What to Do When Your QA Team Is Overworked
July 11, 2019

Drew Horn
Applause

Do you hear that sound? It's a steady chorus coming from your QA team repeating, "No rest for the weary. No rest for the weary." It's become something of a mantra in QA as deadlines have tightened and consumer expectations continue to rise.

The ubiquity of Agile has development and engineering teams squarely focused on speed, but consumers still demand high-quality experiences. This leaves QA teams in the lurch testing more than ever, faster than ever, but without additional resources. The simple fact is that most QA teams are overworked.

The dangers of an exhausted QA team are well known. Not only can a seemingly insurmountable mountain of work lead to increased employee turnover, it can also result in tester fatigue and eventually buggy code as teams struggle to keep up.

With limited resources, internal QA teams simply can't achieve the test coverage necessary to ensure bugs don't make their way into production. The diversification of platforms — browsers, mobile devices, and operating systems (Android, Windows, iOS, etc.) — and new devices like voice assistants pose significant challenges for internal QA teams. These experiences require dedicated teams with broad skills and bigger budgets — things few internal QA teams have to spare.

Fixing the Problem

Many point to offshoring as a means to expand test coverage and augment internal teams, but this approach doesn't account for real-world scenarios, specific locations, or the exploratory testing necessary to catch edge cases and unexpected customer journeys. Offshoring is also a static solution to the problem of overworked testers — while costs are fixed, it can take a while to ramp up, and there is no visibility into the credentials of those doing the testing.

There is hope, however. Companies are finding that changing the way they think about testing can free up their QA teams to work on higher priority tasks, while maintaining their focus on getting products and updates out the door faster. Here are three approaches that can help:

1. Test Automation

The purpose of all automation is to do things better, faster, and cheaper. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that test automation is gaining in popularity for organizations looking to ease the burden on QA teams. In fact, a recent KPMG study found the use of automation grew 85% over a two-year period across all verticals.

Automation can help to augment internal QA teams by taking on lower-priority objectives like smoke and regression tests. These types of tests don't require a human touch once trust has been built in the automation framework and can therefore be offloaded. Not only does test automation serve as a cure for overworked QA teams, it allows internal teams to focus their time and energy on higher-priority tests.

2. Crowdtesting

Like automation, crowdtesting can help balance the workload of internal teams. This approach tests with real users, on personally-owned devices, in real-world environments, allowing brands to understand exactly how their digital properties will be used in everyday scenarios. Testers can be segmented by demographic — age, location, device, etc. — and expertise — QA, security, usability, etc. – so QA teams can ensure that no matter who is using their product, or on what device, they receive the best experience possible every time and in every location.

Crowdtesting gives internal QA teams the test coverage they can't get anywhere else, while helping QA teams keep up to speed with development demands. Because crowdtesting can be used to do multiple types of testing, including both manual and exploratory testing, test case writing, automation, usability, and accessibility testing, internal teams can increase their capacity using a crowdtesting model in the exact test areas they need. This kind of flexibility allows internal teams to scale testing as needs vary release-to-release.

3. Beta Testing

A common practice for many companies, beta testing releases a product to a subset of users prior to the full launch. Google, for example, uses beta testers on its Google mobile app for the Android operating system. This approach gives its QA team a large test base with which to work, so they can quickly get a significant amount of feedback about a product or feature.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that beta testers are not professionals. The cheap, or often free, nature of beta testing is attractive to brands, but it also means response times and bug quality can be poor because participants aren't hugely incentivized to complete the tests. While most brands can benefit from some form of beta testing, those with more loyal users will get more feedback, and therefore better results.

The Future of QA

It's clear something has to give in the struggle to increase the productivity of QA teams. Each of these approaches on its own — or as a combination — has the potential to lighten the workload of QA teams as development and consumer expectations continue to rise, giving brands a leg up in the process.

Drew Horn is Senior Director of Automation at Applause
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