Redefining “QA”

I am not a fan of fussing about what to call something so long as everyone knows what is being discussed. With this in mind, I was surprised to find this note scrawled in my ideas notebook: “Replace ‘Quality Assurance’ with ‘Quality Advocates’.” Unfortunately, I don’t recall the source (I think I was listening to a Test Talks podcast) that made me jot it down.

Anyone who has been to a conference or followed the general flow of the testing community has heard that we need to change the expectations and image of testers such that we can become part of the team and establish a clearer understanding of what it is we do. There are a number of key items that are seen as needing to be changed for this to happen with a major one being the elimination of the “Quality Assurance” title, because that is not what a tester does. In time, we might be able foster some other reference for our career path, but currently QA is simply too ingrained to get rid of.

For those who aren’t sure what I’m talking about, I will try to summarize the thoughts on this topic. There is a stigma and attitude surrounding QA that threatens our usefulness. It tends to revolve around the idea that a tester is either a gatekeeper/enforcer or something akin to a goalie. This leads to friction between developers and testers because either the tester keeps refusing to let features be released as a result of “minor issues” or developers don’t bother checking their work and throw everything over to QA. For organizations with a healthier dynamic, testers and developers work closely together and take equal responsibility for the quality of the product. This is often accomplished by QA helping to define test scenarios early in development so the devs can check their work as they go. As the product/feature moves closer to completion, the tester can focus on integration and regression rather than basic functionality. In this respect, the tester’s role becomes one of keeping a focus on quality through the SDLC rather than trying to look for it at the end.

What I would propose is that rather than drop a perfectly good initialism, we should redefine it. By changing a single word, we can bring our common title/department inline with what our actual role is in the organization—Quality Advocate. Granted, this would make some titles a bit awkward (Sr. Quality Advocate Engineer) but that is ultimately a minor thing since the initialism is likely to remain in common use.

I would love to hear what others think of this option so please take some time to comment, email me, catch me on Twitter (personal or Academy) or G+ (personal or Academy, or in the #Testers Slack.

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