What’s the point of quality assurance (QA) and testing? Isn’t it just another block in the road to product delivery? Doesn’t it just add more hours between innovation and delivery?
The answer is yes. If it’s done with the right intent, testing is going to take time and slow the pace. Yes, it can introduce fresh challenges to the product lifecycle. But these yesses are hardly as challenging as failed solutions, unhappy customers and reputational loss, says Mandla Mbonambi, CEO of Africonology.
“Testing is about proactive prevention,” he says. “It’s about ensuring that the product development cycle is improved and enhanced from the beginning, not at the end when it’s too late. Without testing, an organisation is running the risk of losing income with a faulty product. There are consequences to avoiding the steady testing approach and while they may not always be dire, they’re enough to damage a reputation or hurt a bottom line.”
There are three things that can be directly affected by a lack of testing: cost, time and quality. It can cost the company a lot if a product is found to be full of holes at the end of the development process. Now they have to invest time and money into fixing the problems before the solution can be released. Problems that could have been avoided if there had been a solid QA strategy in place. Quality is affected by bypassing certain steps in QA – just doing this one thing faster or compromising that step. The product is done, but it’s not necessarily as good as it could be, or should be.
“Time is lost fixing issues, debugging and fiddling with problems that would have been identified early with a rigorous testing process,” says Mbonambi. “Time that could be better spent investing in the next solution, enhancing QA across the cycle, and focusing on testing becoming inherently part of the product lifecycle and company culture.”
The problem is that testing is seen as a grudge investment. It’s always finding problems. It slows things down. It’s just not fast enough. Yet these benchmarks against which testing and QA are measured negatively are actually the benchmarks of a successful testing strategy. Yes, it’s slower and more rigorous, at first. This is what makes it such a powerful tool. While it will never be perfect, because nothing is, it definitely has the potential to make the products and solutions developed by the business far closer to perfect.
“There have been plenty of examples of businesses failing because they were more focused on the end result than on the testing that could ensure the success of that end result,” says Mbonambi. “Startups, entrepreneurs and even big ideas in big enterprises – they’ve not worked because there was little to no QA and none of the problems were found until it was too late. And yes, it can be too late.”
Still think that QA and testing are for the dogs? How about the incident in the Nest? The smart thermostat bought by Google in 2014 glitched as a result of a bad software update, resulting in 99.5 % of people affected not being able to heat their homes. Or perhaps the time when HSBC’s 2016 glitch and IT failure saw millions of customers locked out of their accounts. For nearly two days, the financial giant struggled to find its proverbial feet and fix the bug that had caused the catastrophic (and expensive) problem. Incidentally, the bank experienced a similar failure in 2019, again. John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, and Reebok were among many retailers that, thanks to a glitch, lost thousands in payments and revenue.
“Testing isn’t the underdog or for the dogs, it’s the alpha,” concludes Mbonambi. “Testing is the holy grail for companies that want to deliver quality solutions to market while avoiding some of the common pitfalls that have cost other companies money and reputation. It’s slow, it’s precise, and it’s focused and that’s what will make your final product into something that will do what it should, what it says on the tin.”
Testing and QA don’t have to be part and parcel of the organisation either. They are services that can now be integrated into existing teams and business units when required. QA-as-a-Service and Testing-as-a-Service are both tactically and financially sound ways of implementing QA and testing within an organisation without having to hunt for the skills or rope in HR. By leveraging the expertise of established firms, organisations can enjoy the benefits of QA without the hassle. Well, there will still be the hassle of test, fix and test again, but that only means that your service provider is doing exactly what they should.