QAOps is The New DevOps

Shift-left, shift-right, we can be confused about improving the value of our quality approach.

QAOps emerges as the integration of quality processes inside the software delivery pipeline, combining both directions.

The DevOps paradigm streamlines culture, processes, and tools for faster development lifecycle and improved operations.

Which parallel between QAOps and DevOps? What does that mean for our quality approach? How to start with this initiative?

Let’s share the central elements of QAOps.

What is QAOps?

We can start by aligning ourselves on what we are trying to solve.

Traditional DevOps approaches focused extensively on streamlining the delivery and operations of software for organizations in search of acceleration to remain competitive.

But acceleration does not necessarily bring more value.

Trying to accelerate for the sake of acceleration creates another problem: we are trading speed for quality.

A typical situation is to deliver multiples a day software changes that are uncontrolled, degrading the user experience and the business performance.

The QAOps paradigm explicitly incorporates quality as part of a DevOps dynamic.

Why should we care about QAOps?

The fundamental difference is to add a perspective on the value created for the various stakeholders and the quality processes inclusion inside the delivery pipeline.

We are not necessarily shifting left or shifting right. An iterative approach focusing on value in your context is the way to go, also known as Agile Testing.

A key point of QAOps is to focus on integrating quality as part of the processes, not another one-shot project falling short after some weeks.

Confronting ourselves to the reality of our product usage is the first step for change, revealing the importance of the “Ops” word for an operational perspective.

Our backlog is essential, but until we measure the value from the user perspective, it is just a list of potentially valuable features.

But QAOps does not only refer to the operations of the product.

Most issues we encounter with software in production require reviewing the product’s design. For instance, performance issues originate from a flawed conception.

How to implement a QAOps approach?

Key questions are necessary before start defining our QAOps steps.

We have to be clear on the business and user value creation. Else, we risk optimizing a local silo and our preferred application.

From the value, we can start to identify the organization, processes, and applications in scope.

Our QAOps initiative must envision what the end-state will look like, motivates the team, and inspires action.

Then, we need to map the various stakeholders to understand their perspectives, interests and clarify for each one “What’s in it for me?”.

Your QAOps dynamic to be understood, supported, and sustainable.

The processes and applications value-chain is the next subject to work collaboratively to align everyone on the as-is situation before any change.

At that stage, you can start following an iterative process measuring the value created at each iteration, collaboratively adapting the plan.

Which challenges for QAOps?

Changing alone is already hard, so it is for organizations and to QAOps.

Collaboration and culture are critical challenges of a QAOps initiative, as it is for DevOps and other transversal collaboration models. Do not underestimate this part.

Focusing on value is another true challenge, especially for engineering teams that can like to improve vanity metrics from their perspective without sharing the business perspective.

We need to step back and provide an overall vision to the team, focusing on technical aspects and sharing a “just-enough” approach.

Pre-optimization is a significant drawback encountered in engineering. We must find a balance. Else the product becomes complex too early, slowing down the entire feedback loop mechanisms we wanted to accelerate in the first place.

We must integrate as early as possible the minimum pieces required to produce a result. From there, we can improve if the value is present.

We then come to the scalability aspect present in various ways: scalability of the design, execution, organization. Identifying the major scalability factors is a crucial practice not to scale everything but only the major ones.

Let’s take the example of customer journey monitoring on a worldwide scale application.

The key scalability factor is to have a small set of replicable test cases across the various devices, locations, and languages. We don’t need to plan for scaling the number of tests, but its deployment in each context is quite different.

Which best practices for QAOps?

Starting with the end in mind is a common pitfall.

We can quickly rush to implementation to show value, dynamism. Failing to understand the “Why” will drastically reduce our impact.

We need to keep a holistic view of our business and customer experience to regularly ensure that our actions make sense to the overall system.

We can understand why Observability is becoming an essential requirement for organizations. We need to measure the value, experience of our systems from an external and internal perspective.

Our goal is to improve qualitative feedback loops, both providing more value to our customers over time supported by faster learning feedback loops internally.

Pre-optimization can be dangerous. We could be optimizing the wrong thing. We must balance value and stability over quantity, forgetting about our ego for metrics.

Lastly, a team quality ownership approach must be our goal to support a truly integrated QA inside our entire value chain. Processes and tools will only be supported by the team, not alone.

QAOps must be part of your QA strategy

Your quality approach will bring more value by integrating these critical elements of QAOps.

QAOps is more a word than a specific practice. It lies in extending the DevOps paradigm to integrate a QA perspective.

A QA must act transversally to the benefit of the customer and the business.

QAOps lies and relies on an existing practice set: shift-left, shift-right, agile testing, etc.

The key is to stay focused on the why, value creation, and improvement.

You can leverage the Cerberus Testing framework for QAOps.

Accelerate your implementation, namely with test libraries, CI/CD pipeline, monitoring, and built-in features.

We wish you a valuable QAOps journey.

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