Is your QA practice ‘Future-Ready’?

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COVID-19 has changed the world. It has changed mine. I no longer have the luxury of breathing in the unfiltered atmospheric air, where I get to smell the delicious aroma of food from wayside vendors. There’s always a mask on my face. COVID-19 has affected the way organisations and businesses are being run as well. 

Arguably, Quality Assurance practice however, has been not so heavily affected by the pandemic, apart from, save a few structural and behavioural changes. Of course, there may be unprecedented time-to-market pressure or extreme cost pressure but, by and large, relying on the age-old test efficiency rule book will steer software teams out of harm’s way. 

With regards to COVID-19, there seems to be no end in sight and as such, we must actively seek new ways of dealing with the new normal. This is essential in sustaining the QA practice while maintaining the same level of work efficiency and quality of services.I call this ” The future-ready QA practice”. 

First, we must come to terms with the new normal and remote work. QA teams that used to huddle around in small spaces, writing and executing software test plans may not be able to do so anymore. Employees are increasingly being distributed across space and time zones and QA teams must adapt to the new system without compromising on providing the highest quality of digital experiences for the end user. 

Let’s look at the pro’s of the new setup. 

  • One advantage is that work can be done anywhere, or anytime depending on contractual terms.This helps in easier time management and results in higher productivity.
  • This setup could potentially improve employees’ work-life balance, and spillover into positive attitudes towards work.
  • It eliminates the travelling time and cost, the day to day cost of spending a day at office and hence, helps save some crucial time and money.

All the above being true, this does come with its own challenges. Employees may not have an official setup (office desk, space etc)  fast internet connection, depending on which part of the globe you’re practising, which could cause release cycle delays and disruptions. Employers must therefore make provision for the requisite tools needed for a smooth practise at home. This could mean accelerating the adoption of digital cloud computing services; SaaS, or helping employees set up adequate home networks for efficiency sake.

Cloud to the rescue

Accessing the test environment presents another challenge for remote QA practise. The test environment could be accessed remotely, either through an on-premises server or a cloud-based service. This further underscores the need to move towards a cloud-based development and test environment. While at it, automated tests must be meticulously written,they must follow the branch of code they test, be peer-reviewed, and merged into the regression set. There should be proper documentation as well, so team members at different geographical areas can troubleshoot a test as easily as the originator.

New Engagement Models

Organisations must also consider new delivery models on important factors such as data security and privacy, risk, and compliance audits. Though remote work is convenient,it poses an increased risk for internet fraud, data loss, or system compromise. While you work hard to meet your client’s expectations, hackers are equally working hard to find vulnerabilities to exploit. It is essential to obtain original software licenses and keep an inventory of all open source usage across development teams. Maybe you could add a VPN to your network, have stricter password policies and more importantly, create backups. I cannot overemphasize the BAckup.

New ways to supervise and communicate

Supervision. Effective supervision is the difference between a good product and a great product. Nancy Kline, founder and President of Time to Think, described supervision as an opportunity to bring someone back to their own minds to show them how good they can be. Every employee, no matter how skilled, needs a mentor, a supervisor or just somebody to run things by. Supervisors must set achievable goals with reasonable timelines. Employees must endeavour to meet those timelines while delivering on quality. It is also important to reward hard work. Honorary mentions can be made on the organization’s internal social media groups when an outstanding achievement is made by an employee. This can motivate them to do better and remind others that they’re still being watched though they’re at home.

Adaptive and Agile Workforce

Continuous Professional Development for employees is required to maintain a competitive practise within the industry.Technology is changing. There is always something new to learn, or another skill to garner. More so, the job market is now open to anyone around the world with the required skills who demonstrates aptitude for the task at hand. Therefore, the need to constantly improve skills is now more important than ever. Digital learning, however, makes it easier to acquire skills without necessarily taking time off the job. Admittedly, it will take some effort on the employees’ part and encouragement on the employer’s part to keep up with lessons, but it is far from impossible. Ultimately, it becomes a win-win situation for both employer( who has the most skillful testers) and employee( who has developed himself into a more valuable asset).

Keeping the human element alive

Finally, working from home or remote work gives employees a level of isolation. Everybody loves a happy and healthy work environment surrounded by work buddies who would give you a brief pat on your shoulder for a good work done, or rub your back while you’re battling with major bugs. But remote work takes the human element away. This means that communication must be of good quality, proactive (on the part of employees) brief, (nobody wants a nagging boss on the phone for hours) and frequent. This is where tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meets come in handy. The good old telephone call works fine as well. Weekly check-in calls with all employees, seeking suggestions and opinions on what could be improved is admirable. Again, everybody loves a great party. Who says you cannot organise a bring your own bottle party on Zoom? The downside of this is that, when all’s said and done, employers may have a hard time bringing back employees into the office space.But that is the inevitable future, and the faster the acceptance, the better.

While the uncertainty of living in the  Covid-19 era continues to affect organizations  all around the world, only the most agile, dynamic and resilient teams will come out stronger and unscathed. Is your team future-ready?

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