As outlined above, to be successful, SQA teams need to be independent of project and delivery teams. This provides the team with the ability to conduct an objective assessment of projects.
A question that arises is whether the Testing and SQA function should reside in the same team. Although this may work well in smaller organizations, in my experience, this has the disadvantage of creating a possible conflict of interest when monitoring testing activities. It also tends to emphasize the misconception that testing and SQA are essentially the same.
An option to resolve this is to embed the SQA function within the enterprise PMO, or to depend upon the size and quality policies of the organization, have a separate team reporting to a senior manager who is responsible for the function.
Project team relationships
If quality assurance analysts are too process-oriented, insisting on processes or documentation that may not add much value, it could strain relationships with project managers. For example, the level of discipline imposed on smaller and lower risk projects would be different from that for complex, higher risk ones. There may also be differences based on the methodology used, for example, Waterfall or Agile.
SQA teams would find it much easier to work with project teams if they keep in mind the �fit for purpose� principle. Providing guidance and assistance to project teams forms a basis for maintaining healthy relationships, which is an important aspect of successful QA teams.
Senior management support
I have managed an SQA team that was firmly backed by senior management and also one that had only lukewarm support. There was a world of difference between the two experiences. With the latter, for example, escalations were not dealt with in time and problems were carried through the life cycle leading to production problems and higher than anticipated costs. In such instances, it is essential that SQA managers have open discussions with the leadership team.
SQA teams can only ensure adherence to processes and organizational policies if there is robust and consistent leadership team support.
Employing the right people
Another ingredient for successful SQA teams is hiring the right staff. Individuals with experience in the system development life cycle or software engineering make good candidates for QA roles. Some training in ISO and CMMI principles would supplement knowledge of someone with a prior development background and the keen interest in quality principles.
Standard lists are a useful mechanism to conduct reviews or audits of projects, particularly if they are developed in line with the phases of the development lifecycle. For example, in the Design phase, a checklist question could be �Is there traceability between design and requirement elements
To avoid frustration from project managers, I learned that it is important to ensure early stakeholder engagement to gain their feedback when a project is initiated, and when changes are proposed to checklists.
Communication and reporting
Although regular reporting to senior management is necessary, developing the right templates and metrics that provide the senior managers with what they require ensures that these reports are given due consideration. This is best accomplished by conducting meetings with relevant executives providing them with options and obtaining their feedback.
SQA teams need to continually get approval for changes to quality processes and standards and ensure effective communication with stakeholders.
Lessons learned from projects provide an SQA team with a basis for evaluating its quality processes and guidelines, and incorporating continual improvements. We learned several lessons that required making changes to our procedures. This included developing checklists, flexibility, maintaining good stakeholder relationships and making improvements to our regular management reports.
Since continuous improvements may also require changes to the System Development Methodology, it is recommended that an SQA team maintains an IT department�s development methodology.
A successful SQA team can add considerable value to an organization. Some of these advantages include,
Higher quality products
Consistency in processes used for delivery
Continued improvement of team processes
Lower overall costs of delivery
Increased application supports documentation
Upfront costs in staffing of quality assurance analysts
Increased processes that could generate frustration in some staff
Comparing the differences in activities and responsibilities between Quality Control and Quality Assurance provides us with an excellent appreciation of these different terms. QC validates that a specific deliverable meets standards and specifications. In contrast, QA is a full function covering proactive planning and monitoring throughout the development life cycle. Testing, on the other hand, forms an integral part of QC. For an organization to implement Quality Management processes, these streams must work in tandem. It is recommended that agencies carefully consider the various possible challenges and have appropriate plans in place before embarking on quality management processes.
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