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FIVE thoughts on ‘Doing SmartQA’

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T Ashok @ash_thiru on Twitter


What does it take to do SmartQA? How can I do less and accomplish more? What parts of this are human-powered & machine-assisted? A short crisp article outlining some thoughts, five for now on what it takes to do SmartQA.

It takes a brilliant mindset, intelligent exploration, diligent evaluation, keen observational skills, tech savviness and continual adjustment. It is about being logical yet be creative, it is about being disciplined yet  be random, it is about exploring the breadth and depth, it is about understanding deeply and also finding blind spots about being bundled by time but be unlimited/unbounded with the possibilities. Doing SmartQA is about doing mindfully, in a state of brilliant balance.

#1 What does it take to do SmartQA?

A  deductive ability of a mathematician, creativity of an artist, mind of an engineer, value perception of a businessman, technical savviness, empathy, doggedness and nimbleness, all finely honed to do less and accomplish more.

#2 Humans & Machines : Doctors & diagnosis

In today’s medicine, we know that machines play a huge part in diagnostics and treatment. They help us see internals more clearly, enable us to get to the hard-reach parts, perform rapid tests to analyse problems , monitor tirelessly to help us correct our actions. So is the doctor’s role redundant? Ouch no! The skill of the doctor in diagnosis and treatment be it via medicine or surgery is far more required now in the complex world of disease, business and law. To assist in this ever increasing complexity, machines are becoming integral for the job.

Much like this is software testing, the act of diagnosing of software for issues. Tools/automation are integral to testing that a skilled test/QA/SW engineer uses. It is about “doing SmartQA” which is a brilliant combination of “human powered and machine assisted” . The WHAT to-do is human while HOW-to-do is when’re machine helps. 

Doing SmartQA is about intelligent/smart WHAT-to-test/WHAT-to-test-for/WHERE-to-test-on with smart enablement of HOW-to-test using machine/tools.  It ain’t automated testing or manual testing and getting rid of the latter or machines find issues on itself.

#3 On Minimalism

I have always practiced minimalism, of doing least work with superior outcomes. Have never been a fan of more tests and therefore needing to tools to accomplish these in the context of software. Of course I exploit tools to brilliant work. Let us apply this to ‘doing SmartQA’. 

We talk about left shifting, of TDD, of wanting to find issues earlier. We emphasise units tests and automating these. Are we shifting the objective to doing more unit tests? The purpose was to produce ‘cleaner units’, implying heightened sensitivity to issues via TDD and writing good code in the first place, of adopting cheaper static means to uncover these may be missed before resorting costlier automated unit tests.

Doing SmartQA is really about ’not doing’, well doing minimally really. It is not doing more and therefore needing to adopt tools. So heighten your sensitivity, build good code habits, use mental aids like smart checklist and of course exploit software tools to do the heavy lifting of tests. After all, don’t we all want to adopt wellness rather than expend effort to diagnose potential illness? And I bet you want an doctor to check out before they ‘outsource’ the finding to machines.

#4 Brilliant engineering

Is testing a mere act of uncovering bugs? I think not. It is really a mindset to clarify a thought. When we develop something, in this case code, a smart testing mindset enables us to step outside of being the producer into 

the shoes of end users, empathise, see their point of view, appreciate what their environment looks like and understand what all can go wrong so that we produce clean code. At the worst case, put hooks inside code to give us more information as to how code is being buffeted, so that we may examine later and refine the code. 

Doing SmartQA is not just about finding bugs but getting into the mindset of ‘Brilliant engineering’.

#5 See better, cover more, test less

A good ‘world view’ enables us to ensure great coverage in testing. Is coverage limited to execution only or does it allow us to see better?

Coverage is about enabling us to see better from all angles. It is not about merely ascertaining if test(s) could-be/are effective. Enabling a viewpoint from USERS, ATTRIBUTES, ENVIRONMENT, CODE, ENTITIES allows us to see from multiple angles, sensitising us to deliver brilliant code with less testing/validation. Of course it does help us significantly judge the quality of test cases and testing also.

Visualisation of coverage in terms of USERS, ATTRIBUTES, ENVIRONMENT, CODE & ENTITIES.

Doing SmartQA is more than just doing, it is about significant enablement to see better, heighten sensitivity and accomplish more.

You may find this article “50 Tips to SmartQA” interesting. Check it out!