How to effectively build and manage a QA testing team?
Quality assurance teams ensure that a company’s products meet its set standards of quality. QA specialists utilize various testing methods to determine the quality of a product, then bring awareness to any issues that they uncover and propose improvements or fixes.
However, many companies do not fully understand how to utilize their teams and are unclear on the characteristics of a great software testing team. So we have developed this guide to assembling and managing a QA team, based on best practices and our own extensive experience with quality assurance management. Whether you . . .
- Do not have a team at all, and need to build a QA department
- Need to better organize your existing QA specialists and establish cross-team collaboration
- Have a QA team, but it is not performing as well as it could be
. . . this article will provide you with beneficial tips and processes to help you build a successful QA team.
Hiring and onboarding
When you start assembling a new QA team, you have a couple of different options. You can hire a fully in-house team and build it up from scratch, or you can use an outsourced QA team that is already established. Regardless of which method you choose, you should approach onboarding the way you would with any new employee. When you focus on quickly getting your quality assurance specialists up to speed on the company culture, existing processes, and products, you give them the tools they need to ensure that the company’s QA needs are met.
However, if you choose to hire an outsourced QA vendor, they will already have established onboarding procedures in place to allow them to start work as soon as possible. A vendor with a good onboarding process will require you to provide a testing strategy, giving the team all the information they will need to know about your project and the desired results. They will also provide you with information on the testing phases and the testing professionals, so you’ll know exactly what’s going on at every step.
As you can see, QA outsourcing is a valuable option, since it allows you to quickly hire a full, established team that is ready to get to work. This method also gives you more flexibility and the ability to create custom QA processes that can be adjusted to fit your changing requirements.
QA roles and responsibilities
In order to adequately use and manage your team, you need to have a clearly defined distribution of roles and responsibilities for the team members. Testing professionals can have varying skills that make each one better suited for a different position. For example, a QA that has expertise in programming languages can develop automated tests for the rest of the team. Meanwhile, QA with mobile testing experience can test Android and iOS apps.
Current trends indicate that quality assurance specialist requirements are evolving, and future professionals will be expected to be able to develop tools, build automated tests, and even code. For now, however, there are several distinct QA engineering roles that have different responsibilities in a testing team. The roles are:
- Software test engineer - responsible for testing the overall system.
- Test analyst - identifies test conditions and features that need to be tested; develops test scenarios and documentation.
- Test Automation engineer - develops automated testing.
- Test architect - designs complex test infrastructures and determines the necessary tools.
- Test manager - creates testing strategies and manages the team and the testing processes.
Motivating your QA team
Keeping the team motivated is a part of the role of the QA manager in agile development. At the start of a new project, there are plenty of interesting new challenges to keep your QAs motivated and invested. However, when the big issues have all been solved, and there’s nothing left to do but retest bug reports, you may find that your QA specialists lack motivation. There are five management techniques that you should implement to increase QA engagement and make sure that your team is happy and thriving.
1. Encourage knowledge sharing
Motivation drops when team members feel like they are just doing menial “busy work.” So it’s important to encourage your QA team to share their knowledge with one another and motivate each another to do better and be better.
Sharing knowledge benefits both parties. The provider gains a sense of purpose and feels that their contributions matter, while the recipient gains new skills and outlooks. Encouraging the sharing of knowledge empowers your team members and motivates them to constantly improve. QA can also exchange functionality within one project, and this increases the level of their involvement if their previous functionality is fully studied by them. Also, it will allow you to expand the knowledge of the team about the project and avoid the bottle-neck effect.
2. Recognize excellence
No one likes to feel overlooked or that their contributions go unrecognized. While the tech industry can be a fast-moving place where there’s always a new deadline to meet, test to run, or report to provide, it’s important to take the time to show appreciation for QAs and reward team members for outstanding work. Not only will this recognition improve your relationships with your team members, but it will also create an environment where they feel valued and engaged.
3. Use failure as a teaching tool
When you make a mistake, take the opportunity to let your team members learn from it. Use your failures as teaching tools to help your team avoid the same errors. Everyone fails, and admitting your mistakes will not cause your team members to think less of you. On the contrary, owning up to your errors and helping others learn from them garners more respect.
4. Trust your team
Nobody wants to be micromanaged, and if you’re constantly looking over your team members’ shoulders, they will feel like you don’t trust them to do their jobs. If you have new QAs who haven’t proven their skills yet, it is okay to verify their progress or request status reports until they have established themselves. But don’t annoy all of your team members by always questioning their work and trying to manage every little aspect of their jobs.
Micromanagement-style leadership in testing results in unhappy team members who feel that you don’t trust their skills or work ethic, and unhappy employees leave to find better work environments. Hire skilled professionals who can get the job done, then trust them to do it.
5. Find out what motivates your team members
Each of your team members is an individual, and what works to motivate one may not work for another. Get to know your QAs and determine what motivates them. Then use this knowledge to build a recognition or reward system that keeps everyone motivated and inspired. Gamification in software testing and QA is often a great solution, as many people thrive with a little healthy competition.
Have one-on-ones with team members
You can’t lead a team if you don’t know your team members. So it’s important to get to know them, their skills and abilities, career goals, and level of satisfaction. The best way to do this is through individual, face-to-face conversations. During a one-on-one, you should strive to learn where the team member wants to grow and improve, what new skills they would like to develop, and whether or not they are happy with their current role and QA responsibilities.
One-on-ones allow you better manage conflict in software testing and uncover potential issues before they impact the team, and they help you create an excellent working environment for every team member. You should take time every quarter to meet with each team member individually. Find out what you can do to help them grow their careers and keep them motivated to continue improving by providing opportunities for them to succeed.
Frequently evaluate your outsourced team
If you use an outsourced QA service, you need to evaluate the testing documentation at least once a month to make sure that they are testing appropriately and that you are getting good value for your money. Look for inefficient processes or unnecessary actions that are driving up costs and make adjustments on both sides where needed. Regularly assessing the QA outsourcing agency’s work helps ensure that the final product will be high-quality and work as expected.
Moreover, discussing disagreements early on allows you to quickly adjust your work and make sure you are on the same page. Feedback is extremely important: it allows you to save resources and create the mood for open communication.
QA team performance metrics
When you want to analyze your QA team, there are many methods you can use to measure performance. However, QA performance metrics can be misleading or not reveal the full picture, so it’s important to look at the numbers subjectively. While this list is not conclusive or perfect, the following metrics can give you a general idea of your team’s level of performance.
- Number of bugs found per release
- Number of bugs found in staging vs. production
- The severity of bugs found in production
- Number of bugs sent back for clarification
- The ratio of bugs reported to bugs fixed
- Turnaround time for fixing issues
- Number of bugs over time (overall)
- Number of automated test cases created and executed
- Time to execute a test cycle
- Assessment of functionality coverage by autotests
These are just a few of the ways of assessing the performance of the QA team, and it is vital to consider the context of the results. If you find something concerning, take time to investigate and uncover the reason for the number to determine whether it is an actual issue or not.
Quality assurance certifications
While QA certifications can certainly expand an individual’s skills and knowledge, they are also important for meeting consistent quality standards. Each country and industry have set standards for products, and the QA team is primarily responsible for making sure that a product meets those standards. Here are just a few of the valuable certifications for QA specialists:
- Certified Test Engineer (CSTE) - an IT industry certification that shows competence in the basics of quality control.
- Certified Software Quality Analyst (CSQA) - can only be obtained after getting the CSTE and covers both quality control and quality assurance.
- Certified Associate in Software Testing (CAST) - verifies an understanding of and ability to perform software quality assurance testing.
- CMSQ (Certified Manager of Software Quality) - shows thorough software QA competency and understanding, as well as QA team management skills.
- ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board) - a software testing qualification body that offers internationally accepted ISTQB QA certifications at the foundational, advanced, and expert levels.
It is important to note that we pay attention to certificates, but first of all, we focus on practical QA skills in work.
Scaling your QA team
If you are managing a QA team in a growing organization, you will eventually need to hire more team members. However, scaling your QA team can be challenging, so first, you should make sure that it actually needs to be done. Here are some common scenarios where you may need to add to your team, as well as some tips on expanding and how to hire a QA engineer.
1. You have a lack of technical expertise
If your department is lacking technical expertise, then it’s definitely time to expand the QA team, since technical expertise can be a huge productivity booster. For example, if you add just one QA engineer who has significant experience in automation, you can quickly automate many mundane tasks and routine tests, freeing up a substantial amount of time for more complex tasks.
2. You’ve maxed out your automation
On the other hand, if you’ve automated everything you can and there is still too much manual work that needs to be done, it’s probably time to bring on some new team members. Automation can only take you so far. Eventually, you’ll need additional manpower to complete tasks efficiently.
However, if the need for more help is only temporary or it ebbs and flows, you should consider using an outsourced QA service. This will allow you to keep working efficiently through peak periods, without having extra team members who are idle when demand is low.
3. You lost a team member
When a specialist leaves your QA team, you should seek out a replacement as soon as possible to maintain the balance of the team and preserve the individual roles and responsibilities. However, since you’re already going to have to go through the time-consuming recruiting and hiring process, this is a good time to hire an additional person, if needed.
QA team lead responsibilities
In order to manage distributed testing teams effectively, you need to have a reliable team lead. It’s important to make sure that your QA team lead has the right skills and understands the responsibilities of the position. In addition to having leadership skills and extensive QA knowledge, the right individual should be able to fulfill the following quality assurance team lead responsibilities:
- Recruit, onboard, and integrate new team members.
- Implement training and assessment programs and help team members develop their skills.
- Estimate labor costs and ROI.
- Develop testing infrastructures and testing plans.
- Collect and analyze product quality metrics.
- Build, improve, and scale quality assurance processes.
However, the ability to lead a team does not come from just having the right technical skills. You need an individual that understands how to become a quality assurance team leader that inspires loyalty in their team members and knows how to resolve team conflict. A successful team lead:
- Takes into account the customer’s needs - A good QA team lead takes part in product design meetings, considers the customer feedback, and explains to their team how a feature will be used so they can make better testing decisions.
- Keeps the team informed - Team leads have more insight into and information about the company, its plans, and its future. A successful leader shares this information with the team, when possible, so they know what to expect and feel more secure in their positions.
- Solves problems for the team - QAs face a lot of annoying issues that make it harder for them to do their jobs, like crashing test environments and incomplete or inaccurate data. A good QA team lead takes the initiative to solve these problems and alleviate their team members’ frustrations.
- Provides opportunities to grow - An effective team lead challenges their team members, giving them opportunities to develop their skills and grow their knowledge through things like training programs, advanced tasks, or gamified skill-building. However, the team lead must also provide encouragement, guidance, feedback, and recognition when a team member rises to the challenge and excels.
- Appreciates and rewards their team - Team leads must recognize excellent performance and make their team members feel appreciated when they do outstanding work. Valued employees make happy team members, which leads to a cohesive, cooperative team.
- Credits the team with success - A quality leader points out their team members’ contributions and gives them credit for the department’s success, rather than taking all the glory for themselves. This inspires the team to work hard and strive for excellence, since they know their work will be recognized and praised.
- Takes the blame for failures - On the other hand, a good team lead also takes the blame when things go wrong, instead of trying to pass fault onto their team. They also view failure as an opportunity to teach and learn and take steps to prevent similar issues in the future.
Quality assurance is a vital part of development, and a properly managed QA team results in higher quality products that set you apart from the competition. Whether through gamification in testing or by setting performance goals for QA testers, keeping your team motivated is key to being an effective manager.
We hope these tips and processes help you build or improve your QA team and get the most out of your quality assurance department. If you need more information on how or when to create a QA department, or you want to learn about our outsourced QA services, feel free to contact our experts.