Collaboration Between Software Developers and QA Engineers

QA engineers and software developer working on a project together

The relationship between developers and QA engineers in IT teams is among the most challenging. This is usually due to them not being able to work together, be it because they don’t understand each other’s work procedures, they haven’t worked together in the past, or there’s simply no direct communication between them other than a string of comments on Jira every now and then.

On top of that, there is a popular misconception among developers that QAs are salaried to discover issues with software developers’ work, since they are the ones to review once it’s finished and point out any problems or faults. This kind of ‘criticism’ can be quite hard to accept for some developers. And it’s easy to understand why. They devote countless hours writing code, unit tests, and revising PRs, only to have QAs say it’s not good enough. However, developers should not take a QA engineer’s comments to heart—it’s nothing personal.

This belief that a QA engineer’s only job responsibility is to discover issues with developers’ work or that they deliver a lesser amount of value than developers is completely inaccurate. According to the ISTQB glossary, quality assurance is defined as: “Activities focused on providing confidence that quality requirements will be fulfilled”. Therefore, the primary goal of a QA engineer is to ensure quality. It has nothing to do with enjoying finding issues with developers’ work—but it has everything to do with making sure that the team distributes a high-quality product.

So instead of bickering over whose job is more important, developers should consider the benefits of having someone look at their work objectively and, at the same time, QA engineers should understand the importance of having good communication with developers to better understand the product they are testing. The truth is that both developers and QAs provide immense value to a project and neither can be removed without severe consequences. That being said, the collaboration between software developers and QA engineers is paramount to ensuring a high-quality product that meets all requirements. Let’s explore the reasons why a successful collaboration between software developers and QA engineers is important.

What is the role of QA engineers in the software development process?

QA engineer working on a laptop at his desk

Users have limited knowledge, if any, about how a specific feature was built or how it was intended to work. Therefore, they depend on their previous experience with other products and their instincts to advise them on how to use the product. The way users actually use the product or feature might not constantly align with the way developers intended for it to be used, and this can lead to a poor user experience.

As the persons accountable for building the feature, developers often have a perfect flow—or the path that users will follow to get from point A to point B—engraved into their heads. As a result, they build the feature a certain way with this path in mind, so they also test it the way they intended it to be used, without considering possible deviations from this ‘ideal’ path. With their objectiveness, a respectable QA can discover things that the developer might have let slip. It can be immensely beneficial to have someone with an entirely different viewpoint and a less-detailed understanding of the internal mechanisms of the feature or product try to use it in their own way.

In contrast, it is very difficult for developers to be completely objective and test their features as a user. It is a fair bet that they have dedicated a lot of time racking their brains about how to build the feature, so they know every aspect of it. All of that familiarity and knowledge deters their capability to assume the role of the user. Therefore, quality assurance professionals are essential to help decrease the number of bugs, poor user experience, and typos that make it into the final product by testing it from a user’s perspective.

Benefits of developers collaborating with QAs

Prompt feedback and better code quality.

Usually the responsibility of QA is to discover issues and report them back to the developers before anything is released. The timing of when those bugs are reported and how thorough those reports are is tremendously important. The sooner developers receive feedback on their code, the better. The fastest feedback is going to come through automation. Developers have the ability and skills to produce their own unit tests, however, most automated testing suites are maintained by the QA team. The main idea is to discover issues as swiftly as possible so that developers can make any required updates and improve code quality while all their new code is fresh in their minds. Additionally, QA engineers have access to specific software testing tools and more testing resources, like different devices with various operating systems and specifications. Developers do not have access to such resources or simply lack the time to use them. Collaborating with QA engineers will give developers a greater peace of mind knowing that the quality of their code is up to standard.

QAs can help set up and maintain regression tests.

Automated tests are the key to covering common user workflows rapidly. The QA team’s know-how of the product is essential to putting a suite of relevant regression tests together. It is also usually a QA engineer’s responsibility to keep that regression suite up-to-date as the application grows in complexity. The more detailed those tests are, the more bugs can be caught early in the development process. Furthermore, as new features are being developed, QA engineers will design tests to cover any new requirements or user stories, ensuring every scenario is covered.

Benefits of QAs collaborating with developers

Designing with automation in mind.

If developers are able and willing to add a static identifier or property to a control, that can be an enormous help in automation later. With static identification implemented, it is much simpler for QAs to create scripts and tests that are going to be able to find objects consistently. In turn, this is going to cut down on how often they need to ask developers for help. It will also make it easier to remove as many manual tests as possible if necessary.

Increased efficiency by having more insight.

When a new control is made, either completely from scratch or by changing a present control, it’s beneficial for QAs to know a bit more about the properties and means offered to interact with it. QA teams that have engineering knowledge can use that knowledge in any script or unit test they create. Software testers who are used to manual testing and can’t script out these actions on their own can use sample scripts to use with their test automation tool.

Communication is key

QA engineer communicating on phone and laptop

Looking at the role of both developers and QA engineers in the software development process, it’s important to underline the importance of communication in the collaboration between the two. Plainly defined objectives for testing, paired with positive styles of communication, will help to avoid negative personal or group dynamics between QAs and developers. QAs need to communicate information about defects objectively and constructively, while developers need to be open to constructive criticism and not take anything personally or as an attack on them or their hard work. Here are some fundamentals for good communication between developers and QAs:

  • Think of your colleagues as teammates, not as opponents.

Both QAs and developers should have the common goal of delivering a high-quality product and they should be aware that they need to work together to accomplish that goal.

  • Emphasize the value of testing.

Sometimes developers need to be reminded that defect information provided by QAs can help them to improve their skills and future work products. Specifically, defects that are found early and fixed as soon as possible will save time and money, and reduce overall product quality risk.

  • Keep in mind the psychological element of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is a flaw in the human brain that makes it difficult to process unanticipated information, especially bad news. Therefore, while you might have been clear in what you said or wrote, the person on the receiving end might not have clearly understood. Cognitive dissonance is a two-way street, too, and you may be misunderstanding someone's reaction to your findings. So, before assuming the worst about someone and their motivations, confirm that the other person has understood what you have said and vice versa.

At the end of the day, both software developers and QA engineers are working towards the same goal—to ensure that users receive a high-quality product that meets their expectations. And the sooner they realize that the contribution of the other to their work is an asset, not a liability, the better. Development and QA processes will be more streamlined, the project will run smoother, and the overall product quality will improve.

Are you looking for QA engineers who are experienced, skilled, and easy to work with? We have a team of over 500 QA engineers who are ready to join and collaborate with your development team to ensure a high-quality product. Contact us with your project details and find out how we can help you.

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