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QAOps: Advantages, Challenges, and ROI

Amy Reichert QA Engineer, RxMxUSA
Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

The ops movement involves getting the entire development team, including quality assurance (QA), product design, and operationsworking collaboratively. Tight collaboration means fewer things that cause release delays, defects, and testing bottlenecks falling between the departmental cracks.

To this end, we have DevOps, DevSecOps, and DesignOps. QAOps is the latest flavor in the ops movement. But why QAOps when we already have DevOps?

The missing piece is testing—good old-fashioned testing that protects the business from releasing low-quality application code. 

What Is QAOps?

QAOps is like DevOpsbut with a stronger partnership between QA and operations. The purpose remains to enable software-development teams to work collaboratively to deliver higher-quality application software at a rapid pace. QAOps uses continuous-testing concepts to fit thorough and effective testing into a CI/CD deployment process. 

QAOps has three phases:

  • Trigger: This is the test-development phase. Test-case development creates relevant, specific test cases that test all facets of the software.

  • Execute: This is the actual testing phase. Here, test executions occur for all tests developed within the trigger phase.

  • Report: Finally, a QA-metrics report (in other words, a test-summary report) is generated with the results of the test executions. The report includes what was tested, where, when, by whom, and the results.

QAOps is about enforcing testing within the development of an application from the start of design and coding through to the release. As such, QAOps seeks to improve software-development speed without compromising application quality.

What Are the Advantages of QAOps?

QAOps helps a team leverage the power of continuous testing to reduce deployment issues and ensure a higher-quality application release for customers. Continuous testing enables testing to be thorough throughout the entire development cycle. As such, there is no need to schedule separate test executions; testing simply continues from design to release. This saves time, reduces costs, and improves release deploymentswhile building in application quality.

Another advantage of using QAOps is building collaboration between QA testing and operations. As in DevOps and DesignOps, team members work together in a highly collaborative manner and share task responsibilities throughout the process. Roles for team members may include a main functional skill like coding, testing, or UI/UX design.

In such a shared-role model, QA testers, in addition to testing, may perform coding and/or designas may designers and developers. For instance, the QA tester's main role will remain that of testing, but the QA tester may perform other assignments or tasks as needed—such as creating prototypes or patching bugs. The overall goal of the QAOps team is to generate working code that engages users and improves UX; testing and release quality take center stage.

What Are the Challenges of QAOps?

It can be difficult in most organizations to manage team members effectively when they perform a variety of duties. If the organization is divided into development, product and design, and testing and has separate management teams accordingly, it will be a struggle to manage team member roles without generating conflict. 

Developers and test automation engineers need to work together to create additional suites of automated unit tests. Automated unit tests are critical to performing testing across the development lifecycle as coding is completed. The value of automated unit tests is the ability to identify defects early—often during development. Plan to execute unit tests either at each code check-in or merge or at the end of every workday. 

QAOps depends on the ability to automate tests effectively. Many organizations struggle to support the development and maintenance that test automation requires. It requires an investment of time and long-term financial support. Organizations entering into QAOps should plan to spend the time and effort to acquire tools to support the project and hire or upskill team members with test-automation skills.

How to Move to QAOps

If testers are used to manually testing each story as it is completed and then moving to the next story and manually testing it, they'll need to adjust their workflow for effective QAOps. Team members may need to first learn and create unit tests and automate them—and then move on to creating and executing more sophisticated test automation. Organizations should provide time and training for upskilling team members so they can understand the work necessary for each role and adjust their workflows accordingly. Then, allow time for team members to adjust their workflows to accomplish the work required.

Unit tests are particularly critical in QAOps when team members share roles. How easy unit tests are to create, execute, and maintain determines how effective they are in the long run. Therefore, it's important for all involved to understand who is going to write the automated unit tests and how.

When beginning with a shared-role system, consider beginning with developing unit tests. Assuming the application is not completely new, this includes determining if unit tests can be created after the application has been released; it takes time to merge unit tests into an existing codebase.

The other option is allowing the QAOps team to decide where to start creating unit tests—whether within the test management system, or within the code. This reduces the time spend recreating unit tests, but it may leave code without unit-test coverage. The team needs to determine if tests for earlier code can be created within other testing efforts effectively.

Next, the team must be enabled to develop automated tests for functional testing, regression testing, integration testing, and other testing types currently being executed. Automated-test development takes time to build valid, effective test suites and keep them maintained with each release. Start small and continue to build for thorough test coverage.

Realizing the ROI for QAOps

With automated suites of both unit and application tests, the team can begin to realize productivity and quality improvements. QA testers and the operations team can use test-execution metrics to identify problematic code areas that affect release deployment. By knowing where the issues tend to exist, tests that find defects in those areas can be enhanced to reduce defects.

QAOps teams can enhance their tests by adding complexity to them. For example, adding more data-verification points or additional application-workflow steps both increase test complexity. Another option is to create separate test automation that replicates actual application-user workflows. These types of tests are more difficult to support with test automationbut they will find more customer-facing defects. Release quality will improve through engaged and active collaboration, also—as will team productivity.

A positive return on investment (ROI) takes time, but by enabling software-development teams to work on the shared goal of improving software quality and UX, the ROI will comeand is more likely to persist long-term. After all, increased software sales and a positive brand reputation will generate higher and more consistent business revenue.

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