software solutions / project leadership / agile coaching and training

Removing the divide between developers and QA

Posted on November 21, 2011

In most companies, there is a definite divide between the development team and the QA team. They don’t sit together in the same area, they don’t have the same boss, and they often aren’t even working on the same project at the same time. Sometimes the QA team doesn’t get involved until it’s time for the “testing phase.”

To me, this all makes no sense. I’ve been on teams like this, and the same thing usually happens — developers develop something, and when the QA team starts to look at it, they don’t know the first thing about the feature that was built. They try to come up with a test plan, but they don’t come up with all of the edge cases because they don’t know enough about the feature. Other times they come up with something that the developers hadn’t thought of, or they find bugs because the developers didn’t do anything to test their own code (even manually).

Before we go any farther we have to dispel two common misconceptions about the role of a QA team.

Some people think that your QA team is like a college professor giving you an exam. You learn about a feature from the BAs or the users, and then the QA team is there to verify that you understand everything after you’ve written the code. The QA team shouldn’t give you their test plans because then you might just write the code to make their test plans pass (heaven forbid!). That’s like your professor giving you the answers to the test, and that’s cheating. (I’m being sarcastic, of course.)

Other people think of the QA team like a group of external auditors. You don’t know when they’re testing or what they’re testing. They’re just here to catch you screwing up. They have to be extremely thorough and cover all the bases to make sure that nothing gets through, regardless of whether the development team has written any automated tests.

I would much rather work together with QA people. I would rather come up with the test plans together so that we can make sure that I automate most of their tests for them and build the right thing. I would rather have QA people involved up front so that they can help me think about how something should be tested. They also are very good are finding holes in requirements that no one else though of, which is very valuable to have up front before we right any code.

The hard part in all of this is getting people to work together who typically don’t work together. Usually developers and QA have different managers, and developers and QA people might not even be working on the same projects at the same time. You might need to get your management to work together to get people on the same teams working on the same projects at the same time.

We’ve been doing all of this on our current project and we’re really starting to see some exciting things. Much more on this to come!

1 Comment »

  1. Spot on, Jon. Test and Dev have to work together. So often I have heard this from the testers, but it’s really great to hear from a developer’s point of view.

    Mark Harris — November 21, 2011 @ 1:23 pm

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I have over 15 years of software development experience on several different platforms (mostly Ruby and .NET). I recognize that software is expensive, so I'm always trying to find ways to speed up the software development process, but at the same time remembering that high quality is essential to building software that stands the test of time.
I have experience leading and architecting large Agile software projects and coordinating all aspects of a project's lifecycle. Whether you're looking for technical expertise or someone to lead all aspects of an Agile project, I have proven experience from multiple projects in different environments that can help make your project a success.
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