QA Departments in Startups. An Open Letter to CEOs

Dear CEO, Your IT startup is striking bigger deals, hiring more people, creating code that could be described only as “billowing” – in the background, silently, a cost of a single mistake stops being calculated in cents, and starts to be counted in dollars.

This is where a professional Quality Assurance Manager steps in. Like me.
Please keep in mind that, in order to work the magic, people responsible for Quality Assurance need three essential things:

Autonomy

“Organizations that empower folks further down the chain or try to get rid of the big hierarchical chains and allow decision making to happen on a more local level end up being more adaptive and resilient because there are more minds involved in the problem.”
–Steven Johnson, media theorist & writer

It is crucial to recognize that the QA team plays an integral role in the feature delivery, somewhat as decisive as PM or any other executive team member. If you have decided to implement QA into your project, nothing can be signed off as “done” without going through the QA’s review.

Although everyone in the team should keep an eye on the bigger picture, it is our main responsibility to do so. This is achieved by staying involved in the kickoff meetings, estimation talks, planning and any problem-solving discussions which may appear along the way.

An experienced QA knows what kind of questions, when and whom to ask. It is always a great contribution to any project.

That is why the voice of the QA should be recognized and supported among other team members.

Structure

When a QA Manager is getting down to action, the first step is to research ways in which the team have worked so far:

  • What are the team rituals & meetings, modelled behaviors for dealing with the emerging issues as well as the reporting and communication channels?
  • Who is responsible for what?
  • How much time was usually allocated for testing?

After the reconnaissance, comes the right time to work out sensible standards and start incorporating them into the workflow. From scratch, if it happens to be the case. Otherwise, try to build on what Project Managers and developers had in place.

Modelling processes can be crucial as they should be standardized and, later on, become sharable between old and new team members in case the QA department grows in time. This standarization will not only help you with the onboarding process for new employees, but greatly speed up launching new projects in the future.

All in all, repeatability and predictability are welcomed components of most IT projects.

Here are some clues on where a QA Manager can start to introduce improvements to your development lifecycle:

  • Defining workflow for user stories will help you visualize and limit work in progress. Take time to make sure that all user stories present in the sprints are visible for all team members and their respective status can be easily identified.
  • Having a template for bug reporting. Each time when a new bug is encountered, your client is (or you are!) scratching his head and wondering how to describe what just happened. Put an end to that! A standarized bug template will help to identify the root of the problem, steps to reproduce the bug and what you think should happened instead.
  • Creating checklists for testing similar features. This will definitely save time and ensure better test coverage.
  • Introducing further automation, where applicable. A QA Manager who understands that test automation can be time-consuming and expensive, can pinpoint areas where tests are most beneficial and will help avoid travelling down the overwhelming path of automation with every functional test possible.
  • Encouraging communication between the QA team and the developers. It has to be humane: the communication flow cannot be obstructed by long, boring meetings and unread, unneccessary emails.

Recognition

Last but not least, do not treat us like a lesser evil. We are and we want to be a part of the team. We all need to focus on delivering the best product and only the best product possible. Any faults it might have, should be eliminated before the product reaches our client.

Give us the same privileges the developers have. Nurture us and listen to our needs. And be aware of the fact, we are not mean when we delay deploy of the project. We really are team players, we wish for our products to be delivered in an impeccable shape. Just don’t forget: speed and quality are often competing forces during the project.

Don’t we all want the same thing?

Speaking of recognition, don’t you feel that you are constatly being nominated, but never actually given the award in your company? Listening to stories from other QA managers, I even gave a talk about how similar to Leonardio di Caprio we might be…

Even if you cannot name the top 5 quality assurance managers in the IT industry – we are there for you!

Give us our due recognition in the company and praise us externally as well, we love it as much as the next person.

Help us to teach everyone we are indispensable for pixel-perfect solutions. Along the Gucci family slogan: “quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.”

Let’s make the next project unforgettable, bug free, user friendly and on time. Together.

Best regards,
Your QA Manager

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About the author

Paulina Jurek

Paulina Jurek

QA Manager
Paulina Jurek works for Apptension to make all their products bug-free. As our QA Manager she keeps an eye on even the smallest of flaws and also sets the standards for the team, constantly improving her skills and helping other to improve as well. If you look at Paulina's desk, you'll find a lot of gadgets there... but well, she's a natural born geek.

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