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How can you improve or expand the ROI in software testing?

QA needs to keep reminding business of its value. Expert Amy Reichert offers tried-and-true advice on how to leverage documentation and automation to make the business side happy.

The ROI in software testing should be obvious: testing applications to improve customer experience and to verify...

that regulatory requirements are met. Software application providers don't want customers experiencing immediate, unavoidable defects after each release. Defects cause customers to abandon using the application and search for a better performer with fewer obvious problems.

But does quality assurance (QA) truly pay for itself? Or do you need to create ROI in software testing to ensure the business side is appreciative? With the expansion of artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities and test automation, it is necessary to increase your QA team's business value.

First, you don't want to reduce testing effectiveness by taking on secondary responsibilities. So, before you expand into other areas, plan for the impact on QA workload, conflicts and priorities (or what activity takes precedence). Define the plan, and be willing and able to change it for continuous improvement. Flexibility and adaptability are the name of the game here and one of the largest advantages to being a human.

QA + technical documentation

A place to start when considering boosting the ROI in software tsting is technical documentation. Frequently, QA personnel develop technical documentation for their own uses, to supplement test cases or provide training materials. The test case documentation, regardless of form, may be converted into user documentation with less effort than writing user documentation from scratch. Manual test cases typically can be deciphered easily, and you have all the user workflows through the application already in place. QA staff may take on the role of extracting the tests that represent general workflow and repackaging them into end-user documentation. They tend to have a deeper understanding of how the application works, so reusing their skills to create technical end-user documentation makes sense. Automated tests are trickier to translate into useful text, but it is possible. This is an obvious place to point to the ROI in software testing.

QA + automated test developer

A challenge to perceived ROI in software testing is automated testing because it brings with it the specter of fewer testers. But testing new development usually requires the agility of manual testing, while smoke and regression testing are best served by developing an automated test suite. The real trick -- and something to help support positive ROI in software testing -- is to figure out how to combine the two in ways that make sense. Combining manual QA and automated test development is common, but in my experience, it's difficult to maintain. The difficulty is in keeping both efforts organized and productive. Priorities often change quickly in software development, and automated test development is often abandoned over getting work done with manual testing on the fly. It's difficult but not impossible for testers to switch back and forth between manual and automated testing because it's a major gear shift. Shifting test types continuously throws off timing and momentum.

Additionally, automating tests requires persistence and patience to keep the process functioning. It may be common to combine these roles, but I personally have yet to see it work.

The bottom line is that QA teams need to create additional business value to remain a viable part of software development. Combine roles that best support producing a high-quality application without burning out your resources. The goal is to continuously add and improve the QA team's business value. Competition will come, so get prepared by increasing the business value of your QA team now.

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This was last published in October 2017

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How does your organization improve the business value of QA?
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Quite an insightful read on software testing ROI.
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