With Agile, DevOps, and CI/CD becoming commonplace, the software development process is faster than ever, with high expectations for the user experience and overall software quality. To keep up, organizations are embracing a “shift left” strategy that integrates quality assurance into the engineering process, elevating QA teams and their role in development. Once siloed away from the design, product, and customer experience teams, QA is now a highly collaborative discipline that needs an effective strategy to tackle their growing list of responsibilities. 

To understand how QA leaders in the field are embracing automation to navigate this new reality, we turned to three experts during our 2020 mabl Experience panel session:

Championing a culture of quality in DevOps

All three panelists noted that the biggest change surrounding QA in a DevOps world is adapting to a changing role: as they “shift left,” QA needs to focus less on the minute details of every test and more on building a broader culture of quality. Chris explained that “It's a broader picture so that quality is everywhere. Everybody has a hand in it, and what counts is getting QA engrained in as many teams as possible. Collaboration is really key.” He later noted that these team integrations go both ways, for example the Ritual customer experience team is the “eyes and ears” of QA and their insights drive testing prioritization. 

In a similar vein, Ian observed that his team had to learn how to “slack off” - to trust test automation to handle routine testing so that his team is able to focus on higher priority pain points. As QA becomes a key partner and advisor to product, customer success, and engineering teams, test automation tools become a critical factor in ensuring that quality engineering can succeed. In order to elevate their focus, reliable solutions are needed to reduce the burden of manual testing. 

At Colruyt Group, older test automation tools actually backfired on the QA team since frequent inaccurate results taught developers to simply tune out on any automated tests. Thomas explained that Selenium ultimately wasn’t able to serve the needs of his organization since engineers didn’t attach any importance to inaccurate tests and testers were frustrated by the lack of visibility. With mabl, his team rebuilt trust in test automation and more fully democratized software testing across the Colruyt Group.

Break down to build up 

Building an entirely new testing culture across an organization is a tall order, even if your organization is undergoing the shift to DevOps. Our expert panel gave their best practices for ensuring QA is able to evolve and adapt. 

First, start small. Transitioning from manual testing or even older automating testing tools is a major change. As you adjust to an intelligent testing platform like mabl, start with small tests that allow your team to become familiar with the tool’s capabilities and how it will impact testing strategy. As Thomas (and many other Friends of mabl) found, creating tests is so quick that time is a secondary factor when experimenting. Once you have that first small set of tests that are meaningful and reflect critical user paths, you then check with project managers and developers for feedback. Once you have that good stable set established, you can create the checkpoint in your pipeline. This process ensures that the entire DevOps pipeline is invested in the new testing process from the very beginning, which is particularly critical when rebuilding trust or breaking down siloed workflows. 

With the initial set of proven tests in place, you’re able to build on that foundation and continue building other tests. You’re also in a good position to add more sophisticated assertions to the proven tests as you continue to integrate intelligent test automation into the entire DevOps cycle. 

Be an educator and a student 

Shifting to DevOps and a culture of quality requires embracing the dual role of student and teacher. As a QA leader guiding your team through the transition from manual testing or Selenium testing to intelligent test automation, you need to be able to continuously experiment and research on best practices. Ideally, work with vendors that have the resources to support your team through the transition through online help resources and live support sessions. Ian summarized his best advice: “It sounds cliche, but I learned from my mom - never stop asking questions. DevOps, cloud, automation are all evolving very quickly and other technologies like AI and mobile are changing how we work. That’s the main thing I can share.”

At the same time, all of our panelists operated in organizations that combine software testers, developers, and product people in different teams depending on project needs. As a result, testers need to be constantly educating different stakeholders on how to integrate quality into the development process. At Ritual, which recently launched a new line of men's vitamins in the midst of the pandemic, developers are responsible for writing their own unit tests. Chris and the other QA lead then check those tests to ensure that they’re hitting the necessary steps. This process, which completely breaks down the traditional siloed workflow between developers and QA, pushed Chris and his fellow testers into an educator role that promotes testing visibility and a broader awareness of quality. 

Planning for the future of DevOps

With a stronger focus on education, collaboration, and visibility, QA teams are better prepared for the demands of DevOps. With effective intelligent test automation tools like mabl, QA can shift their role from pure testing to an advisory role that integrates customer feedback and testing data, to a strategic role that ultimately promotes a culture of quality throughout their organization.

Many thanks to Chris, Ian, and Thomas for sharing their knowledge and experience with the mabl community! Check out the full session here:

If you’re interested in learning more about how mabl is making a difference for QA teams around the world, stay tuned to our blog. 

Curious about the difference intelligent test automation can make for you? Check out our free trial today!