Agile and DevOps methodologies are nothing new and have introduced an era of improved efficiency in software development. However, this speed and efficiency sometimes come at the expense of quality, particularly without a well-structured quality governance framework. Quality engineering governance and compliance are vital for an organisation’s sustained success and viability.
Recently, I was involved in an assessment at a large financial services institution, where we found that the largest risk to quality is the lack of governance and compliance for testing within the organisation. While the company had very good software testers, the overall strategy was not guided by a clear quality goal. As a result, the executive was unclear on whether the software testing effort was achieving value and if the product quality was actually improved. Based on Inspired Testing’s recommendation, the client is implementing a Quality Engineering Governance approach to truly improve product quality.
Why Does Quality Engineering Governance Matter?
The adoption of Agile moved software testers into the scrum teams which led to the loss of the governance and guidance layer of the quality assurance process. While developers have strategies and guidelines to steer their processes, we have found that the same can not be said for software testers since the demise of Test Centres of Excellence. Testers operate at best effort based on a Test Strategy but with no one overseeing their efforts from a quality perspective, the effectiveness and efficiency of testing have decreased.
To rectify this, we need to bring a test governance layer back.
What is Quality Engineering Governance?
Quality Engineering governance represents a methodical framework outlining policies, processes and guidelines aimed at upholding software quality across the entire development lifecycle. This governance model encompasses various aspects, such as code reviews, testing protocols, performance metrics, and adherence to regulations.
Key aspects of a Quality Engineering Governance Framework
- Code Governance: Promotes consistent adherence to the organisation's quality standards within the codebase, ensuring scalability, maintainability, and security.
- Test Governance: Concentrates on the quality of testing procedures, guaranteeing their robustness, repeatability, and alignment with business objectives.
- Test Environment Governance: Concentrates on the quality of testing procedures, guaranteeing their robustness, repeatability, and alignment with business objectives.
- Data Governance: Prioritises the upkeep of high-quality, accurate test data throughout the software development lifecycle, ensuring reliable and meaningful testing outcomes.
- Compliance Governance: Ensures software compliance with all regulatory and legal prerequisites, especially pivotal in sectors like healthcare, finance, and aviation.
Who is responsible for Quality Engineering Governance ?
A governance framework relies on professionals who are responsible for implementing, enforcing, and overseeing the organisational test strategy. This framework is necessary for all organisations, regardless of their size or complexity, although it may take different forms.
In smaller organisations, assigning responsibility for the quality governance framework can be a challenge. In such cases, this responsibility should be held by the most senior test professional.
In contrast, larger organisations should have a dedicated Head of Quality Engineering to oversee and take responsibility for quality engineering governance.
Principal Elements of Quality Engineering Governance Framework
Clearly defined policies and procedures form the bedrock of any governance model. They provide a roadmap for what needs to be accomplished, how to accomplish it, and who bears the responsibility.
- Documentation – Accurate documentation of policies and procedures is indispensable for effective governance. It serves as a reference for the team and ensures everyone aligns with the organisation's quality objectives.
- Metrics and KPIs – Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), such as defect density, code churn, and test coverage, quantitatively assess the quality and efficacy of the engineering process. These metrics offer actionable insights to guide data-driven decisions.
- Dashboards – Visual dashboards show real-time metrics, simplifying stakeholder monitoring of governance initiative progress and efficacy.
- Tools and Technology – Selecting the right tools significantly enhances governance endeavours. From automated testing suites to compliance validators, the technology choice should harmonise with organisational aspirations.
- Automation – Automation plays a pivotal role in modern quality engineering governance. Automated tests, compliance checks, and monitoring tools markedly diminish manual effort and heighten accuracy.
Challenges and Solutions
- Resistance to Change – Overcoming resistance from teams accustomed to a more laissez-faire approach stands as a major governance implementation challenge. Demonstrating long-term benefits and involving everyone in decision-making can pave the way for acceptance.
- Change Management Strategies – Effective change management strategies, such as workshops, seminars, and personalised consultations, aid in surmounting resistance and ensuring a seamless transition to a governed model.
- Complexity – While governance can be intricate, it need not be unwieldy. Streamlining processes and automating routine tasks can render the governance model agile and adaptable.
- Agile Governance – An Agile approach to governance balances structure with speed and flexibility. It empowers organisations to adapt to evolving requirements without compromising on quality.
- Resource Constraints – Quality engineering governance demands both human and financial resources. Nonetheless, the ROI in terms of reduced defects, heightened customer satisfaction, and compliance renders it a valuable investment.
- Budgeting and Planning – Prudent budgeting and resource allocation are indispensable for the successful enactment of a governance model. A comprehensive approach considering both immediate and long-term necessities is pivotal for effective governance planning.
Next Step: Compliance
Successful implementation depends on compliance with the governance framework, executed by the test leads and test managers.
The speed and agility of modern software development should not be at the cost of quality. All organisations regardless of size and complexity, should have a quality engineering governance layer, be it the most senior testing professional or a dedicated Head of Quality Engineering. Compliance with the governance framework will ultimately lead to the delivery of top-tier software.
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