a product’s issues.
However, if team leaders and members regularly encourage each other and remain positive, they will feel more interested and devoted to their work.
Recognizing team members for their ideas and work can help increase confidence, curiosity, and motivation. Recognition also helps keep the team oriented towards their shared goal. If leaders consistently validate good work, the team will stay on the right track and make more progress.
Responsibilities of an Effective QA Team
An effective QA team begins working at the beginning of the development cycle and continues until after the product’s release. Throughout the software’s lifecycle, a QA team has the following responsibilities:
Understanding a Product’s Requirements
Before creating test cases, the QA team needs to understand the product’s features and requirements, as well as the stakeholders’ and clients’ expectations for the software.
Planning the Tests
Once the QA team understands the product, they can develop a thorough testing framework to assess every feature. This stage begins during the early development stages, and it involves many meetings and brainstorming sessions.
Documenting the Tests
Essential for effective project organization, documentation for the tests allows managers to understand how the test cases function, which aspects of the software the tests assess, and how much progress the QA team has made.
Documentation also provides valuable information for new employees, looking to understand the QA team’s procedures.
Executing the Tests
Once the team establishes a testing framework, they systematically execute the various tests to find and report bugs, errors, and areas for improvement.
The team suggests fixes to developers and later verifies their solutions. Often, the team relies on software quality metrics to evaluate product quality and team productivity.
Assembling a QA team
A company should assemble a QA team whose members possess a diverse set of skills, experiences, and knowledge that allow them to discover a variety of potential bugs and issues.
Each team member should have a unique ability they bring to the table, and their specialization should address a specific aspect of the product.
For example, if the team needs to test an app, at least one member should have experience in mobile UI testing and app design.
The Needs Map Method
One method for building a strong QA team involves making a needs map, a set of lists containing all the skills and experiences the team, as a whole, needs to have to effectively improve the company’s products.
For example, the needs map could list various types of testing (automation testing, manual testing, UI testing, accessibility testing, etc.), different programming languages used for the tests, experience using various platforms and environments (Windows, macOS, web apps, etc.), and even personality types (leader, team player, communicator, etc.)
Once you have established what you need in a team, you can assemble the group of developers and engineers who fulfill the most items on the list. If you wish to improve an existing QA team, you can see which skills the current team possesses and hire people who fill in the gaps on the needs map.
Because you are assembling a team, you do not need to find individuals who can do everything on the list. You only need to find people who, when their skills are combined, can fulfill the project’s requirements.
We recommend searching for people who each have their own area of expertise, so the team, as a whole, possesses enough specialized knowledge to thoroughly evaluate every aspect of a product.
QA Team Roles
Although the exact structure and responsibilities of QA departments vary, many software development QA teams will likely contain the following positions:
The team leader organizes the group’s efforts and oversees their work and communication. Responsible for meeting with product managers and developers, the QA lead must relay product information to the team members and help them understand their responsibilities. We recommend that QA leads conduct regular one-on-one meetings with each team member to understand their goals, expertise, ideas, and criticisms.
The best QA analysts have industry-specific expertise that allows them to make a product a better fit for the market. Instead of focusing on technical details and programming issues, QA analysts determine how a software’s features and errors can be improved and resolved to fit consumer needs and meet industry standards.
After learning the product’s features and requirements, the test architects construct a testing framework to best assess the software throughout development. Ideally, test architects have experience in various kinds of testing (automation, manual, security, etc.), so they can provide support and guidance for the other QA engineers.
Requiring advanced programming knowledge and an understanding of automated test frameworks, such as Selenium testing, automation testers develop scripts to isolate and rigorously test the features of a product.
Manual testers examine a product’s functionality in its final stages. They manually test the user interface, ensuring it meets its requirements, and search for any undiscovered bugs and issues.
Ensuring a product’s accessibility means making a product usable for as many people as possible. Accessibility testers use both manual and automated testing methods and focus on making products perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. To learn more about accessibility testing, check out our previous article on the subject.
Of course, depending on the project, a QA team may need more roles, and team members may need to perform different functions at different stages of development.
What to take away
Effective QA teams have the abilities to save businesses money by finding many hidden issues early in development. Highlighting these issues early can be key to a products success.
By finding the right individuals and practicing productive communication and motivation techniques, team leaders can assemble a specialized group that remains devoted to producing the best software for both the company and the client’s benefit.
Do you have any QA experiences that you would like to share? Feel free to let us know in the comments section!