Getting your QA team to think from a customer's perspective

Sanjay Zalavadia, VP Client Services, Zephyr

No matter what industry you work in, the customer is always right. Their needs take precedence to your operations, and it's up to you to deliver on these demands or risk coming up short. Creating applications is no different. Everyday users are the true mark of success for programs, and if anything is out of place, that could make your efforts fall flat.

Under traditional development setups, testers gave priority to whether the software worked as a whole, rather than if it would meet user requirements. With agile software testing, the focus has shifted to ensuring that consumers are getting a product that will directly suit their functionality expectations. It's important for QA teams to think from a customer's perspective to create a quality application and achieve project success.

Know how customers consume information

The first thing to establish is how the user will consume information and what types of features will facilitate these interactions. For example, if you have a banking app, users will likely want to be able to view all of their accounts from one screen, but also be able to break them down with detailed transactions specific to their records. Once you have a baseline for what requirements are demanded for a finished product, it's time to start building the app.

Quality is a critical determinant of whether a program will soar or fail, and this comes into play from the very beginning of a project's planning stages. Customer Excellence noted that many issues can stem from the design level. If the customer is left out of the software design process, it can be difficult to provide value to end users. When a team finds that they were misaligned from the start, it's also significantly harder to recover than if they place more importance on customer centricity from the very beginning.

Encourage team members to speak up

Waterfall development approaches meant that everything was segmented and included little to no interaction between teams. However, agile has changed the game by encouraging developers, testers and stakeholders to actively collaborate during every step of the way. Quality assurance teams now listens to user requirements firsthand. This in itself marks a major step forward as QA can begin making tests based on these needs without any code being written from the production side. This initial meeting also enables testers to ask questions, clarify what exactly is expected and create a solid strategy for how to achieve these goals.

The classical roles and responsibilities of QA have been considerably altered to bolster quality, testing capabilities and development efforts. TechBeacon contributor Karim Fanadka noted that the shift has also included more involvement from the customer side throughout the project's lifecycle. Traditionally, when a product was released, it wasn't going to undergo any changes until the next version was built. Agile product development ensures that any adjustments can be easily made and that the app will always be worked on for improvements, maintenance and adaptation to evolving needs. Quick feedback loops and retrospective meetings have inspired QA teams to speak up about new ideas, suggest ways to be better and meet customer requirements every step of the way.

"We are a customer-facing unit, and we hear from our customers about issues they experience and what features they would like to see in our product," Fanadka wrote. "On the other end, we actively participate in design discussions, offering the input we receive from customers. In addition, our code testing knowledge and experience helps us identify designs flaws before anyone spends time coding, which significantly reduces development cycles and helps us meet customer expectations as we release new versions."

Thinking from a customer perspective could mean the difference between a successful project and a failure. With quality testing tools, QA can create, assign and manage test cases, user stories and defects from a central platform.

It's critical for QA teams to think from a customer perspective.