Anyone that has worked in software quality assurance (QA) will tell you it’s often a frustrating and thankless job. A former Association for Software Testing president pegs the average QA engineer career at only four years. The linked article offers some advice for trying to retain good QA talent, but I’ll offer something not mentioned.
Having worked on at least 15 software development cycles, here is what often happens:
- QA identifies several very serious defects or usability problems
- Engineering or management thinks QA is exaggerating the issues
- The software ships
- Bugs in the release get negative press, and users are frustrated by usability problems
- A rapid software update is prepared to address the issues
My experience has shown that serious issues are almost always known issues at the time of shipping. They just aren’t prioritised high enough to warrant getting addressed. But it’s also true that QA does tend to overreact.
Let’s add some steps
In between steps 4 and 5 above, I’d add the following:
- See if the problematic issues were reported by QA before the software shipped
- Find the responsible QA engineers
- Tell them:
You… were… right!
Even though the release shipped with issues that QA diligently discovered and reported, not acknowledging their contribution just adds insult to injury. It makes them feel that users and journalists are taken more seriously when reporting issues than your QA department. Even though their bug reports weren’t addressed, it’s good for QA morale to acknowledge this mistake.
For bonus points…
Sometimes a financial reward doesn’t hurt either. Give them a bonus for issues they found that were serious enough to warrant a rapid software update after the fact. Or at least make everyone aware of how the outcome could have been different.
QA is often treated like the enemy of engineering or the enemy of shipping a software release on time. But you slow progress on your next planned release anytime you are forced to do a software update. Fostering a good relationship between QA and engineering is another big win for improving morale.