As companies strive for unprecedented levels of digital transformation, Quality Assurance has taken on an increasingly important role in the software development lifecycle. As the gatekeepers for product quality and testing best practices, this essential function has become increasingly integrated into the delivery process—and for good reason. Check out Intland’s latest e-book, The Future of Software Quality Assurance – 2021 and Beyond, to learn all about the state of QA in 2021 and how to prepare for future software testing challenges. Read on for some of the report’s key learnings!
The Quality Assurance Evolution
You’ve heard it all before: companies all around the world are ramping up digital transformation efforts and the pressure is on to keep up. This is more than just lip service. The digital transformation boom of the 2010s is starting to pay out, as “digitally mature” companies see significant financial and operational benefits compared to their less developed counterparts. The COVID-19 pandemic that struck in 2020 only accelerated this process, as many companies were forced to go totally online and prepare for fully remote workforces. Suddenly, software development teams—and the Quality Assurance (QA) professionals that work alongside them—have had to rapidly adjust to this brand new world of work.
As delivery speed and impeccable product quality have simultaneously taken center stage in software development, the role of QA professionals has undergone a significant evolution. Once an independent function focused primarily on testing and identifying product defects, QA has grown closer to software development in the delivery lifecycle. As teams shift more towards Agile, organizations have come to see QA as an integral part of the development process. They now take on a central role as bastions of best practices throughout the development process, leading efforts with a quality control mindset and implementing innovative technologies to ensure excellence at every step.
While companies are starting to recognize software Quality Assurance practices as strategic pillars of growth and transformation, the field is undergoing a significant shift in responsibilities, tools, and resources. Read on to learn all about what is happening in QA today, and what to look out for as the scope of this field evolves.
2021 Trends and Changes in Software Quality Assurance
As the QA function continues to broaden and becomes deeply ingrained in the software development process, a few key trends have emerged in the field. Generally, QA practices are growing more sophisticated as professionals take on a more strategic role, and everything from methodology to technology are undergoing fast evolutions. Here are some of the key trends and changes impacting the field in 2021:
- Both teams and tasks are growing.
As QA gains increasing prominence in the development lifecycle, the scope and size of the function are growing accordingly. According to the State of Testing Report, QA teams are getting larger with every passing year, indicating the increasing recognition of the field as business-critical. At the same time, the role is evolving beyond merely product testing: many QA professionals have indicated that they also conduct security testing, work on user stories and CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Development), collaborate with customer support, and even write code and participate in production deployments. In short? QA is growing in a big way.
- Methodology mastery means faster, better delivery.
One lasting impact of COVID-19 is the accelerated adoption of two complementary methodologies, Agile and DevOps. Put simply, Agile focuses on stakeholder collaboration and incremental software delivery, while DevOps aims to integrate development and IT processes to streamline the development lifecycle while retaining quality focus. Agile and DevOps' convergence means a departure from the traditional, time-consuming Waterfall / V-model process, eliminating bottlenecks and empowering stakeholders to act quickly and decisively. This methodology change has correspondingly led QA to shift left and align with the DevOps cycle, rather than testing only after deployment. As a result, QA has seen a boost in speed and testing optimization as practitioners take greater responsibility for a growing number of attributes.
- The best QA teams leverage new technologies for automation.
QA responsibilities are growing rapidly as the role becomes integrated throughout the software development process, but team sizes have not always scaled up accordingly. As QA professionals take on increasing responsibility for a broad range of functions—from functional testing and performance to security and usability—it is essential to implement new technologies that allow them to streamline their work as much as possible. Using innovative technologies like AI, RPA and Machine Learning can automate software tests, speeding up the testing process while freeing up QA engineers to focus on work that cannot be automated.
Sink or Swim: Common QA Challenges
As organizations have increasingly realized the importance of QA, a new set of challenges have arisen alongside growing expectations. QA functions have broadened and evolved, a two-edged sword that has brought a boon of improvements to the software development lifecycle but left QA teams with a new set of challenges. Approached correctly, teams can turn these challenges into opportunities—but what should you be looking out for?
- The role hasn't caught up to the responsibilities. As the QA role grows more strategic and cross-functional, many practitioners are expected to exercise a considerably more extensive scope of operations. These new duties require a wide variety of skills, and it can be incredibly challenging to find a QA engineer who "ticks all the boxes." The role has become increasingly technical, and new technologies add another layer of hard-skill sophistication to an already complex field. Employers who fail to adapt and invest in their QA teams will almost certainly fall behind the pack.
- DevSecOps isn't where it should be. Yet. While all parties agree that security testing should be a top priority, tool limitations and lackluster security training and adoption at most companies have prevented wide-scale adoption of DevSecOps best practices. The gap between data security requirements and actual integration leaves companies vulnerable to embarrassing mishaps and costly penalties, so this should be a major focus for every company working with data (in other words, almost every company.)
- Your toolkit isn't up to scratch. Legacy solutions are a challenge in nearly every industry, but particularly in QA. As companies reach digital maturity and the responsibilities of modern Quality Assurance continue to evolve, piecemeal software and outdated solutions no longer cut it. If QA is to retain its strategic role and continue to influence faster, more optimized software delivery, their toolkits and technical abilities must be maintained. The time to start looking for integrated solutions and innovative technologies was yesterday.
Want to take a deeper dive into the state of Quality Assurance today and how your team can keep up with this mission-critical practice? Check out Intland's latest e-book, "The Future of Software Quality Assurance in 2021 and Beyond" to explore the opportunities presented by the new era of QA and how to make the most of them. Get the rundown of modern trends and future forecasts, insider tips for your QA team, and more!