The tech industry is navigating unprecedented times: a record VC funding bubble caused a hyper-competitive market, followed by a dramatic downturn with mass layoffs. The result is that companies are under pressure to deliver high-quality software faster than ever before, all with fewer resources and people.
At the same time, tech is reconciling with the fact that remote - or at least hybrid - is here to stay. And the playbook is still being written on how to move fast with high quality in a remote environment.
At Jam, we have an inside view at how the world’s best companies are building software and the radical shifts taking place. Here’s what we can tell you.
1. Remote QA workers play a different role when every worker is remote.
The distinction between “HQ” employee and “off-shore” contractor doesn’t matter when everyone is on Slack. Now, with everyone remote, QA is just as connected to the development team as any other team member.
In the old world, QA would review and test completed work as the most peripheral part of the team, only coming into play as the final step before software was released. But with the shift to remote work, this “waterfall” model has become obsolete.
Now, QA is more and more working closely with developers throughout the entire software development process, not only at the end. In practice, this means that QA team members are invited to early kickoff meetings, prepare test plans and set up automated tests early in the process, and identify edge cases ahead of time for developers to handle before a feature reaches the official QA stage. Additionally, QA and developers are connected directly over Slack and are able to provide each other with constant feedback about how to work better together.
The old "waterfall" model often led to slow back and forth communication between QA and development teams, as issues and iterations had to be addressed at the end of the process. But now, with QA and engineering able to collaborate from the start of the development process, companies are able to gain quicker development cycles without sacrificing quality.
As a result, QA is evolving into a more strategic role that goes beyond executing testing, becoming a more core and integral part of the product team, even when they are still employed as contractors.
2. Quality Engineering is the new DevOps
The shift discussed above – where organizations are integrating QA throughout the entire software development cycle – has led to the emergence of Quality Engineering (QE) teams within engineering organizations, which are responsible for managing the quality of software across the entire development process.
QE teams are made up of software engineers who work closely with the rest of the engineering organization to deliver high-quality software. They work on quality holistically, from managing the company's test automation framework to adding logging, monitoring and tracing, to setting up CI/CD, and running stress testing. They also build internal tools that support quality assurance and lead discussions about software quality and code best practices across teams.
In many ways, QE teams are a lot like traditional DevOps teams. But instead of a focus on serving the internal needs of developers, QE teams are focused on serving the interests of end users, ensuring that they get a great user experience. This shift in focus makes a lot of sense in today's hyper-competitive environment, where consumers expect flawless software experiences and organizations must prioritize quality in order to compete.
While not entirely new, setting up a Quality Engineering team within the engineering organization is becoming an increasingly popular way to ensure that engineering ships consistently high-quality products. After all, companies notoriously ship their org chart, so what better than to embed quality within engineering.
3. Everybody is part-time QA now
In 2023, quality is no longer just a job function - it's company culture. Across the industry, organizations are prioritizing quality and making it a full team effort.
This means that everyone on the team, from design and product management to support and sales, is expected to be involved in ensuring product quality. This means giving actionable feedback, dogfooding their software, and reporting issues.
The new challenge in this paradigm is to collect feedback from across the company in a productive manner where it doesn’t feel like too many cooks shouting incoherently in too many kitchens. To support this shift, companies are investing in collaboration tools that allow teams to quickly share feedback in a clear way over a dedicated channel.
As a result, we are seeing a rise of startups funded to tackle this problem space. Several major investors, including Andreesen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures have backed new players in this space (including Jam).
4. Quality merging with security and privacy
The definition of quality is changing as the importance of security and privacy increases. In today's world, with more cyber attacks and a greater consumer focus on data privacy, quality no longer just refers to functionality. In the end, shipping high-quality software means more than just delivering a smooth, bug-free experience - it also means ensuring the security and privacy of users' data.
As a result, the scope of quality engineering is more and more expanding to include security testing as well.
We’re starting to see more security teams working closely with quality engineering teams to ensure that QA and QE are not just focused on functionality, but also application security and data privacy. Automated testing maintained by these two functions, which has traditionally focused on functionality and user experience, is also expanding to include security testing.
5. These trends are even reaching pre-launch startups
While it was uncommon for startups to have dedicated QA even just a few years ago, it's becoming increasingly common for early startups, even as early as pre-launch, to bring on QA contractors.
As discussed previously, remote work has played a major role in this trend. In the past, outsourcing QA to offshore contractors didn’t feel natural for a small team all under one roof, but in a remote environment, QA contractors can communicate and collaborate with the core startup team just as easily as any other team member. This has made the shift to working with external contractors more feasible for startups.
Move fast and ship bug-free in 2023
The tech industry is facing unique challenges in the wake of the pandemic and its effects on the economy. Record levels of venture capital funding have created a hyper-competitive market, followed by a downturn and widespread layoffs. As a result, companies are under pressure to deliver top-notch software faster than ever before, all while working with fewer resources and team members. These are unprecedented times, and it's more important than ever for companies to adapt and find creative solutions to stay competitive.
In 2023, engineering organizations are needing to find ways to do more with less - fewer people on their team, less money in the bank, and no one working in an office. Figuring this out is make or break for companies, and those that are able to adapt and deliver great software with these constraints will come out on top in these challenging times.