Strategic planning for QA: key components and practices

Nadezhda Yushkevich
Updated on
Jun 21, 2024
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What role does planning play in the QA workflow? How can you create a plan in conditions where everything is constantly changing? What are the key steps for implementing QA planning? In April, Zebrunner hosted the webinar "From Chaos to Confidence: Building Strategic Planning for QA Implementations." In this article, we share the most valuable insights from the event.

Speaker: Ariana Trueba, the QA Technical Director at Parser, with extensive experience in quality assurance. With expertise in both manual and automation testing across various frameworks, programming languages, and web mobile apps, she is dedicated to continuous learning and expanding her skill set. Ariana Trueba also possesses significant experience in quality documentation, particularly in regulatory compliance and audits. Over the years, she has transitioned into a planning and strategy specialist, guiding QA teams to implement effective strategies that instill confidence in product quality.

Before planning

As testers, we're tasked with testing features, but we're also working against deadlines. This is where implementing a test strategy becomes crucial. However, before we can even start testing, we must first plan our approach. To simplify, let's begin by asking some fundamental questions such as:

  • What do we need to prioritize in our planning?
  • Which features do we need to test?
  • Are there any specific features unique to web applications?

We can determine what needs to be tested and what needs to be planned by making a list and carefully considering the requirements. This includes deciding where the planned tasks will be tested, what environments and tools we'll be using, and which team members will be involved. We also need to establish when we'll execute the testing — during development, after, or before. This marks the start of our planning process.

Next, we need to consider who will be responsible for carrying out the plan. Will it be our team exclusively, or will it involve collaboration with other teams? This prompts us to think about the organizational aspect of our testing process.

Additionally, we must take into account our roadmap and the associated deadlines. Understanding what needs to be delivered earlier versus later is crucial in shaping our testing strategy.

Answering these questions provides us with a broader overview and helps us formulate our strategy and plan. The successful implementation of our strategy hinges upon addressing these initial questions effectively.

Planning

When creating a test plan, it's essential to consider the bigger picture. Study the previous section and complete all the basic preparation steps.

Next, set clear goals and objectives, keeping deadlines in mind. It's important to recognize that we can't do everything and to prioritize tasks based on their importance within the overall project roadmap.

Effective preparation of our team is crucial. Everyone needs to be on the same page, understanding the goals, objectives, and deadlines, and working together as a cohesive unit.

With everything in place, it's time to put our plan into action. This involves executing the process we've outlined, continually assessing and readjusting as necessary to ensure we're on track to achieve the desired results.

While we've focused on the specifics of quality strategy planning, it's important to remember the broader context and consider any additional factors that may impact our approach.

Key points for strategy implementation

Define the scope of testing

These are the objectives of the test, which serve as our main goal to ensure the quality of the product. What are the different objectives we have? When do we need them ready? We also need to consider the deadlines, think about the requirements, the team, and the resources. By starting with defining the scope of testing, you can review and change it later. However, providing answers to these previous questions will at least give you a clear idea of what you need to do.

Plan the testing

At this stage, it's really important to review your team's experience with coding and testing, as well as the type of architecture the code is going to be built on. So in every iteration, we are going deeper, getting more specific answers.

Analyze the code to determine the level of testing required to provide maximum value: database level, business logic level like unit testing integration, testing components, API level, or UI level. Think over other tests you will need to perform like usability, functionality, reliability, performance, and security can also be considered depending on the objectives. Analyze the rules and guidelines to follow when writing and running the test, deciding on the framework to be used.

Create and execute the test cases

It's important to follow best practices, such as designing a reusable test case template, testing specific parts separately, and avoiding mixing everything together until you gain experience. Prioritize parts to be tested and aim for comprehensive coverage by doing both programming and testing early. Identify the appropriate testing tools and environments, considering factors like platform requirements, application characteristics, supported languages, and testers' experience. For instance, for mobile apps, options include Appium or cloud-based tools, while web applications can utilize Selenium, TestComplete, Playwright, or Cypress. For API testing, tools like Katalon, SoapUI, Postman, and REST Assured are available. The choice of tools and approaches, such as BDD focusing on requirements or quality scenarios, depends on the specific project requirements identified earlier.

Keep documentation up to date

Everything relevant to your test plan strategy and implementation should be documented. Take ownership, assign responsibilities, and by the end, a recommendation here, deliver a test report where everything related to our test and quality implementation has been done, demonstrating our value.

All these steps will assist you in identifying the key elements of a proper strategy. Regularly checking it will help prevent most of the common problems we encounter in our teams. Knowing and preparing the necessary resources, allocating them based on skills, aligning objectives, and prioritizing new initiatives are crucial aspects.

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Tracking progress and documenting pieces of evidence

To ensure success, it's vital to align your actions with requirements and expectations. Think from the perspective of a user — after all, we all interact with software. Follow the strategy you've devised diligently, keeping a close eye on progress. Continuously review test stages with your team.

As you delve deeper into implementation and execution, meticulous documentation becomes crucial. Record your pieces of test evidence thoroughly, conduct regular checkpoints, and anticipate any deviations or delays.

Prioritize adjustments early in the process; it's more cost-effective than making changes closer to deadlines. Remember to revisit requirements and expectations periodically.

In my experience, initial planning often requires reprioritization due to unforeseen changes. Be prepared to adapt. When implementing strategies discussed in presentations or training sessions, translating ideas into actionable plans can be challenging. Solid documentation is key to this process. Utilize visual aids, such as graphs, to gain a clearer understanding of how to implement every aspect of your QA strategy,” recommends Ariana Trueba.

Methodology and approach

Quality is often invisible, but it is at the heart of everything we do. While developers execute their tasks, the true essence of quality lies in the meticulous groundwork laid by designers, product teams, and developers alike. From defining the look and feel requirements to meeting customer expectations, quality assurance ensures that all components align with the intended objectives. The operations team plays a vital role in packaging and delivering the final product seamlessly.

Quality extends far beyond testing; it encompasses meeting expectations, aligning needs, and maintaining a delicate balance between various elements. It involves constant detection, adaptation, and refinement, with the ultimate goal of delivering on promises and achieving team objectives. Effective strategic planning for quality involves a comprehensive assessment of problems, meticulous review of processes, and clear definition of objectives.

To make this strategy a reality, effective communication, team involvement, and resource allocation are imperative. Knowing your team's strengths, providing necessary training, and leveraging suitable tools and technology are essential steps. It's crucial to anticipate challenges, learn from past experiences, and continually reassess and refine the strategy. Ultimately, success lies in cohesive teamwork and a commitment to delivering quality at every stage.

Building a strong quality foundation

We must establish a robust quality foundation to strengthen our strategy fundamentally.

Promote quality principles by ensuring the team understands and implements best practices to consistently deliver top-notch results. Encourage knowledge enhancement and advocate for adopting effective practices to leverage automation efficiently. Evaluate how test automation can optimize the QA process. Maximize automation and integrate both shift left and shift right testing approaches. And last but not least, incorporate continuous integration and continuous testing. Highlight the importance of continuous integration and continuous testing within an agile context. Establish a process for continuous improvement and ongoing research into testing, including exploring new tools and techniques.

With her own testing experience in automation, Ariana has compiled some of the main quality principles and practices that appear to be the most important when planning and implementing a QA strategy.

Principles

Everything depends a bit on your quality strategy, the product you are building, and so on. However, here are some valuable and widely applicable principles.

Quality is not only the responsibility of the QA department. Everyone needs to engage and act as a whole team. No isolated teams, enhancing collaboration and communication among teams is one fundamental requirement.

Have a strong strategic sense. Testing activities should not be sequential. Simply find answers to the main questions and sort out your ideas. Think about a strategy before starting one. Do not use long timeframes for testing. Keep it simple, split it, and break it down into smaller pieces.

Learn and adapt new techniques like Agile, including DevOps like Shift Testing.

Keep measuring your efficiency and effectiveness, readjust and rethink if needed.

Keep customer-focused. Think as a user. What could you expect if you were a user of the product you are testing?

Document everything. Select documentation that is really relevant to the testing site. So strategy, plans, testing evidence, and, for sure, continuous integration and testing, which involves improvement cycles, cross-functional testing, and enhancing this automation incorporation.

Practices

For successful test automation, it all starts with selecting qualified teams. Equip them with appropriate tools and environments tailored to their needs. Rather than overwhelming them with lots of different framework approaches and test plans, teams should adopt a gradual approach, recognizing that progress is achieved through consistent effort. Perfection is not the goal. Instead, the team should focus on continuous improvement, delivering valuable results initially, and demonstrating ongoing progress over time.

Adopt a cross-team strategy. Incorporating automation early ensures efficiency. But it’s essential to keep automation manageable. In an Agile environment as dynamic as the development itself, automation testing spans APIs, microservices, unit testing, databases, and validation, strategically organized around features and scenarios ensuring comprehensive coverage.

Use continuous integration. CI orchestrates consistent delivery by breaking down development into manageable phases, while continuous testing maintains a steady commitment to quality, never giving away nor halting in its work. This dedication extends to testing new requirements and code, inspecting carefully each build on deployment, and even venturing into production environments when necessary.

Embrace both shift-left and shift-right testing philosophies. This approach ensures that quality is settled at every stage of the development life cycle. In the landscape of distributed testing strategies, a multitude of options offer flexibility and adaptability to diverse organizational structures. These strategies often include the establishment of tribes, chapters, and guilds, each representing distinct types of test teams with specialized focus and objectives. So, for example, tribes.

Tribes incorporate compatible cross-functional teams, uniting individuals with diverse expertise and skill sets to tackle the whole testing goal. For example, this can include testers, automation engineers, quality analysts, and other related roles chapters.

Foster knowledge sharing and skill development within specific domains, nurturing expertise and proficiency among team members. For example, there could be a test automation chapter consisting of automation engineers who specialize in developing and maintaining automation testing frameworks and scripts. Another chapter might focus on performance testing, comprising experts who specialize in assessing the performance and scalability of software applications. These chapters provide a platform for knowledge sharing, skill development, and collaboration among members with similar interests and expertise. On the other hand, sense as a community of practice promotes collaboration and innovation across the organization, transcending traditional boundaries.

A testing guild could bring together individuals from the quality assurance tribe as well as developers, product managers, and other stakeholders who have an interest in testing practices and quality assurance. All together, distributed testing strategies empower organizations to harness the collective talent and capabilities of their teams.

Continuous improvement

How do we track our progress? How do we assess if we're adhering to what we outlined in our plan? How can we measure it? Let's explore some ideas.

Metrics

Metrics and KPIs are crucial tools for evaluating the effectiveness of a QA strategy. Some of these KPIs can assess specific indicators across various parts of the process. Let's look at some examples:

  • Test Defect Density helps identify areas with higher defect rates, prioritizing improvements.
  • Test Case Effectiveness identifies inefficient or redundant test cases, enhancing testing strategy.
  • Automated vs. Manual Test Ratio provides insights into resource allocation and testing efficiency, including tracking test execution time.
  • Test Execution Time and Mean Times (for defect detection and resolution) illuminate workflow efficiency, pinpointing areas for streamlining.
  • Monitoring Technical Debt offers visibility into the long-term sustainability of the testing process.
  • Metrics related to CI/CT/CD (Continuous Integration, Continuous Testing, and Continuous Deployment) provide valuable insights into the overall agility and effectiveness of the development pipeline.

Feedback loop

Another aspect of measuring progress is communication and feedback. Effective communication and feedback mechanisms are vital in fostering collaboration and synergy between development and QA teams.

Establishing feedback loops ensures a continuous exchange of insights, concerns, and suggestions, nurturing a culture of openness and transparency. Active listening and empathetic engagement are key components in this process, allowing team members to understand each other’s perspectives and needs. By actively seeking feedback, teams can clarify objectives, align priorities, and address challenges, ultimately building trust.

Adaptability and continuous learning

Furthermore, we should emphasize the need for adaptability in the QA strategy as part of the continuous improvement process. The concept of quality must undergo significant transformation not just to survive but also to thrive.

Embracing automation as a predominant streamlining process increases efficiency. Prioritizing customer experience is non-negotiable; it forms the foundation of sustained success.

Another crucial aspect of continuous improvement is continuous learning and adaptability, which are key pillars in this transformation journey. Staying updated with industry trends, experimenting with new approaches, and seeking feedback are critical for remaining relevant and competitive.

We must be willing to readjust these strategies and processes based on insights, constantly striving to improve and innovate in pursuit of excellence. Through this persistent commitment to learning and adaptability, organizations can not only survive but thrive in an ever-changing landscape.

Effective collaboration and communication skills are essential to succeed in any team environment. To foster teamwork, individuals must cultivate open communication channels, encourage active participation, and establish a culture of mutual respect and support. Effective communication involves not only articulating ideas clearly but also listening carefully to others’ perspectives.

Building strong relationships within teams and across departments is essential for fostering trust, cooperation, and synergy. Moreover, bridging gaps between different team members or even departments promotes alignment of goals and facilitates QA workflow.

AI

Embracing AI in testing represents a significant opportunity for enhancing testing capabilities and efficiency. To effectively leverage AI, individuals must first acquire a fundamental understanding of AI principles and technologies. Experimenting with AI tools and techniques allows teams to explore innovative approaches to testing and identify opportunities for automation. By incorporating AI into testing processes, teams can enhance test coverage, improve accuracy, and accelerate the testing cycle.

Summary

Strategic planning for QA implementation is a multifaceted process that requires careful consideration of key components and practices. From defining testing scopes to fostering team collaboration and continuous improvement, every step contributes to the success of the QA strategy. By embracing adaptability, prioritizing customer experience, and leveraging automation and AI, organizations can thrive in an ever-changing landscape. Effective communication, collaboration, and a commitment to learning are crucial for achieving quality outcomes. Ultimately, strategic planning for QA implementation is not just about testing — it's about delivering excellence at every stage of the development lifecycle.

About the author

Nadezhda Yushkevich

Content Writer and Tech Journalist

With 11 years of work experience in journalism, media management, PR, and content marketing, she has specialized in IT and startup areas for the last five years. Interested in practices, trends, and approaches in the field of quality assurance.