Multiple dimensions of quality assurance

Having spoken and written many times about situations never being black and white, and often having multiple dimensions, I found myself some time ago talking about this in the context of quality assurance.

Over the years I’ve worked in many organisations with different kinds of QA capability. In some places there has been no-one with a formal “QA” job title. In others there have been many. In some places we’ve been trying to increase that number. In others we’ve been trying to decrease it.

So there is one dimension which we might count as “number of QAs”. But that would be to gloss over the distinction between quality assurance and testing. Do we want those people to be testing (and finding bugs after they’ve been written), or do we want them working earlier in the process (and preventing bugs getting into the system in the first place)? What about the balance between those things? I’ve worked in at least one place where there was only one person with “QA” in her job title, and she oversaw the activity of many, many teams—enabling, consulting and facilitating, but (of course) doing no hands-on testing.

And what about other aspects such as automation versus manual testing? How do we want to balance that? What about the nature of the work? Do we want our quality experts to be consulting and advising, or do we want them to be hands-on, doing—making tangible progress but spreading less knowledge?

There is no one right answer. It depends not only on the people and the organisation, but on the people and the organisation at that particular time. As valuable as it is to debate statements such as “we need more QAs” or “we need to do more automated testing”, there are many, many fruitful possibilities.

Photo by Martha T