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QI, not QA

In this article I will explore the acronym QA, and why I think we should do away with it for good.

In this article I will explore the acronym QA, and why I think we should do away with it for good.

Let us begin our journey with looking at what QA actually stands for, and how it is usually interpreted.

“Quality assurance (QA) is a way of preventing mistakes or defects in manufactured products and avoiding problems when delivering solutions or services to customers.” [1]

This is how QA has been perceived for a long time, and the QA organization has been responsible for making sure that no critical problems are delivered to customers. A gatekeeper of quality. We know now that this is absurd in so many ways. Let’s look at why:

  • Testers cannot assure quality since they are not actually fixing the bugs
  • Testers are not owning or monitoring the development work process
  • Testers do not own quality – the development team does

Testers cannot assure quality directly in any way.  So why is a Quality Assurance organization, which consists mainly of testers, called Quality Assurance? The answer is of course, according to me, that it shouldn’t.

But I was far from the first to realize this, and that is why some companies have started using “Quality Assistance” instead. Spotify, King and Atlassian are three examples. [2] [3] [6]

However I still think this is misleading. Especially if someone with test competence is actually part of the development team. Then they are not assisting anyone – they are just doing it, as part of a team. So what is it that they are actually doing? To understand this I would like to find a connection between quality and testing, and I think the following pictures shows it really well [4]:

The connection is information. Testing provides information about value and risk, and quality is perceived value at some point in time by some person that matters. [4]

There is someone else who has a similar informative role, namely Business Intelligence. Let’s look at how BI is defined:

"a set of techniques and tools for the acquisition and transformation of raw data into meaningful and useful information for business analysis purposes"

Now we take that definition, and replace business with quality:

"a set of techniques and tools for the acquisition and transformation of raw data into meaningful and useful information for quality analysis purposes"

This is basically what I think QA should stand for, and that is why I think it should be renamed QI, or Quality Intelligence.

We transform all the raw data that the product is, into meaningful and useful information for the purpose of analyzing quality, and we do it mainly through testing.

But wait! Aren’t we also supposed to coach the team and help them become more aware of quality, influence the processes to build in quality from the start, and so on? Absolutely. As part of the development team, that is definitely something that someone with a high level of test competence should do, just like everyone that is part of the development or production team (such as BI) should contribute with their different competencies, but according to me this is not something that should play a factor when we decide if we want to call it QA or QI, because everyone is assisting each other.

 

References

[1] Quality Assurance

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quality_assurance

[2] Quality Assurance vs. Quality Assistance

https://www.atlassian.com/inside-atlassian/quality-assurance-vs-quality-assistance

[3] Quality Assistance @ Spotify

https://twitter.com/marcusoftnet/status/270544393021308928

[4] A model of the relationship between Quality, Value, Testing and Risks

https://richrtesting.com/2016/10/26/a-model-of-the-relationship-between-quality-value-testing-and-risks/

[5] Business Intelligence

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_intelligence

[6] What does QA stand for at King

https://techblog.king.com/what-does-qa-stand-for-at-king/

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