How to Be an Advocate for Software Quality

QA’s responsibility is to help ship the best product within the time, budget and other constraints defined by the business—not to seek needlessly costly and time-consuming perfection. Not to demand a fix for every minor defect and thus stall delivery.

But sometimes, the best intentions are interpreted wrongly.

  • Organizational issues that leave too much of the testing process to the end.
  • Certain QAs on the team who unfortunately fit the negative and mostly outdated stereotype of the tester who won’t let minor issues rest
  • Developers or product managers who have set their quality standards too low and are easily irked by QA suggestions for change

Whatever the reason, there are times when QA’s attempts to help bake in quality (maybe with new processes or tools) go ignored. But not to worry! I have some insight into how to frame any major quality enhancement in terms of business needs.

Why being an advocate for quality matters

Before getting into HOW to be an advocate, let’s briefly touch base on the WHY. Here’s how Aaron Haehn, Director of Quality Assurance and Release at Sprint, describes the company’s commitment to quality:

We have Scott Rice as our CIO and Jeremy Anderson, who’s the vice president that I report up through, they’re very supportive all the way up to our chief operating officer, about improving the quality and the experience of the applications that we release. And when you get that kind of support from top, you literally can move mountains, and that’s where we find ourselves.

Aaron Haen

The company sees quality and procedural improvements as going hand-in-hand with major business progress and innovation—not at that expense of it. And that’s exactly how we want these tips and insights to be used in your organization.

You get one shot at it, and if the quality of what we’re delivering doesn’t create and keep those individuals happy, then we’ve lost them.

Aaron Haehn

How to successfully advocate for quality

You want to get support from business execs and devs for your quality initiatives. To do that, you have to frame your ideas and solutions the right way.

Inspiring customer loyalty

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about cell phone providers or B2B SaaS products, the current reality is that competition is fierce.

Customers typically take no issue with researching other options and asking their personal network for recommendations. People compare what level of service they’re receiving, and want to know if they can get something better.

Being an advocate for quality should go hand-in-hand with increasing customer loyalty, which is exactly why Sprint has such a vested interest in QA. Maybe this boils down to performance or scalability or focusing testing resources on a new feature meant to really wow customers (like the Magic Box).

Improving the perception of the company

Old tech companies from the 80’s 90’s and oughts can seem well…old. They can get stuck in their ways, causing customers to actively search for the next big thing. As a vendor, CA Technologies used to bill itself as an all-in-one platform, something that too many software vendors still attempt to do.

We don’t find customers that have environments that are unified in one single platform. The ones that are, are trying to get out of that simply because….things change so fast and there’s always something better to explore.

Alex Martin

This is manifesting in CA offering far more extensive APIs and easy integrations so that customers can connect to everything they need and all the best new tools in addition to the enterprise scale that CA offers.

But not for quality’s sake

Quality only matters when it affects the customer’s happiness.

Rob Cross

But by thinking in terms of the minimal amount of investment that will produce the maximum results, you can ultimately get more done in your organization. It’s all in how you frame it.

That means that improving processes is part of your job. Advocating for software quality goes hand-in-hand with making procedural updates.

So, would you want to change “QA” to mean Quality Advocate? It’s probably not necessary. When you advocate for quality that impacts the end-user (and successfully get the higher ups on board), you may not be so concerned with the name.

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