As developers take increasingly larger explicit responsibility for quality, many in the testing community have been wrestling with what the tester role should look like. With very few exceptions, it’s generally agreed upon that the tester who only executes scripted tests on a finished product is a threatened species. What many teams need is someone who is a spokesperson for quality from a broader perspective. Enter the tester 2.0—the Quality Champion.
Given the average agile team doing its devops, the Quality Champion must be a jack of many trades. I expect such a person to have knowledge in three major areas: testing, development (including devops), and product (ownership). And since every Quality Champion will be coming from a different background, we must forget about T-shapes and π-shapes. Now we’re talking amoeba shape!
Please keep in mind that it’s really hard to be strong in aspects of quality-related work, hence the amoeba shape. The point is rather than there’s a lot of work for a Quality Champion, and that you can shoulder the role coming from different backgrounds. Here’s a list of some competencies that I think are vital for a Quality Champion. I don’t expect this list to be complete, but it should provide a solid starting point.
Quality Champions must have testing skills. They should be the team’s go-to-people when it comes to selecting testing techniques, deciding on a test strategy, and handling defects (ideally, all of which should be fixed immediately during the ongoing iteration, but what about the ones that won’t be or need more investigation or external decisions?)
Quality Champions should know what tools there are out there, especially when it comes to more specific uses. Obviously, the developers will choose the unit testing and mocking frameworks (nothing stops the Quality Champion from having knowledge and opinions here), but what about load testing tools? Which vendor do you pay if you want mobile testing in the cloud? Should the team explore testing based on image recognition or model-based testing?
While test data management is a programmatic activity in teams with heavy automation, how data is selected, and what data is relevant, is something the Quality Champion should be concerned with.
Speaking of automation, it’s not bad if the Quality Champion has an understanding of what kind of automation strategy the team should aim for.
The Quality Champion can have a deep expertise in the tools and frameworks the developers are using: What are their capabilities, limitations, and what will the quality of the developers’ automated checking be?
On the must side, is the ability and willingness to coach developers in testing techniques: “How many unit tests does this state diagram translate into? Did you remember this boundary value and this heuristic? This business rule may require two bat wings, one snake tail, and a pinch of generative testing.”
Where we are tight now as an industry—many are running containerized micro services—requires the Quality Champion to understand, and fight for, light-weight virtualization and infrastructure as code as a means to achieve testability. Now that everybody can run the entire system on their machine, with whatever data they like, what expectations on testing and quality do we have? If the team isn’t there yet, what is the first step?
It’s not uncommon for the Quality Champion to be the team member who has the most time to spend with the product owner and other stakeholders. This results in deep understanding of the domain and its business rules. Domain knowledge is therefore a reasonable expectation.
A team’s planning meeting, be it called Sprint planning or something else, is where the quality work begins. It’s imperative that the team thinks about acceptance criteria, test data, test infrastructure, and the overall approach to testing in the upcoming iteration in this very meeting. If the team lacks the habit to tackle these issues, it’s a must that the Quality Champion steps up here. On a related topic, it’s not unreasonable to expect that the Quality Champion is the one who pushes practices such as BDD or ATDD in the team.
Needless to say, the Quality Champion has the most experience in exploratory testing, but may also be quite familiar with usability testing, and general strategies for developing and validating a product.
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This is a mouthful, but building potentially shippable product increments iteratively in a consistent manner is a non-trivial task, and so is ensuring that quality remains prevalent throughout the process.
In the testing parlor, there’s a term called “bug advocacy.” The Quality Champion should strive for quality advocacy.
By the way, did you notice that I capitalized the Qs and Cs in “quality champion” to get QC, the name of a beloved tool? I couldn’t resist 🙂