Let’s Talk Tools

What tools do you use?

Over the years I have seen many different tools used to track requirements; Excel, Word (formatted templates and free-hand), product management software. misappropriated defect tracking systems, just off the top of my head.  Though there are certainly some standards, especially the robust, formatted Word templates, so often they still seem to be poorly managed.

When you need to track requirements, what tool(s) do you use?

Of the many people I have worked with in technology, it seems only a small handful have the experience, the gift, and/or the vision to distill, document, and explain intent and need when developing technology.  The common key with them has always been their ability to keep things simple.  Without fail, if requirements can be kept simple – easier said than done, especially as they mutate – they can be managed and executed effectively.

What do you do to keep requirements simple?

QA: It’s a Noun


“Excuse me?”

“Test. You mean ‘test’.”

“Excuse me?”

“You said, ‘I need you to you QA a bug…’, but you meant, when I ‘test’ a bug. ‘QA’ is not a verb. QA is a department. It’s an environment, it’s a set of systems and processes…but it’s not a verb.”

Yes, I am a dyed-in-the-wool, true believer that Quality Assurance can and should add value that goes far beyond just testing.

It is a common misnomer that QA and testing are one and the same. However, though they are inextricably linked, testing and QA produce very different results:

  • Testing produces data
  • QA produces ever-increasing quality while reducing time-to-market achieved through controlled, replicable, continually improving systems

Testing is a critical action that the QA team performs each and every day. Testing shows us when our technology is ready for release to the wild. Testing is how we validate code, challenge hardware, and find previously undiscovered crevices. But no matter how thorough, well-intentioned, or perfectly focused, testing does not, in and of itself, create quality.

Testing gathers data; data through which we can make informed decisions. Those decisions and our resulting actions are how we work to assure quality. Testing is critical, but it is reactionary. It is vital, but it is only one of the many processes we practice within Quality Assurance.

What is QA?

  • Quality Assurance is testing and measuring
  • Quality Assurance is analyzing and reporting
  • Quality Assurance is continuous learning and improving
  • Quality Assurance allows proactivity and prevention
  • Quality Assurance is writing tests, establishing standards, and holding true to them regardless of circumstance

Quality Assurance, when executed properly, is a set of systems, methods, and processes, which allow us to create superior products and services more efficiently and effectively. Quality Assurance establishes a baseline standard of what is acceptable and works daily to raise that baseline.

QA teams work cross functionally to establish uniformity and standardization wherever it is lacking. We document our tests in a reviewable and repeatable format. We employ automation strategies designed to increase our test coverage while freeing time for exploratory testing, UX review and feedback, end user simulation, and just overall “how could this thing be better?” focus.

We establish metrics for success, systematize a uniform approach, and build scalable test solutions. When positioned most effectively, QA uses foresight, honed through hard-won experience, to identify challenges so that we may adapt before they fully materialize. It is a goal of ours to bring this proactivity to every project and initiative.

By establishing transparent, systemic, replicable, and controlled, measurable processes, we create an ever-improving quality baseline – this improvement, in turn, creates options. These options enable speed and flexibility without sacrificing quality. In these systems, prevention becomes possible.

As QA brings all of these methods to bear, we provide the opportunity to truly Assure the Quality of what we do. We can see it, challenge it, learn from it, and improve. That is what is at the heart of Quality Assurance – proactivity, prevention, continuous improvement. We care, deeply. Every QA Professional has to, it’s part of our make-up; it’s why we’re here.

So, next time you need testing or to know the status of some project, please remember:

QA: It’s a noun…

Quality Assurance Needs Leaders

I wrote the post below some time ago.  Recently, I have noticed that there seems to be a such gaping void where leaders in the QA field used to stand.  Granted, there are some, a brilliant handful, that continue to be great examples, but there are fewer now.

In an effort to start a dialog, lend perspective to those wanting to grow into leadership, or those searching for a place…I offer the following:

Advancing from a tester to the role of Lead Tester is a great step. It means that you have proven your worth as a tester and now are being entrusted with well-being of an entire project. You are also being asked to develop the team that will work with you.

For some, this is a stepping stone to becoming a Quality Assurance Manager for others, becoming a Lead Tester is like coming home. Either way, it is exciting to be faced with new opportunities and new challenges. This also means that you’ll be making more money – and that’s always fun!

But as exciting as becoming a lead tester can be, you may find the duties and responsibilities overwhelming. It can be a very daunting task indeed to develop yourself into a professional lead, but it is well worth it.

As an experienced, professional lead you will be more in demand, able to command greater pay and benefits, and have many more opportunities available to you. It doesn’t happen overnight, but if you learn the lessons below you will be well equipped and on your way to becoming a highly sought after asset.

10 Skills for Lead Tester Mastery

1. Know Thyself
Before you can expect to be at all effective leading others, you should have a clear understanding of yourself. This doesn’t mean 50 years of quiet introspection, but it does mean you should have some idea of who you are as a professional – and thus, who you are (or will be) as a Lead Tester. What important information should you know about yourself? Let’s start with the basics… Continue reading Quality Assurance Needs Leaders

Launch Your Quality Assurance Education Here!

Your quality assurance education can be gained in many different ways. You might decide to sign up at a “QA University” to try and get a degree from them that says you know quality assurance. You might find some software testing course that will lead you through the latest theories on test methodology.

You might find some QA training that will show you how to use the most current and sexiest automated testing tool. You might go to a seminar on how to hold a bug scrum that “really works”. You may learn this month’s leading theory on test creation, or you may study how to build better test metrics.

Depending on the path you choose, you might get you a fancy degree for your wall, some bragging rights around the water cooler, and maybe some little known terminology to throw around. It may make hiring managers click their tongues when reviewing your resume and it will probably make your parents feel very proud.

These options are looked upon by many to be “the way” to learn quality assurance testing. Many of the programs that offer this type of quality assurance training do indeed offer some valuable information, but they also have three major drawbacks:

  1. They Are Expensive!
    • Most programs that offer a quality assurance degree upon completion will cost a few, if not several, thousands of dollars
    • Even courses that offer quality assurance certification usually cost several hundred to a few thousand dollars
  2. Significant Time Investment
    • To complete any certification or degree that might be of any value will take at least several months. Many programs take over 2 years to complete!
  3. No Real-World Application
    • Although many of the offered courses contain information that can be used eventually in some situations, they lack real-world, immediately applicable, actionable information.
    • They can teach testing theory, but don’t give you the necessary tools for success in the software industry. They don’t show you how to manage a frantic boss, with a looming deadline, for whom you must write a report that will keep the company from losing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If theory and a life in academia is your goal, then these are very useful courses to take. If you want to incur debt and spend years of your life studying the software “flavor of the month” then you will find several organizations willing to separate you from your hard earned money.

But where can you find affordable, effective quality assurance courses? Where is a software testing course that will give you the tools you need to succeed right now, today in the high tech industry?

Right here at Successful Quality Assurance!
After almost two decades of testing, leading, managing, and training in the software quality assurance industry, I found more and more testers ill-prepared for the jobs they were being asked to perform. Whether they had gone into debt at a technical school or had just gotten their quality assurance education on-the-job, none were prepared to excel in the software industry.

So I decided to condense all of the most effective QA lessons and present them in easy-to-access, FREE software testing courses. Continue reading Launch Your Quality Assurance Education Here!

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SQA the Right Way!