House Of QA – Setting Up A QA Center Of Excellence

Dileep Marway

Posted On: August 19, 2022

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Have you wondered how to set up a QA practice from scratch? Are you joining a practice that needs a reboot?

This article will provide useful information which will help you to achieve your quality goals.

Key foundations for your practice

First and foremost, a passion for quality and understanding your users is key. Some of the best QA professionals I have seen have understood the product in and out, thus helping them to know ‘what really matters’ to users.

My first tip, get ‘user’ access to your product and use the product with a customer mindset.

Ask these key questions and feed them back to your team (including product) to improve your product:

  1. Would you pay or be a user of this product? If not, why?
  2. Can you meet your objective? If not, why?
  3. Have you noticed any obstacles to meeting your objective and what are they?

Having led some large teams, what has been apparent is that no matter how big or small the team, there are some key foundational aspects that must be in place. I like to refer to a house analogy and these aspects would be the foundation.

These include:

  1. Positive culture
  2. A team that understands they share success and failure
  3. The team is able to give constructive not destructive criticism
  4. Mutual respect
  5. A work-life balance

Having a clear strategy

Adding to our house analogy, the next key aspect is the brickwork, windows, doors, and roof to ‘build’ our house. In our QA realm, this is our ‘Testing strategy’, that covers: different types of testing which can apply to different projects, types of environments, types of testing, testing tools, and how our QA approach applies to the overarching technology department.

Adding structure to your practice

We now have our skeleton house (via our test strategy) and with our team in place the house has now been decorated. The walls have been rendered, the plumbing and electrics are all done, and the walls have been painted. We now have our awesome tenants (team).

What is now needed to be successful as a QA practice is some structure. How do we know that we are successful and we are meeting all the requirements that our user needs? Like a smoke alarm at home, that alerts when something is wrong. I like to liken this alarm to ‘escaped defects’. As a team we should track these, with our aim being to drive this down.

Based on my experience some reasons why escaped defects can be high:

  1. Poor product understanding
  2. Lack of structured test cases
  3. Flaky environments and poor coding principles
  4. Engineering and QA divide

In the above, I have listed why escaped defects can be high, but what structure (assurance) can we add to protect our customers. Relating to our house analogy I liken this to protecting our house from intruders, we may add an alarm system, blinds, etc, so people cannot see our valuables or one could even have a CCTV system.

What structure can you add to your QA practice:

  • Test approach – for a particular project or team/squad, we have a clear approach to what we need to test.
  • We know the health of our team via tracking:
    • Escaped defects
    • Test cases added
    • Defects found pre-release
    • Automated test coverage
  • Work with product to review our test cases and update them regularly

Maintaining success

Moving forward on our journey, we have a flourishing home, we are happy as a family and our smoke alarm has been nice and quiet (now that we have stopped burning the food). Back to our QA team, the escaped defects are going down – but what is important is that we can only maintain this by… enjoying what we do, and having fun!

How do we do this? We can implement:

  1. Regular 1-2-1’s
  2. Open door policy where staff can collaborate with their leaders
  3. We celebrate success
  4. We learn quickly from our mistakes
  5. We embrace change

Adding some whistles and bells

To add more to our house analogy, how can we add some extra glitz? We can automate our lighting, blinds, electrical items (like the washing machine) as an example. Likewise we can pump up our QA practice via automation.

For me automation only adds value when we know what we are automating and what value it will add. Far too many times I have seen automation for the sake of automation.

Closing, as I always say, if you have a happy team you will have a positive output. The same applies for any role. Stay happy!

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Dileep Marway

Founder of Be More Meerkat (, where I write blogs on leadership and I provide technology consultancy. I am passionate about the use of technology and innovation to create change, deliver value and solve complex problems whilst improving the lives of users, by using the most effective technology stack. A commercially focused, results driven executive level technology leader with over 15 years experience: leading strategy development and execution, successful digital transformation and delivering organisational, IT change alongside cost effectiveness (to budget), secure and high availability operational IT. Extensive experience of outsourcing and managing IT delivery in multi-site environments. Strongly focused on partner selection and management, actively managing IT and change risk with an emphasis on quality assurance (QA), and full review of technology and engineering effectiveness. I create, scale and optimise business portfolios that bring customer success and better service. To accomplish this, I focus on delivering key outcomes and building “high performing” teams. I act as a bridge between the C-suite and the technology technical teams.

Blogs: 16


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