By definition, a consultant’s role is all about worrying on the client's behalf, thereby making their life easier. How does that relate to quality assurance in software engineering?
The following article presents practices a quality assurance (QA) consultant can undertake to enhance the software development process and ensure quality.
A quality assurance consulting mindset is an approach that’s gathering momentum at Netguru, helping our clients optimize their products and develop high-quality software. To that end, our QA team is revamping its processes when working with a client and within a team. The quality assurance consultant’s role focuses not just on software testing, but adding additional value via proactiveness and proposing solutions.
This post focuses on how a software quality assurance consultant is way more than just a tester, and should be involved end-to-end across the software development life cycle process: Pre-sales, Kickoff, Development, and Maintenance. Indeed, by introducing a consulting mindset, QAs enrich the project.
What is the purpose of quality assurance?
Quality assurance (QA) is all about assessing, monitoring, and confirming that a product is secure, accessible, enjoyable, and reliable. Top-notch QAs establish flawless processes so that software products have quality built-in right from the outset, and they protect products from flaws and issues. Furthermore, they help ensure the success of a product by making sure it doesn’t just work well, but that it serves customers’ needs too.
Quality assurance in software development processes
The role of quality assurance in engineering and software development is often associated only with testing developers’ code, but QA specialists bring so much more to a team. By getting a quality assurance consultant on board, you ensure the software development process drives forward in a planned and well-organized manner, spanning activities like reviews, audits, and software testing.
Indeed, quality assurance consulting services support the entire product development: automating testing, identifying improvements, and optimizing procedures. QA experts navigate you smoothly through a software product’s lifecycle, armed with tech-savvy software testing methodologies and tools. They also offer tailor-made solutions according to individual business needs.
On top of that, the QA consulting mindset is about being proactive, by sharing critical information, ideas and solutions among the people working on the project, whether that’s the client or coworkers. QA consultants contribute on a deeper level, analyzing what can be done better.
The role of quality assurance consultants in the software development process
The software development process has four main stages: Pre-sales, Kickoff, Development, and Maintenance. To be an effective QA consultant, it’s about playing a meaningful and productive role at each development step. We explore that below.
Currently, you may not see QAs during this phase; our goal is to change that! There are several helpful activities a quality assurance engineer can undertake, including:
- Making people aware of the value QA brings. With a consulting mindset one might prove the importance of having testers involved in the pre-sales phase, where some valid points or doubts might arise. They can also introduce ideas and solutions to improve the product.
- Attending Product Design Sprints (PDSs). This is crucial if you want to start a project on the right foot. A common problem with a PDS is "estimations", where developers may not consider certain aspects or underestimate tasks. QA consultants think in a more detailed way, so being part of the PDS means they can voice concerns early on, saving issues further down the line during the development phase.
- Expert Call. By adding QAs to these and encouraging them to raise concerns, you improve the final outcome.
- Sales Department "education". This is all about improving billing for QAs. They play a vital role – enhancing product quality and boosting efficiency – and that should be known by everybody. Indeed, a specific description of what QAs do should be passed to the sales department, highlighting their worth and value proposition.
This phase is critical, and usually the first time the development team meets the client – the ideal time to apply the QA consulting mindset. To do that effectively, quality assurance consulting firms and consultants should consider the following:
- Ask questions. To do a great job, QAs must know the product inside out. By being curious, clients clarify the project’s scope and consider aspects of the product that they hadn’t previously thought of. QAs should also find out who the target user is, the main purpose of the project, and show interest in every aspect of the product.
- Introduce the QA consultant role. QAs should take advantage of the kickoff to thoroughly explain their role and define the processes they’ll use. It is important they indicate what to expect during the development phase, meaning the clients can prepare accordingly. QAs should also propose a set of tools they’ll use and mention the test strategy.
After the client is made aware of the QA’s role and the tools they’ll use, the development is about implementing processes and proposals from the kickoff phase. This is the longest part of our timeline, so it’s important to keep things steady and stable. Here’s how:
- QA visibility. Quality assurance specialists should try to be present for every aspect of the project by fully participating in daily stand-ups, plannings, and retrospectives. They should ask questions, stay curious, be sure to raise all concerns about the product's quality and stability, identify potential high-risk areas, and create documentation to share with the client. That involves thinking out of the box: The QA may raise things the client or product owner haven’t thought of.
- Processes monitoring. This is all about the "definition of ready", something every QA values highly. To that end, QAs should share an idea at the start of a project and monitor whether it’s implemented. That means pushing changes forward and not hesitating to comment on a Jira ticket that requires action. Indeed, during software testing, nothing makes a QA's work easier than a fully explained ticket. Talking of software testing, QAs should consider carrying out more than one bug bash to get a complete picture of potential issues.
- Make suggestions. A true QA consultant should have the courage to constructively point out mistakes and suggest ways to improve. They should consider all aspects of the project – usability, UX, etc. – and propose changes where they see flaws by suggesting a different approach.
This QA consulting phase doesn’t consume much time. However, there are still a few points to consider:
- Automation. Repetitive processes (not just technical ones) that take time should be automated, especially during the maintenance stage. Automation is another example of bringing initiative and value to a project – saving time while bringing clarity and a clear view of the project.
- Product Monitoring. Track the current status of the project, including crash reports and vulnerabilities.
- Potential product comeback. This is the next phase of the project, where the client may ask to advance current features or add completely new ones – chances of adding that extra value increase with a QA already on board.
Benefits of a quality assurance consultant
Quality assurance consultants bring high-quality value to the client and the development team. Clients are spared time thinking about things that can easily be done by a QA, and the team receives a person who thinks ahead and streamlines processes to optimize workloads.
Furthermore, a top QA consultant:
- Enhances communication and information flow
- Improves processes and workflows
- Searches for unanswered questions
- Brings perspective
- Makes whatever you’re developing – software, app – bulletproof
Skills of a quality assurance professional
Undoubtedly, a highly experienced tester is the ideal way to start. Other skills to possess include:
- Attention to detail
- Time management
- Being a team player
- Knowledge of quality standards and quality control
A QA consultant should also have a developed set of soft skills. Delivering high-quality products using technical skills is a must, but combining that with personality traits like being a great listener and a first-rate verbal communicator further elevates what a QA brings to the project.
It’s about knowing when and how to constructively question or even criticize ideas. Top QA consultants are also open-minded, reasonable, aware of business values, and above all, top-class advisors.
A quality assurance consulting mindset is “having that eagerness and ability to share crucial information among people who need it" – usually clients. The best QAs are technical experts who enhance the software development process. They also have top-quality soft skills and aren’t afraid to highlight issues. Moreover, the greatest QA consultants worry on the client's behalf bringing valuable insights to the project.
Keen to learn more? Check out our QA consulting services page.