What’s Testing Worth? Exploring the Business Value of QA

Trying to understand the business value of testing only opens up more questions. Probably the most poignant of them is, Are your customers happy?

Proving quality to business executives

The conversation surrounding business value and testing is a two-way street.

Sometimes, QA managers have to prove and explain the value offered by their department, and sometimes they don’t. Kristjan Uba,  Development Manager for the Betsson Group says that business executives at his organization don’t need convincing.

When he asked an exec what they thought about the value of testing, they responded with, “Testing is everything. It is immensely important.”

His job, then, doesn’t require that he prove value, but that he follows through on it with organized QA that reduces overlap and combats inefficiencies.

Reliable, high-quality testing has the power to impact an organization by reducing risk and increasing customer satisfaction.

“We uplift not just the individuals we work with on the QA side but the entire department,” says Michelle Surya, Head of Sales at Testlio. “We show other departments within that organizationproduct, design, and up to the c-level executivesjust how important product quality is.”

Growing QA involvement and responsibilities

“Agile has changed and is changing QA as we speak,” says Tiit Paananen, Head of Quality Engineering at Pipedrive.

Agile has changed and is changing QA as we speak.

Tiit Paananen, Head of Quality Eng. at Pipedrive

This breakdown of the silos of QA and development is mutually beneficial in terms of release speed and skill development. Testers grow their coding and project management skills while developers better commit to quality.

When you think of the risk-aware tester who’s looking for problems, their presence in the team will have an impact on the rest of the team. If you’re out of sight, you might not think about the issues so much. But developers have this tendency if they see the tester if they feel the tester’s presence, then they start thinking a little bit differently about their own work. It’s more of an implicit impact. You want to have somebody who’s really focused on quality and is more of a coach to the team.

Helena Jeret-Mäe, Head of Testing, Nortal

Changes in business priorities

Too often, high quality and high-coverage testing is sacrificed for a quicker market launch. Initially, being first on the scene may be more important than having a bug-free product, and small development teams will likely be “doing it all” without the assistance of a dedicated QA team member. That’s okay.

The reality is that the business value of testing may start out small, but it nearly always grows over time.

“The bigger you are, the bigger the business impact of one crash, one bug and so on,” says Marko Kruustük, CTO at Testlio.

“With the big brands we work with, it’s not just quality and issues,” says Surya. “It’s the entire brand name at stake. In the last three years, I’ve seen an uptick of people taking QA seriously.”

The bigger you are, the bigger the business impact of one crash

Marko Kruustük, CTO at Testlio

Uncovering the right approaches

And yes, automation can streamline release processes, free up testers’ time for further quality checks, maintain existing product quality during new development, and optimize QA efforts, but it requires a lot of input.

You can’t discuss business value without discussing ROI. Overstressing automation by attempting to automate the wrong processes can be a huge weight on QA.

“Automation is not at all automated,” says Surya, noting the people and expensive resources that go into it, including the amount of work it takes to validate, plan, execute, and maintain. That’s why a measured approach is the only way to optimize the value of QA.

The external versus internal debate also comes into question when we examine the business value of testing. What’s better? What pays off in terms of ROI? What is the better investment in the long run?

Due to the difficulties of staffing high-quality testers, long term doesn’t necessarily mean internal. And external doesn’t mean uninvolved. “External partners are really good at asking questions that internal people don’t ask, because they already know or assume, and that brings a different point of view to your product or quality or process,” says Uba.

Improving the level of value testers bring

Surya was once told by a QA director who struggled with staffing high-quality testers that he could teach anyone to test well so long as they cared enough.

The biggest super skill that testers need in order to bring value to a business is to care about the product. That fuels the fire for innovation, continued learning, and customer-centric testing.

Testers must also excel at prioritization and must be what Jeret-Mäe calls “risk-aware.” The best, most valuable testers are always thinking about risk. They don’t just check for quality, they constantly ask “what if” questions and piece together clues.

Think of it as good paranoia.

It’s the entire brand name at stake.

Michelle Surya, Head of Sales at Testlio

One sobering thought is that testing can only bring as much value as an organization allows. What is done with the information that testers provide? How quickly are bugs repaired? How well are testers’ voices heard? To what extent do they own process?

The world of QA is still opening up to all of the opportunities created by collaborative development methodologies, new tools, and of course the increased demands of the customer. The more skilled QA becomes, the more contributions to product quality can be made.

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