3 Keys to an Effective QA Organization
Effective QA in today’s world means tapping into a shared, global workforce. During your testing career, it’s highly likely you’ll work with, or on, an internal, outsourced or crowdsourced QA testing team — alongside fellow testers from nearly any country in the world.
No matter your role on the broader testing team, QA productivity and effectiveness rely on collaboration and communication. Software development teams rely on many types of testing teams working together with a shared goal of ensuring digital quality.
So, how does a software development or QA organization encourage testers from different teams to work together? How does it successfully manage QA teams with different functions? And how does a business effectively provide job and career growth across the various types of teams in a fair and inclusive fashion?
Communication is key, not only for the QA organization, but within the business and the software development group. Managers should be transparent when communicating rewards, as well as educational and career opportunities to engage the teams and inspire trust in the process. Treating all team members equally on a global scale is not simple, but definitely possible. QA organizations with different types of teams perform with higher productivity and quality when they operate on the same shared goals and opportunities for advancement. Establish a shared team goal, encourage collaboration, and provide equal, inclusive access to all team members for education and career growth opportunities.
Establishing a shared goal
To establish a shared team goal, the team must believe and operate toward that goal across the board. But it’s not enough to just define a QA team goal.
The team goal should take into account individuals’ professional goals, and the mission of the QA organization as a whole. Team goals are reachable, realistic and clear. Use shared goals to challenge the team. Make the team goals attainable, but also challenging enough to keep team members engaged and interested.
Performance goals provide inspiration, but include collaboration as a part of performance requirements. Set team and individual goals that are judged equally, regardless if the team member is internal, outsourced or crowdsourced. Keep bias in check by providing equitable goals across the QA team.
Encourage information sharing by rewarding team members who help improve the QA organization. Use information sharing to build a common knowledge base. Make it clear that members must support each other and actively collaborate to achieve goals.
However, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns for the teams that share well. Plan for dissension and resistance. Get each person to contribute ideas for shared goals and work processes. Keep domineering team members from controlling meetings or taking over projects. It’s tricky, yes, but also essential for ensuring equity in performance evaluations as well as working collaboratively.
QA organizations should pay attention to these areas when creating shared team goals:
Be aware of unconscious bias, and encourage the team to actively manage it for each member.
Promote and ensure pay equity.
Develop an accessible training program.
Make employee resource groups or mentors available to all.
Working in collaboration
Collaboration is key to business and team success. The more positive the collaborative experience, the stronger the QA organization. The first step in working collaboratively is to have the whole team work toward the same set of rules and opportunities.
Employees compete with each other for assignments, recognition, merit increases and promotional opportunities. Most of these rewards or perks are limited, as businesses have a set amount of available raises and job promotion opportunities. Not all employees succeed at reaching these goals, yet all employees must share the same opportunities. When the goals are shared, and employees feel the opportunity to compete is transparent and fair, then collaboration becomes routine.
After all, collaboration and competition are related. Business and individual success relies on understanding strategic objectives. By collaborating to assist the success of the team, a team member builds individual merits and increases their individual worth within the QA organization or outside of it. Consider an example where the team works to test a suite of software applications that include mobile and web applications. If a team member collaborates by training new team members, they build their skills as a knowledge leader. Similarly, if they assist others in completing work tasks or testing tasks, they build their skillset.
When employees train and assist others, they gain respect and trust from team members, which can help grow their career beyond the current team. This is a skill that opens up new job opportunities. Working collaboratively with team members enables one to achieve both personal and professional goals.
As a person who has been assigned to many varied teams, it becomes difficult when the team is larger than 20 members. Tracking and assigning work is challenging when tasked with managing the work of what is essentially three large, competing teams of testers. After all, internal, outsourced and crowdsourced testing teams perform similar functions, yet complete different work. The QA organization should make sure each team has tasks to perform, and that they aren’t duplicating work from another team to provide efficient, consistent testing.
Boosting education and career growth
Providing education and career growth opportunities enables team members to remain engaged. All work gets tedious at times. Repetitive processes and projects are the norm in QA. One way for a QA organization to combat employees getting bored or disengaging is by providing an outlet for them to get education and grow their skills and careers.
Employees often already feel maxed out on time and energy. Along with access to these opportunities, QA organizations need to commit the time to enable employees to take advantage of these resources. For example, a growing trend is allowing employees to take paid administrative leave to volunteer at the charity of their choice. In the same manner, consider providing time for employees to attend training or educational sessions including seminars and certification courses.
There are other options for building collaboration across varied testing teams, including bug bounties or cash bonus contests. Bug parties, or bug bonus sessions, are essentially competitions where all testers from each team compete individually to find the most critical bugs. A bug bounty is certainly one way to get the competitive juices flowing, as many team members thrive in this type of contest for bonus pay. Decide how to make this type of competition collaborative at the same time — perhaps have the contestants do a demo on the bugs they found, and then have a judge from the product team decide the best group of bugs found for cash prizes. Don’t stop at awarding one prize; go through and award at least the top eight places. Testers not in the top eight, but who participated in the contest should get a small prize — something to reward their efforts, and so they don’t feel left out of the group — such as a lunch or gift card. A small reward can go a long way toward ensuring the full team feels valued.
Offering continuing professional development enables a QA organization to build talent within existing team members. Continuity of talent is advantageous to the individual, the team and the business. Employees that stay with the company long-term are valuable knowledge centers, especially when they continue to build their skills.
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