A QA Odyssey: Our team's digital and cultural transformation
Day 1: Status Quo
It’s wonderful how magical moments can happen in the workplace. In our case, our journey from a “conventional” QA testing team, to one of the most advanced and effective Automated QA teams in the country has been fascinating and work-life changing!
Like most engineering teams, we had a disconnect between developers and testers that has somehow become an accepted dysfunction over the decades. This seeming impossibly divide was solved by our QA team; and they changed our world so significantly that our production defects have dropped to near-zero for all projects, and our output per sprint has been significantly increased. Not only has our quality become top-notch, but we save significantly on our profit as a direct result of the improvements enabled by our QA team; as well as our client’s experience with us.
This is our story.
It’s Thursday afternoon and our Quality Assurance Engineers have gathered around for another of their weekly QA Tech Sessions. These QA-specific sessions are run over-and-above our usual Global Kinetic internal tech sessions. Where the company sessions cover all areas of the business, the QA sessions were specifically created to develop our testers’ technical skills, encourage knowledge-sharing, increase awareness, and enable us to become better engineers overall.
For this session, Mark Stares, aka. ‘Staresy’, an experienced Global Kinetic software developer turned project manager, has been invited to showcase a few lessons around Unit Testing to help our testers better understand how developers approach the testing of their own code.
As he steps through code to demo his project on the projector screen, QA’s start scanning and interrogating his code ferociously, line by line.
Questions are sure to be raised. And they are.
“Where are your tests for scenario X?”, “…and what about special characters?”
Staresy suddenly realizes he is lacking some crucial tests, mostly because his development team, and developers, did not instinctively think about them. These checks may be intuitive to some, but quite common to overlook in daily work and in positive testing scenarios.
Fortunately, Staresy is a seasoned Global Kinetic resident and understands that this isn’t something to be defensive about. He simply notes and acknowledges the issues so that he can address them at a later stage.
As the session continues, more questions are posed around testing and quality; and a deeper understanding of the code, product, and more potential test strategies are revealed. The QA team realizes where the disconnect with the developers are, and how development processes are hampering their ability to ensure quality. A QA person states: “This is partly where our test coverage matrix comes into play.” At that point everyone realized what we had been missing from our approach to development testing.
For us, this interaction where the previously warring factions of dev and test align for a common team goal was unusual, as it is in many organizations. Typically, this is not how all software engineering teams behave. Like most software teams, there has always been a divide between developers and testers. Software developers often looking down on QAs, and company management believing testing is a menial, less important job, not deserving of the type of salaries that developers get. We knew that we need to work as a cohesive team, that we need to automate, that we need to have the team take responsibility for its collective output; and that this will not only be technical, but also cultural in nature.
The importance of having developers working closely with QAs.
Looking at where we are now, our QA tech sessions have enabled a significant shift in how developers and QA are working together within teams. The team has increased its cohesion, their like-mindedness, focus and attitude towards quality which makes these sessions essential and useful.
We achieved QAs and developers brainstorming together, raising ideas to optimize and improve the subject; being engaged and solving problems together. We love how our teams could grow or be restored from something so demoralized and dilapidated, to astounding, bubbly winning teams that everyone wants to be a part of.
So how did this all come together? How did we get it right? What about automation? What about DevOps?
Transforming a department or a business unit is not an easy feat. We determined the key foundations we needed before we could even begin rebuilding.
Good leadership A leader to helm this journey who would be aligned with our vision, with ample experience, and with expert understanding of the QA world, modern automated testing, as well as traditional manual testing.
Buy-in from the whole company Without assistance and support from Global Kinetic’s upper management, transformation and change would have been ridiculously painful, if not impossible. All teams, tools and processes that QA interacted with had to be able to accommodate and be open to changes, and to assist whenever possible. From junior team members to lead engineers and project managers, all areas would require constant communication to be in line with the vision, and to also understand how everyone will reap from the long-term benefits.
As we progress through this multi-part blog series, we will walk through our journey of discovery, challenges, and successes of (re)building one of the most outstanding and progressive QA teams in South Africa.
For those of you that have known us for long enough, you will know who Employee #6 is. He has been with us for all 15 years of our brave existence and his devotion and unconditional loyalty to our cause is truly something to be celebrated. We're not sure how we know he is a he ...we just know. His efforts are almost superhuman. That is probably because, well, he's not human... he is a chicken.
Here's an internal mail showcasing just how well he steps in - this time when our COO was away on business in the US...
From: Ross Pickford <> To: Loren Rose <> Cc: Ryan Berkowitz <> Subject: While you are jolling..
We hired a new guy to help out while you’re playing with Apples…
We were privileged enough to exhibit our popular TeamNinja product at the HR Technology Conference & Exposition. This is the biggest HR conference in the world held at The Venetian in Las Vegas!
TeamNinja encourages engagement and accountability within teams, allowing early intervention of potential conflict, and acknowledgement of success as it happens. It also increases transparency with relevant data to create perfect teams in a business or for a project.
The HR Technology Conference & Exposition is THE SIZE OF 7 FOOTBALL FIELDS! The walk from the hotel to the actual event was over a kilometer in itself. The decor and setup was magnificent and we had a lot of people interested in what TeamNinja has to offer.
Sergio Barbosa, Tad Bogdan and Forrest Holleman were amongst the faces who attended the HR TechXpo in San Francisco exhibiting our innovative productivity boosting product: TeamNinja.
The HR TechExpo is a well renowned conference after 34 years of success holding the flagship HR West conference in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Event aimed to showcase the intersection of HR and Technology and the different products that came this. Amongst these different products that were exhibited included our TeamNinja product.
There were around 3000 people who attended the event and we were lucky enough to get a large amount of sign ups from our exhibition!
A brief explanation of TeamNinja:
TeamNinja is also an early warning system that highlights potential conflicts and project risks, as well as an individual and performance tool. It allows you to evaluate teams, projects and individuals simultaneously and regularly, with the TeamNinja AI engine distilling the information into usable items that you can act on. TeamNinja allows companies to step away from quarterly reviews to a continuous review model with an emphasis on team accountability. Our product also allows you to select team members for teams who are most likely to provide quality output together.
The goal of TeamNinja is creating and managing perfect teams.
TeamNinja encourages engagement and accountability within teams, allowing early intervention of potential conflict, and acknowledgement of success as it happens. Increase transparency with relevant data to create perfect teams. Our product also
Our product allows for real-time, continuous reviews with reduced costs and greater productivity.
More exciting news is that we will be at the massive HR Tech fest in San Francisco! Join TeamNinja at 2018 HR Tech and use the Promo Code NINJA18 to Save an Extra 300.00! Register here
Why should you attend HR Tech?
HR Techis where you need to be to ensure business success today while preparing for tomorrow. Through 75+ sessions and the Expo, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of emerging technologies accompanied by innovative strategies to optimize your organization’s people success. Hailed as the industry’s “Town Hall Meeting,” HR Tech is your once-a-year chance to learn from — and network with — industry innovators and like-minded professionals who are eager to “talk shop”!