I loathe pop songs and take any opportunity to avoid my ears being damaged by them. On a recent road trip, however, I was forced to listen to the radio and thereby the musical stylings of a gentleman by the name of Macklemore on a track featuring Wanz.
What in the hell has this/them got to do with Quality Assurance? You’re probably confused. Hold tight, I’m getting there.
Last year, I was at one of QA’s big events – The Ministry of Testing Test Bash. On the final day Michael "Mike" Wansley, better known by his stage name Wanz, was on stage singing Nate Dogg’s parts of Warren G’s Regulate, as well as giving a talk entitled “Quality Assurance Are The Gatekeepers”.
Wanz (pre-stardom) was a tester and an experienced one at that. The talk was really interesting in that the message completely divided the crowd and made me think that perhaps, in the past, this may have been true – at least earlier in my career as a tester. As I’ve built my skills and experience over the last 16 years or so – and picked up a few tricks along the way – I find myself completely disagreeing with Wanz.
I don’t believe we are gatekeepers at all, we are much more than that. On a recent course I attended for Rapid Software Testing, James Bach described QA and Testers as ‘advocates of the user’ I really like this idea and I think it’s far more accurate. I couldn’t even tell how many times I’ve been using a product/app/website/software and thought to myself, “why was it built this way, this doesn’t make any sense.” Through QA and testing we’re able to ask these questions early, suggest solutions that make sense for the user and help produce something that puts the user first, whilst also making sure our clients are happy at the same time.
Back in the day, at least in Agency Land, QA and testing were used interchangeably – to mean testing. In the majority of places I’ve worked previously, we were indeed seen as gatekeepers, in the sense that we’d be the ones letting people know whether the site/app or whatever it is we’re testing at the time can go live or not. Even more so when part of my job was Release Manager, which meant often working late on a Friday evening or, in a couple of fun cases, on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Believe me, this doesn’t happen any more and hasn’t happened in over 10 years – partly through non-violent protest, but mostly through an evolution of the way we work, especially with Agile and BDD.
QA and testing are still to this day often used as interchangeable terms and perhaps this is part of the problem. If QA can be described as the prevention of faults by inspecting, testing and improving a process and Testing as the detection of faults by inspecting & testing the product for me at least there is nothing there that says ‘Gatekeeper’.
At BIO our QA focus is always with the user in mind. We build Quality into each and every stage of a project. We do everything we can to minimise the amount of bugs we might find during testing by making sure we are involved right the way through a project. People are shocked when I say that we don’t write test cases here as part of our process. Instead, we work with our teams and write robust Acceptance Criteria (which helps put quality to the forefront) and use Exploratory/Rapid Software testing techniques as part of our testing process to reduce the amount of wasted documentation effort. It means we can work and react to projects that can change rapidly with minimum fuss.
At BIO, us QA and tester folk are definitely not gatekeepers. Yes, we still have our process. There’s nothing wrong with process and all that comes with it, such as quality gates and so on, but these shouldn’t always be a hard stop and shouldn’t get in the way. All we can really do is have robust QA and testing processes and ensure everyone knows that Quality isn’t the sole responsibility of one department or discipline. We can advise that not adhering to a process that we’ve all agreed to, and not fixing issues and recommendations we make will have an adverse effect to the user and ultimately for our clients. And like the way we all work here at BIO, we’re proactive as opposed to reactive, championing quality and the user through everything we do.