Quality Assurance - The Role of a QA Tester
The role of a QA Tester is to review and analyse new or changed software applications, products, mobile devices etc. and to look for defects or issues so that these can be resolved before a software change delivery is released for operational use.
Quality Assurance is commonly performed within a software delivery life cycle but can also be part of process mapping and similar periodic improvement and efficiency reviews or occasionally as a one-off initiative.Quality Assurance is a vast subject area and is often debated in terms of what it is about, where to start and finish, what to measure and what standards to measure against. It's limited by time and cost, there always needs to be a balance and stakeholder agreement regarding the boundaries of these.
We typically perform Quality Assurance testing to improve, safeguard quality and to prevent issues in a product or service. It is valuable in avoiding costly rework and reduces problems for stakeholders, such as live system outages, showstoppers in live business operational processing, compliance, legal, financial problems and data protection issues, to name a few!
Quality Assurance gives increased confidence to stakeholders that the new or changed product/service is likely to meet the quality standards and integrity expectations whilst enhancing the operational processes. It can help commercial operations regain a commercial advantage over other competitors and market sectors. Often it can boost the morale of the system application users too, which helps with engagement and productivity.
To begin with, when a quality initiative or activity is launched, there are some expectations and objectives around scope. For example, some critical success factors or quality targets/issues that are intended to be addressed. Other factors may be reducing the number of critical and high severity incidents affecting live business operations. Some quality initiatives are around system application performance times or simplifying process to bring time and cost efficiency, a better client/user experience or service offering. The collection of these is often referred to as change requirements.
Common themes in Quality Assurance benchmarks are based around whether a product, system or service is fit for purpose and the importance of getting it right first time to reduce rework, impact upon commercial targets and reputation.
Fit for purpose criteria is ambiguous and subjective. It needs collaborative input and sign off from the sponsor or suitable delegated representative.
A QA tester will need to have advanced sight of the criteria which will deem a delivery fit for purpose and have the time and opportunity to walk through them with a suitable Subject Matter Expert (SME). They would discuss the testing impacts, methods and dependencies. Getting things right first time can be measured with the appropriate management information statistics, such as how many defects are found within QA Testing and how many defects are found in live, compared to before. Again, what is ‘right’ can be open to interpretation so, documenting detailed expectations, wants and needs then refining these with appropriate stakeholders is key!
QA testing in the software industry is often monitored with quality standards such as ISO 9000, CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) or TMMI (Testing Maturity Model Integration). Sometimes organisations do not operate within these models, so quality is based on business and commercial needs.
Enlisting the help of test consultancies can prove especially valuable. The guidance in format and decision-making can be very beneficial, especially where there is ambiguity and a lack of structure/governance.
QA tester activities are often, but not always, underpinned by quality management systems which are a collection of processes focused on consistently reporting on and meeting customer or business requirements. This helps to enhance satisfaction and is aligned with an organisational purpose and strategic directives.
A QA tester can typically be involved in the following:
- Reviewing initial documentation which details draft quality assurance change requirements and objectives, having input and helping to refine subsequent iterations as they evolve.
- Collaborating with developers, business specialists and other project stakeholders to help refine requirements and determine which are testable within scope, budget and timescales.
- Formal requirements reviewing – where the tester will feedback comments and queries, perhaps within a workshop, following test analysis of signed off requirements.
- Preparing documented test conditions and test cases to specify action steps to take, what to check and what expected test results will be.
- Running test cases (manual tests, automated or both) – which is called test execution and will result in a test outcome for tracking and re-portable status such as a passed, a failed, an ‘unable to run’, a blocked or in progress etc.
- Discovering and documenting bugs/defects, raising queries and observations, referring to triage team and monitoring until resolved.
- Retesting any defects found, querying responses and documenting the outcome, closing, escalating or referring onwards according to the specifics of each record.
A QA tester therefore needs to be inquisitive, able to communicate effectively at all levels, be demonstrably flexible and show patience and tolerance, with an ability to see the perspective of others.
Excellent organisational skills, time management and prioritisation are all important qualities in a QA tester. A good creative mindset and a methodical approach taken by QA testers will help to uncover and exploit weaknesses and anomalies in software code.
The end goal is to have increased Quality Assurance and a set of satisfied stakeholders who are more confident in the result. They need to have the assurance and management information to evaluate if the product, system or service is fit to release to live production operations. It has to reflect the expected level of quality.
If you are looking for support with your Quality Assurance, reach out here and we can schedule some time to talk.