An Agile mindset at Saratoga – Desigan Moonsamy

User Acceptance Testing and Quality Assurance with an Agile mindset at Saratoga

User Acceptance Testing in the world of Business Analysis is understood as a must-have in order to assure quality for the client, or at least it should be. In a Q&A with Saratoga’s Head of Quality Assurance, Desigan Moonsamy, he outlines the basics on Quality Assurance and User Acceptance testing using Agile methodology as a way to reach superior outcomes.

Explain the difference between User Acceptance Testing and Quality Assurance?

User Acceptance Testing is a test phase where users or their representatives, validate the developed solution. Their primary focus is to check if the “right” solution has been developed, one that meets their needs. Tests are focused on complete business processes and run through the system end to end.

Quality Assurance is an on-going integrated process. Quality is considered throughout the systems development life cycle (SDLC). The focus is really on how the team intends to improve the quality of the delivery process. Test functions start early, from initial requirements gathering phases and continue throughout the delivery process. Production issues are investigated for root cause and preventative actions are put in place so that the process improves going forward. To summarize, QA is seen as improving the delivery process with the intention to consistently deliver high quality software.

Please outline what you see as the role, function, and success of QA in Agile development.

If I think Agile, I think a team of self-organising individuals tasked with delivering a high quality solution, Quality naturally in the eye of the beholder or client in our case.

QA lends itself well to the Agile process. The entire team is involved throughout the Agile sprint. Quality is considered from the onset as early as the backlog grooming. Cross functional teams mean that the team self-organises to increase and decrease QA capacity as is needed. The thinking is that your team is built of cross-skilled individuals that look at the ‘problem’ being delivery and will do whatever it takes to get there, maintaining quality naturally.

While teams are “considered” to be Agile, individuals still stick to their usual silos, so the function of QA is still seen to be something the tester takes care of. Quality should be seen as a team goal, it’s everyone’s problem to solve.

Can you describe the flow or process of QA at Saratoga.

Our preferred delivery method is Agile. You will see QA presence from the onset, starting at the backlog, grooming all the way through to post-production testing. As our focus is Quality Assurance, we continue to monitor production issues, so that we can improve the process for the next sprint.

We try to align ourselves to industry standard. While we are not certified, we align to the TMMi maturity model. While there is rigour around our process, we are true to our Agile way of thinking. Our process and artefacts are lean and contain only what is needed.

What about Saratoga’s QA process is different or unique?

Firstly, our goal is to develop highly skilled cross functional individuals. We try to bake quality in from the graduate level. Our career model is a good representation of our thinking. At the entry level, a person is seen as an Analyst, not Business Analyst, but merely an Analyst. The roles an Analyst can find themselves in are Quality Assurance and/or Business Analysis. This is our commitment to the view that “T-Shaped” individuals are really the way forward.

Our ultimate goal is to develop Principal Consultants that become delivery specialists. So someone who can come in and help the client deliver in one/many capacities. I believe this is what separates us from the pack, our guys are cross-skilled from the onset. There is room to specialize, but we see that kick in once the foundation has been built. To quote a Project Manager at Saratoga, Gary Benkenstein, ‘When you start, you are a full stop. Then you develop into an ‘i’ and gradually build out the top part of your ‘T’. So essentially we are providing a well-rounded consulting service to our clients, not just silo-ed BA/QA/PM services.

In terms of Agile and Quality Assurance in enterprise organisations, what would you say is the adoption rate?

There is a push towards becoming more Agile. Enterprise organisations are slow changing, they seem naturally risk averse. This is understandable as changes to their operating model have numerous knock-on effects, both on industry and staff.

It seems a lot easier to get Agile and good QA practices going in a startup. Perhaps it’s their ability to be nimble and can change direction quickly without major repercussions. Many times have I heard “we’ve been doing Agile for years, but now it seems like the flavour of the month”.

I have been in tough situations where people are resistant to change and the Agile journey is slower. So in terms of an adoption rate, I don’t have numbers, but my view is that as QA and Agile methods become more trusted, we should see an increase in adoption.

What is the current climate and acceptance of QA methodologies in South Africa?

The levels seem different across the 3 main regions of SA. I feel the Cape Town market is slightly different to Johannesburg and Durban, experience in the role seems to be valued over qualifications. The focus is shifting to “T-Shaped” individuals. The QA profession is more visible and is being seen as a genuine career option, not just a foot in the door.

Ultimately the mitigation strategy for the buggy software is to employ QA functions. Companies are seeing the value in moving from an ‘ad hoc’ test maturity to a defined, repeatable process. One that can assure consistent, repeatable delivery.

How does quality assurance testing adapt to new technology?

There are always two elements: QA Competency and industry/technology domain knowledge.

QA Competency refers to testing specific skills. One becomes QA certified (there are multiple levels) growing more skills in testing, increasing their depth in the competency itself. I look at this being industry and technology agnostic.

Testing is context dependent. A key skill is one’s ability to critically analyse the situation and make the most appropriate decision from a testing perspective. When I look at industry, or technology in this case, there may be a need to up-skill in that technology. So I would expect a Test Analyst to use their QA competency and apply to the new technology and/or industry.

There is a wide range of test types and functions out there, some test functions are incredibly technical. Automated test creation and white-box testing are classic examples of where Test Analysts need to be very technically focused. The need for exposure to new technologies is higher, and one has to constantly keep abreast of the times.

Often I hear testers refer themselves as mobile testers, this is a disservice to their careers. My view is that they are Test Analysts, operating in a mobile application environment. The testing competency like other software competencies should be agnostic of industry and represent a person’s core skill.

Can you speak a bit on consistent quality, and the kinds of testing that you do.

Consistent quality is quality that you can be assured of. The brand is the promise that the product delivers. The Saratoga brand is built on a solid foundation. We adopt industry aligned processes and practices. This helps us to provide a consistent service regardless of resources assigned.

We will dot the i’s and cross the t’s, as this forms part of our natural operating model. Defined, repeatable processes ensure that our delivery hits our standard on every delivery. Defined and repeatable are key for me, as this allows you to scale quickly, but ensuring the minimum acceptable level of quality is achieved/maintained.

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