Standing on the Shoulders of Others

~ by Randy Wagner

How to Consistently Deliver Quality as Project Phases Evolve

Much focus is given to the first phase of a project, getting set up, and delivering the best quality possible. Later phases of a project not only have to continue delivering quality, but they also have to maintain the quality of the prior phase(s). Every phase has to stand on the shoulders of what came before, without kicking dirt downward. QA has to deliver and redeliver at the same time.

Each LOB or state added to a client’s Guidewire Insurance Suite adds complexity to the code. Some pieces are entirely new, others hit common code, but all of it has to play nicely with the functionality in production now. The QA approach has to include several vectors to accomplish this.

#1 – Test Automations Built for Previously Delivered Functionality

Out of the gate, the first pass has to be any automation built for the previously delivered functionality. It serves as the canary in the coal mine, especially when used as part of smoke testing in Dev and QA. It’s cost-effective, fast, and consistent. Ensure enough variability in the transactions so that you’re hitting the meat of the client’s customer base. The rest can show up in full regression during stabilization, or sooner if you have the staffing.

#2 – Take Meticulous Care to Identify Common Functionality Touch Points from Isolated Ones

The second challenge is how to feed the test cases. Get the Business Analysts to highlight what touches common functionality and what is truly isolated. This is the toughest battle because it requires some effort and will be the first task to fall when everyone is pinched for time, but it pays off in spades. It keeps the Developer thinking of hidden dangers and it gives the QA insight into how they might do better testing. Adding to this, ask the Developer what code has been touched. Take every nugget you can get. QA really does stand on the shoulders of others to reach the necessary quality.

#3 – Show the Customer that You Developed New Features Without Breaking the Old System

The third vector is the comfort level of the customer. Make regression of related functionality part of the QA demo for new stories and end of sprint demos. Demonstrate to the Product Owner we delivered new quality without compromising the existing system. It doesn’t have to be much, one or two items, but it will go a long way to easing the worry of how everything will fit together. Make regression visible.

Regression Testing & Shared Responsibility are Key

We can’t prevent problems from landing in QA’s lap but sometimes we can shine enough light to reduce the impact when it is least costly to do so. Regression has to be key in a later phases of a project because handing over fantastic new functionality that breaks the existing code never goes over well.

We do stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us. Too often staffing has changed and not everyone knows or remembers how we arrived at today but, if we come at it from multiple angles, delivering and redelivering quality becomes an attainable goal.

Randy Wagner is Director of Quality Assurance for CastleBay Companies. He has 20 years of consulting experience across private and public sectors, Guidewire InsuranceSuite, InsuranceNow, and Duck Creek, with specializations in quality assurance, configuration management, and automation.