We’ve come full circle (maybe once again?) with Quality Assurance being looked at as a cost center rather than a cost saver.
As much as I talk about automation, I’m still a tester at heart. The art and skill of taking software, and coming up with creative ways to find defects, is crucial for any company to be successful.
It can be difficult to convince the higher-ups of the need for QA. I mean, we know it, because we eat, sleep and breathe the stuff.
But to someone on the outside looking in, it can appear like a money hole, especially if you’re regularly shipping good product.
One thing I’ve found is that higher-ups love numbers and metrics. So today, I’d like to share some insights on how to use that to your advantage, so that you have the knowledge needed to convince people of the need for good QA.
The best way to argue for QA is to start putting dollar values on bugs. This value should represent the financial impact of the company if that bug reached production.
Some bugs (like cosmetic errors) won’t be worth as much. Some bugs (such as security holes) will be worth possibly billions of dollars.
Some bugs (such as not billing $10 per customer) will be worth more, the more people are exposed to it.
Some bugs will be worth a lot if a bunch of people (or whole departments) have to stop what they’re doing to resolve an issue.
Some bugs will be worth a lot if it’s due to some kind of non-compliance issue.
But every bug will result in one or more people being diverted from other revenue-generating work, to fix this bug.
A combination of these and similar variables will give you a dollar value for the bug.
And then compare that number to how much is being spent yearly on the QA team.
You might have noticed that I didn’t include the cost of QA finding the bug, and the cost of developers fixing the bug. Even if we said: 1 QA finds 1 bug, and 1 dev takes 1 day to fix it, that’s tiny compared to how much it costs to fix a bug that makes it to production.
The tangibles above probably got you some big numbers already. But let’s talk about a different thing now: the intangibles. These are going to be based on things like company perception, both internal and external.
How much will it cost in bad publicity if a bug makes it to production?
How much does it cost in talent attraction? Are people going to want to come work for you if it looks like you don’t have it together?
How much does it cost in talent retention? Are people leaving because constantly reacting to problems caused by defects is creating a lot of stress?
How much does it cost in data loss or hacking? Are hackers selling sensitive information to the highest bidder and causing your company to look untrustworthy?
Are people overworking and getting sick more often and not able to come in?
Are you having to hire more customer service reps to handle the flood of disgruntled customers?
It can be difficult to calculate the dollar value of these intangibles. But if you can, then compare that number to how much is being spent on the QA team.
If you’re a tester reading this, you may be seeing that finding the bugs that impact the customers the most, will result in the highest savings. A side effect of this article might be that you adjust your strategy for testing.
(And right now, security is the biggest thing that causes problems in software. It’s rare to hear about defects that make the news, that don’t have to do with security.)
Here are some tips on testing for high-value bugs. What parts of the system…
- …are involved the most with generating revenue?
- …are used by the most users?
- …have a higher history of bugs?
- …have a high degree of complexity?
If this seems like a huge unsolvable problem, just take courage in the fact that being successful requires great software as the cornerstone of your company. If you have that, everything else will fall into place. Great QA is the key to having that.