How the DevOps Model Redefines QA Best Practices | Hacker Noon

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Shorter development cycles and faster innovation are the basic characteristics of the DevOps model. It has swept the market with new ideas and incredible solutions, leading to 74% adoption by global enterprises. The reasons are different, but the top ones are the ability to recover from a failure in less than 60 minutes, minimization of support cases by 37%, and overall need to “put out fires”. No wonder that Quality Assurance, as a stage of the software development process, had to adapt to the new reality of the DevOps model and change its traditional approaches. 

So what is traditional QA and how DevOps amended its practices? Let’s break down the key definitions and changes in the industry.

What is QA?

Quality Assurance is a multilayer process that helps to determine whether a product or a service meets the requirements. This process helps with creating products (software) that meet the industry standards as well as the needs and requirements of end-users. While its main focus is on the quality of the final product, QA practices also help to improve the process of development.

What is Traditional QA?

Traditional QA is a part of the software development life cycle (SDLC). The oldest method of its implementation is a waterfall model where quality assurance practices kick in after the development of the whole product is completed. Yet, remember that the oldest doesn’t mean the best. It is still used in some projects, but it is not that convenient in the era of rapid changes and frequent amendments. This is why today’s QA is a bit different than just a waterfall.

The Contemporary Changes in QA

There were more than 2,55 million apps registered in Google Play Store in Q1 of 2020. No wonder, waiting for the final product to start the quality assurance practices and then redesigning the app again based on the QA guidelines is playing a losing game against the competitors. If it takes too long to test and release the app, its idea can already be outdated and irrelevant to potential users. This is why traditional QA was moved to the back for the Agile approach.

Agile allows QA to be an inseparable part of the iterative development process. This means that whenever a test shows a bug, the development team doesn’t wait for the software to be finished but gets down to fixing the bug right away. Developers plan bug fix within the upcoming sprint (a week or two), and the final product already gets better. 

If QA states that some functionality needs to be improved based on market research, the developers can apply the changes while developing other software functionalities. Agile quadrants by Lisa Crisping, one of the leading experts in Agile QA strategies, allowed quality assurance to become omnipresent at every part of the development and to have a say in the look, feel, and functionality of the final product.

What is a DevOps Model?

Now, let’s step aside from QA for just a bit to define what DevOps is and how it could influence QA practices.

In simple terms, DevOps is a set of rules and practices that allow for faster and more efficient development of software regardless of the changes, new features, or market shifts. The most significant benefit and, probably, the central concept to grasp about DevOps is continuous development. This is what businesses search for when working with top DevOps consulting companies.

Continuous development (CD), similarly to Agile methodology, is an approach to software development that breaks it into small chunks (cycles) and ensures that the final product can be released at any moment. The changes can be applied at every stage of software development lifecycle.

While working under the DevOps rules, every team member becomes responsible for the final product success: from a junior tester to the managing developer or Product Owner. The approach helps to keep the software running at all times and guarantee that when a new feature is released, end-users can still access the software no matter what.

How DevOps Refined QA Best Practices

It is essential to understand that the best practices for QAs have been in place for a long time. And while the DevOps model did make a difference, it only refined the details and not rewrote every postulate. So here is what’s new:

  • Continuous development and testing continued the idea to test early and test often (just like in Agile).
  • Automated testing is another characteristic feature. QA has always automated tests, but DevOps brought the idea to the next level – automate everything possible. This way, whenever a change is implemented, the tests are done automatically, so the results and feedback are received significantly faster. Manual tests remain part of the process but on a smaller scale.
  • Cross-team cooperation peculiar to the DevOps model has made QAs a part of the team and also pushed developers and quality assurance specialists to work together. QAs don’t blame-shame developers because of the failed tests, and developers now see QAs as magic wands of improvement, not just the guys who want to tear up their code.
  • Shared responsibility comes as a direct result of cross-team cooperation.

Who are QAs in the DevOps Framework?

Automated testing spares some time on the QAs plate. This doesn’t mean that quality assurance specialists simply sit all day and wait for the tests to end only to send a report. No. They simply acquire additional responsibilities in the team, to be more specific, responsibilities from the Ops part. And here are two essential roles they try on.

Consultant

It is not enough just to run the tests anymore. Now, a quality assurance expert needs to be a bit of a psychologist who would explain to the developers the product quality goals. QAs would help with defining what quality is, what the requirements for this quality are, and what the Devs team has to do to achieve the quality goals.

Strategist

QA in DevOps needs to see the market and strategize the offered improvements to outrun the competition. These decisions are mostly made by the Senior QAs who can see the whole picture and make a high-level decision on what is right for the final product. Besides that, QAs, again acting like psychologists, should get into the head of the end-customers and foresee the future user interactions with the product. Both tests and development will be based upon such predictions.

When to Go for DevOps?

DevOps model is not a particular framework that a company or team can adopt. It is a set of guidelines. So if you are ready to follow the guidelines, then getting into DevOps makes sense; if you are not sure, then prepare these three crucial elements first:

  1. People must be trained all together to understand the general concept of  “one team”
  2. Tools should be up and running: cloud infrastructure, software for following up on the process, reporting tools, etc.
  3. Processes must be defined by the seniors and then adhered to by the whole team.

Once these three points are in order, you can start with the DevOps model. Be ready, that this will be a challenge and is not always viable on the MVP stage or existing software redesign. But remember that adopting DevOps has lots of benefits, so investing in change is a worthwhile endeavor. If you don’t feel enough confidence in getting into something new, search for the top DevOps consulting companies in your area, hire a consultant, and begin your journey.

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