QA is being drawn into the limelight

Does the QA lab need to evolve?

Sam O’Meara

© Shutterstock /wan wei

QA teams are essential, but the traditional QA internal or offshore lab is often seen as a bottleneck for developers. In this article, Sam O’Meara of Applause explains why the traditional QA lab needs to change.

Websites, apps and connected devices are the gateway to brands. In fact, 77% of consumers interact with brands digitally, according to a recent survey. Being able to effectively and rapidly deliver new services and products through digital channels is what really sets individual brands apart from the rest.

But the bar for quality is high, 85% of customers are unlikely to continue doing business with a company after a bad mobile experience. So QA teams are essential, but the traditional QA internal or offshore lab is often seen as a bottleneck for developers. As a result, QA is being drawn into the limelight and the traditional QA lab needs to change to meet the following forces.

High customer expectations

Gartner notes that 89% of companies expect customer experience to be their primary differentiator. Consumer demands are high. They not only want the next big thing in technology, but they also want their digital experiences to be tailored exactly to their needs.

These demanding expectations mean that it’s tough for the QA lab to keep up. As soon as you have a solid roadmap in place, along comes a game-changing disruptive technology that requires adjustment and accountability. From new forms of biometric logins to new payment options, the next big thing never stops coming. In addition to this new technology, customers are becoming increasingly spoilt when it comes to personalization and localization.

This is naturally a problem for the QA team which is forced onto the defensive by this constant state of flux. The traditional lab is unable to keep up with customer technology or personalization demands. A lab cannot test for every customer use case, demographic or market.

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Rapid speed of development

Agile development is the new normal. According to Atlassian, 80% of all software organizations are now practicing an agile software methodology. And agile has its benefits, it enables teams to achieve flexibility and responsiveness. It allows them to meet consumer expectations, but it has also put serious strain on QA.

An agile sprint cadence, with its tight deadlines, is often too demanding for traditional manual testing. As a direct result, there has been an 85% increase in test automation over the past two years as an attempt to catch up. But automation is no panacea. Test automation cannot replace exploratory manual testing, it’s limited to exact use cases so it cannot replicate a customer’s real-world digital experience.

Device fragmentation

The digital world is becoming increasingly fragmented. According to ScientiaMobile, there are 45,000 different device profiles on the market, and this figure will only increase. Meanwhile, these devices are integrating increasingly with innovative devices like intelligent personal assistants, IoT home ecosystems and wearable devices.

The size of a typical QA lab can’t possibly hope to cover every single one of these devices, let alone their multiple combinations and network options. Add to this the fact that millions of people can download the same app on the same device and have entirely unique experiences, depending on multiple factors ranging from location to age to gender, and it becomes unreasonable to expect the QA team to replicate and properly test the quality of these experiences with sanitized lab devices. Some have turned to device clouds and automation may fill the gaps, but unfortunately, these tools can’t reproduce every potential real-world scenario.

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The rise of omnichannel

Omnichannel, no longer the latest buzzword in marketing, isn’t just a nice-to-have but a crucial part of a brand’s offering. And it’s working: according to the Aberdeen Group, companies with extremely strong omnichannel customer engagement retain, on average, 89% of their customers, in comparison to a retention rate of 33% for companies with a weak omnichannel customer engagement.

But the problem is that while nobody denies the effectiveness of omnichannel experiences, they are in reality extremely difficult to get right. And QA teams can’t replicate these real-world experiences within the confines of a controlled QA testing lab. The testing matrix now goes beyond devices and into everyday life – and a lab can’t keep up with this.

What’s next?

The fact of the matter is that the QA lab needs to change to keep up.

Test Automation should be leveraged wherever possible for structured testing and should serve as a safety net for developers. Modern development speed requires automation, but the “validate what we know” nature and reliance on emulators / devices labs doesn’t provide a complete picture of the customer experience.

Automation should be complemented with a force multiplier like crowdtesting. These solutions can provide exploratory testing from a customer perspective plus access to countless devices and markets. Another benefit is the ability to test omnichannel strategies and effectiveness – helping brands garner feedback to ensure solutions are meeting customer expectations.

Teams need to strike the right balance between manual and automation so they can rapidly produce the highest quality products for their customers. Above all, companies need to extend the reach of their internal teams, maintaining quality while developing new technologies at the right speed in a rapidly changing market.


Sam O’Meara

Sam O’Meara is UK Director at Applause, the world’s largest crowd testing company. Applause ensures digital quality for organizations such as Google, FOX, Nike, PayPal and Slack via its technology platform and managed global community of over 300,000 on-demand expert testers.

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