Why the state of software QA is shaky at best

A report from Rainforest QA highlights some serious shortcomings in the software QA world, and every organization with a QA team should take notice.

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A new report on the state of software quality assurance (QA) testing reveals some bleak news, and everyone from developers to CXOs should take notice.

The report, released by QA platform maker Rainforest QA, found that only 17% of QA organizations were in good or excellent health, which the report defines as an organization's overall confidence in its QA strategies, goals and execution.

Further, only 53% of respondents indicated they had a QA strategy in place, which leaves 47% of organizations with an unclear goal for how to ensure the release of quality code.

SEE: Special report: Riding the DevOps revolution (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The continuous delivery trend that has dominated DevOps in recent years is expected to continue to grow in 2019, as reported by TechRepublic in February. That means that QA teams need to be on the ball to ensure code is inspected and bugs are fixed before releases, the windows for which are growing increasingly smaller and taxing testers more and more.

Automated QA: Not necessarily the answer

There has been a lot of interest in automated QA testing—the link above to the 2019 tech trends piece includes predictions that QA automation will increase—but the report found that automation may not be taking hold.

Some 89% of respondents said that their QA teams include manual testers, and only 64% said they had automation engineers.

It can be tempting to assume that automation is simply a tech advancement across the board, but that's hardly the case. While automated QA can be great in some instances, it simply isn't appropriate in others, and it's also essential to remember that automated testing is only as good as the test itself.

Of metrics and development cycles

Regardless of how teams are QA'ing their code, two startling statistics from the report stand out: More than half of respondents don't measure any QA metrics, and 42% lack any method for determining test coverage.

Those two statistics may not seem directly related, but they're indicative of a problem plaguing QA: It's disorganized, and isn't doing much to keep track of its own success (or failure).

The chaos surrounding QA reflects directly in the confidence respondents had with their efforts: 39% said they only had moderate confidence in their QA testing delivering a high-quality product, and only 10% said they had a high level of confidence.

Along with not taking internal measurement of QA success, it seems the point of QA is being missed entirely by a large percentage of teams: 72% said they rely on customers as the source of their product feedback.

An effective QA team, the report notes, ensures "products are as close to error free as possible when they reach the end-user." That 72% figure indicates that may not often be the case.

Is there a solution?

Developers need to face the fact that fast development and release cycles, DevOps, and CI/CD practices are here to stay. Many of them have, but those rapid cycles and pressure from above make it hard to do the necessary work that ensures quality releases.

The speed of development, and the pressure on developers, is unlikely to change in the current software-driven marketplace. What can change is how QA is viewed organizationally.

The report notes that organizations with separate QA and development teams have a higher rate of QA success; integrating QA with developers can muddy the waters, leading to role confusion and people being pulled from one task to the other.

It's time for organizational leaders to pay more attention to QA: It's not an afterthought, but an essential part of the development process. Bad QA doesn't only lead to poor quality software releases—it can also slow down the entire development process.

As the report concludes, "If you can't keep up with demand, maybe your competitor can." Giving more resources to QA may be the key to meeting development deadlines with high-quality code in hand.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/anyaberkut

By Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.