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Quality Assurance during pandemic times

How confinement can affect QA.

in IT Strategy, Software development By João Fialho, Senior QA Engineer

Nowadays, during this situation of COVID pandemic and social isolation, Quality Assurance (QA) and Software Testing projects are also affected. But how this happens if software development is established by nature as remote "work"?

Although these points seem odd, the rationale behind supports not only the importance of QA but also how interactions play a role in this crucial software development component.

Despite this "different" situation, we are all living by the quote the "show must go on", and this quote makes even more sense now than ever since it is a sign of hope that things will eventually get better and software development needs to continue.

Technology, in general, is being used to the limit. Considering the old OSI model, from the physical up to the application layer, we as users are all testing the capabilities of SaaS on a much larger scale than usual. The overall population embraced this new reality through the use of many available tools that support remote work. Some of these tools already existed or were adapted, or improved. This transformation and recognition of which tools that make a difference, are being valued and adequately recognised by new adopters. As an example, video call apps are a practical use case due to the increased rate of adoption. But can we blindly use these apps or wait for possible vulnerabilities alerts, definitely a layer of QA is needed to ensure the perfect production scenario for any application.

All technological tools must indeed be available, be effectively functional, robust and secure, in what is their ultimate goal - serving the user without errors, bugs or backdoors to potential security breaches.

Throughout the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), project teams and all their members have to adapt to this new reality, even though remote work practices are already widely used in this area. Nevertheless, technical and social aspects have started to interfere with the developer's behaviour, not as an organisation, but on conjoint decisions when developing a software project, fully and completely remote.

Technically what has changed?

From a technical perspective, a software project which is working under Scrum methodology, the changes are related to communication challenges. The issue is not associated with a lack of communication. Instead, project members as a Product Manager, Scrum Master and Development Team (including Testers) started to communicate more efficiently. In the absence of meetings where all participants are physically present, communication has become more precise and more concise in delivering project tasks, as well as identifying issues during a Sprint.

Due to the total social distance between the project teams, some of the issues identified during a Sprint may have a more extended resolution. The difference lays on a more effective brainstorming, that identifies constraints of a solution more deeply. For this reason, a Tester is now more concerned with recording, centralising all relevant events during a Sprint than before. This aspect is crucial since the detail and relevance of QA has increased, but at the cost of additional load to pre-designed testing teams.

The focus on quality, verification & validation is, therefore, increasingly higher and more relevant for the success of a project in the face of the current reality.

There is no doubt that project teams recognise now more than ever, the importance of Scrum ceremonies. Maintaining a "Just Enough" perspective and without excessive bureaucracy and documentation, Testers and the rest of the team must not only participate in Daily Meetings, Planning, Refinement and Retrospectives but also perform preparation tasks for each ceremony, as well as, after their completion.

Considering the best software practices, with moral and ethical coding, now more than ever, a Tester is the caretaker of quality within a project. Not only a tester has to motivate the rest of the team elements, encouraging the practice of the best approach but also has to ensure the code standards are followed within the sprint flow.

But what has changed socially in software development?

In a social perspective, the short distraction moments required during a working day, have extreme importance to regain focus and productivity. Currently, these breaks are severely affected or even extinguished due to the current situation.

This "clean the air" aspect is especially crucial in Testers, since the attention to detail and critical spirit, requires to be systematically at the height of the cognitive abilities.

As is happening throughout different sectors, staying confined in the same space long hours, with family around, distractions are recurrent, leading to a constant of loss of focus and concentration. Regardless of the QA profile as functional, automation, performance, usability, etc... the ability to concentrate is critical for a Tester to perform the assigned tasks.

Conclusion

In conclusion, social distancing and confinement bring challenges across industries, where QA testing in software development is not an exception. The optimisation and communication efficiency that remote work is bringing to Scrum Sessions and Daily Meetings indeed caters an extra effort required to Testers. The extra efficiency is not negative at all, but the reboot periods during the day for a Tester to refocus were typically done with a social get together in the office, and currently are not there.

Indeed, the most severe bug that WE as a society have all encountered is more real and present than ever, and we just need to find out the solution! #stayathome #staysafe

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