“I am fairly agile. I can bend and not break. Or I can break and take it with a smile.”

The above lyrics from the American band Dashboard Confessional are very relevant for the business of building software today.

The 2016-2017 WQR marks a new era of agile in business. 99% of the 1,600 respondents stated that they used some form of agile framework within their enterprise, with multiple framework models becoming the norm. Scrum and SAFe lead with a 24% adoption rate, followed by DSDM at 22%.Distributed agile is an economic necessity, jumping from 24% in last year’s report to 42% usage rates.

This phenomenon of enterprise wide distributed agile has resulted in a big increase in the challenges being faced in applying testing to agile development. Last year, 18% of respondents said they had no real difficulties in agile testing, contrasting with only 1% this year. A lack of professional test expertise in agile teams is also up from 31% last year to 43% this year.

My experience in working with agile teams, has taught me that the successful teams are the ones who possess the mindset of a startup. These are entrepreneurial, self-driven teams with shared values and a desire to consistently deliver at a high velocity.

Consider a scenario where a self-contained team (e.g., scrum) has delivered constantly with impeccable quality. Now this team is expected to deliver on a program where they are one of 25 scrum teams and must scale their experience to the enterprise.

Similar to the merging of an entrepreneur with a large conglomerate, which exposes both challenges and opportunities, it is a marriage of speed and traditionally rooted practices and necessiates working together in a connected manner.

Here is my list of the top five skills a QA team should build to deliver continuous quality in the enterprise world:

  • Hybrid QA workforce transformation: Essentially, this means building and accruing the skills to determine the right balance between core teams aligned with atomic, agile teams and company-wide, shared teams. This is complex because agile teams may be organized by features, components, or architecture. They may be within a line of business or across multiple lines of business. The art of determining the right mix of domain testers, software development engineer testers, and shared teams for automation, data, etc., is critical. Economies of scale balanced by speed and quality is key.
  • Distributed Agile QA skills: This implies appropriately slicing test activities, determining the percentage of activities feasible to be right-shored or near-shored, and determining additional infrastructure, tools, and roles that are necessary for successful agile delivery. Culture, language, and economic factors play a key role in this task.
  • Lean portfolio management: This refers to building skills for lightweight demand management, lean budgeting and nimble governance. Multi-vendor management is a must.
  • Enterprise release management: This denotes scaling done at a team level ,for an enterprise where QA teams will need to validate the output of anything between 12 to 25 teams. This requires intelligent analysis of QA activities, keeping in mind dependencies and multi-frameworks which are critical inputs for determining the right investments for environments, data and automation activities.
  • Enterprise driven automation skills: This requires firstly analyses of the right set of automation levers – BDD, TDD, service virtualization, functional automation, etc. – and building an enterprise-wide speed-to-market business case. Secondly, orchestrating it with engineering excellence and appropriate feedback loops. Economics, standardization, and reusability are key.

 If a great strategy conflicts with organizational beliefs, it will fail. However, if an average strategy aligns with cultural beliefs, it can catapult the enterprise into action. In a nutshell, Collaboration and Cultural skills win over technical excellence every single time.

 For an in-depth look at the key trends in Testing and QA, download the World Quality Report 2016 http://ow.ly/2xB1304DLGM