How does one become a master in the art of quality assurance? What are the various aspects of ultimate QA engineering that when put together by a single individual, will grant him or her the secret superpowers of utter quality assurance? Such an individual will then be very appealing for virtually every company interested in creating high quality products, assuming they can afford hiring a ninja of course. In order to start answering such a profound question, this article covers one of the cornerstones of quality assurance – how to master all the information required for assuring a high quality release of the product.
Why is mastery of information such important?
Speaking of ninjas, have you ever seen a puzzled one? Of course not, and not just because the hood hides their facial expressions. They always seem to know what to do and how to do it, which makes them ruthlessly effective. Working on a QA project for a complex product without having all required information is like flying an alien spaceship blindfolded when you don’t even have a driver’s license, you just don’t do that. When you lack information you will soon find out that you cannot affect the process properly, you lose control of the results and in general, you cannot do a good job. Be it ninjas or alien spaceships, while smashing things in a video game or in a movie can be a lot of fun, in real life when you have paying customers, there are painful consequences. It feels like forgetting your partner’s birthday – once you make that mistake you never want it to happen again.
“Know that you don’t know. This will open the door to acquiring the missing knowledge”
One of the things that customers are least fond of is bugs, which are unfortunately well acquainted with Murphy’s low – if something can go wrong it will go wrong. Therefore, the short-term result of lack of information during the QA process is infiltration of bugs and a low quality release of the product, which often leads to customer frustration and money loss. In the long term it is a lot worse than just losing some money, as it could lead to having a general reputation of a faulty product infested with bugs. This could eventually lead to deterioration of the company brand and even bankruptcy, as customers flee to the competition and attempts to recover prove futile.
Acquiring the missing information
Full control of the QA process requires different types of information. These include information about technology and testing, about the product and about the status of the project. Technical information is the basis as it establishes a common language within the team and it also improves competence. Such information can be found in relevant blogs, magazines, conferences, meetups and courses. As this stage can involve complex subjects, such as artificial intelligence, it is important to allocate enough time for it.
Next we have product-related information. Mastering this type of information can make you a go to person when it comes to the product, especially if you approach this holistically and find interest in more than just the information required for your particular tasks. First place to look for such information is in available documentation. This includes product specifications and documentation, team collaboration and Wiki-like systems such as Confluence, task management systems like Jira, professional chat systems like Slack, informative emails, test and bug documentation and even notepads.
However, most projects today are agile and rely less on highly detailed documentation as in the old waterfall days. As a result, available documentation is unlikely to contain all required information and it is time to get our hands dirty through active research. This is done by poking the product, manually mapping its entire feature set, exploring old bugs and bug-prone areas, run manual test scripts, explore with features that are a little less mainstream and even do monkey testing through random poking. At Gett we also care about drunk testing, where you try to operate the product as if you were drunk. We even allocate a monthly budget to our testers for ordering taxis through our product after their night outs. This reveals the most surprising bugs, assuming our testers are sober enough to record them. Often times our colleagues are the ones who have the most valuable information. By identifying those who can provide maximum information for minimum effort and interviewing them, we can often leapfrog and learn a lot quicker. Once you manage to retrieve valuable undocumented information, make sure to document it in a clear and effective way, preferably in a dedicated Wiki-like system.
“Monkey testing is a great way to spot those esoteric bugs. This monkey actually took a selfie and started
a whole debate about whether or not monkeys can own image copyrights. Camera testing anyone?”
When it comes to information about project status, there are several phases of the project, each with its own iterative methodology of information mastery as depicted below. During pre-planning we use available documentation and colleague interviews to record initial information about product definition, development and testing. During planning stage we follow a similar procedure, only that after we record the information there is another stage as designated by the question mark depicted below. Could you guess what that is? You can verify your answer with the image caption below. Once planning is done and actual development starts we mostly use proactive research and colleague or manager interviewing, which become more valuable than documentation as we already have an initial version of the product to play with. In final stages of the project we rely mostly on active research based on the mature version of the product. Lastly we record a final report of the project status for future use.
“Information processing during the lifespan of a project.
The question mark refers to acknowledgement of recorded planning information with the team”
Real masters are generous and appreciate sharing
Once you have mastered the information as explained above, there is nothing like helping others who might need it, and even becoming a focal point, as often happens with ninjas. Becoming a focal point will provide you with even more information, as colleagues come to consult with you and exchange information. On top of using that information in your everyday tasks, sharing and teaching it helps you develop an even deeper understanding, and it also positions you as an expert and improves your reputation. To lead the way, the Gett team presented this information as part of the SQA Days #22 conference held in Russia a couple of weeks ago. Besides getting great feedback for the presentation, we got to join the unofficial club of world-class QA experts. We cannot wait to meet you there as well.
“The Gett team at the SQA Days conference”