It’s not uncommon for teams to reach a quality breaking point, at which point they need to take a hard look at their QA process and decide to make some changes. There’s no better time than the new year to start thinking about how your team can make a bigger, better impact on product quality moving forward.

Is 2018 going to be the year you take control of your QA strategy? Make sure to consider these do’s and don’ts from QA experts who have been there before.

qa strategy dos and donts

Do: Gain Buy-in

Everyone from the executives to the individual contributors who will be executing the plan should be looped into your strategy for improvement and on-board with what needs to happen. Gaining buy-in helps ensure that the entire team understands and fulfills the part they play in the strategy’s success. Ibrahim Taveras, Quality Engineer for delivery.com, shared how gaining buy-in from the engineering team after implementing a new platform helped improve adoption of the tool in the long run:

“About 2 months after rolling out Rainforest, we did a “Lunch and Learn” with our . We gave them a high-level overview of what Rainforest is and how we implemented it into our QA process. Ever since then, our developers have been on board and liking the Rainforest process.

Recently, we’ve been getting the devs involved in creating the , which improves the QA process but also helps devs stay involved in quality. As they’re coding a new project, they’ll be the first ones to start thinking about test coverage, and when it gets to QA we can refine those tests to make sure the feature is fully covered.”

Do: Expose and Use Data

Data gathered from testing and customer usage is critical to understanding the quality of your product. By giving your QA team access to data -- and license to use it to inform strategic decisions -- will drive improvements to quality as efficiently as possible. Quentin Thomas, Sr. QA Automation Engineer for Bleacher Report, explained that using data on how customers were using a particularly buggy feature helped his team make the case that the feature should be retired:

“The data gave us the ammo as QA to say, “Hey, why don’t we just consider phasing [a legacy feature] out, because it is causing us a lot of issues and that’s better than trying to spend all this time to test and analyze this stuff. Sometimes getting rid of a service no one is maintaining is going to do a better job of improving quality than anything QA can do.”

Do: Communicate

Managing expectations for the team and the execs continuously is critical. Even the best-laid roadmaps don’t always go according to plan, and key stakeholders shouldn’t be surprised or caught off-guard if that happens. Communicating goals and your team’s progress towards them keeps everyone on the same page and helps the team to both understand failures and celebrate successes. Derek Choy, CIO of Rainforest QA, offered his thoughts on why communicating expectations is so important:

“Setting the right expectations for goals is so important. At the end of the day, if you miss the target, the team is discouraged because they worked on a whole bunch of things and still feel like they failed. From a business perspective they also feel like you failed, even if your improvements were a huge accomplishment -- all because there was an unrealistic expectation at the outset.”

Don’t: Spread your Focus Too Thinly

More testing isn’t always better testing. Instead, focus on building coverage in a way that will maximize impact, rather than maximizing the number of test cases. Try to break down problems as specifically as possible and work incrementally. This will help you get the most meaningful coverage in place as quickly as possible. Megan Bruce, release manager-turned-product marketer for Curalate, advised teams looking to create more effective testing strategies start out with focused, modular test suites:

“Focus on the critical path and getting those up and running. Make sure you’re never writing the same test twice. Break things into chunks as much as possible, use embedded tests and think about your tests in small, reusable units. That’s something we’re trying to implement now, in order to make tests easier for our developers to integrate into their workflow.”

Don’t: Forget to Look for Quick Fixes

While implementing lasting improvements to product quality often takes time to yield results, don’t forget to look for low-hanging fruit. By making a few quick changes to your process, you can see fast results that will motivate the team to make further changes. Kristen Hill, QA Manager for MassageBook, shared the tip that test cases always have a proofreader to catch inconsistencies and mistakes, in order to reduce false positives resulting from unclear tests:

“When you’re writing tests for four hours a day you really get in the zone and can easily get ‘QA tunnel vision.’ You think you’re writing a test with clear instructions, but you may have actually done it in an odd way that may be confusing. That can be avoided with a simple proofread!”

Don’t: Get Too Hung Up on Mindless Automation

For many teams, renewing or ramping up their focus on quality includes some amount of testing automation. But before you launch into an automation-or-bust QA strategy, consider the costs and benefits of implementing and managing automation. Daria Mehra, Director of QA for Quid, reminds us that when automation is the end rather than the means, it simply compounds the amount of work the team must do:

“Are you constantly getting false positives or false negatives? Are tests just breaking and needing to be rewritten any time the software is touched? If so, you don’t have automation, you have technical debt.”

Create Your Strategy for Improving Your QA Process

Ready to kickstart product quality and implement a better QA strategy for this year? Download 90 Days to Better QA for more insights from QA experts on improving your approach to quality assurance. In the guide you’ll find advice and anecdotes from software testing veterans, troubleshooting tips for common quality issues and more.